5 easy tactics to combat negativity (even if it's in your nature) - The Self-Worth Experiment

5 easy tactics to combat negativity (even if it’s in your nature)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Discover your happiness

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Sep 13
5 easy tactics to combat negativity

Yesterday, when I picked my 4-year old up from nursery, she wanted to go and play in the park. I said no as we had a dentist appointment which triggered a minor tantrum.

As little one whimpered and complained, her best friend turned around and said: “You are being very silly!”

The moment she said it, I could see little one’s heart break. She collapsed on the floor, burst in tears and wept inconsolably until we got home and bribed her with a gingerbread man.

We went on to have a lovely afternoon. Lots of fun and games, stickers, compliments and laughter at the dentist and loads of cuddles.

When I tucked her in at night and asked whether she had a good day, she replied: “No! Celeste said I was silly!”

And it made me wonder. Why can a whole day of positives not outweigh one negative? Why do we focus on the negatives so much?

Introducing our brain’s evolutionary negativity bias

Our brain evolved to ensure our ancestors’ survival. Hence, it invented 3 cunning tactics to keep them safe:

  1. It hardwired them to overestimate threats and underestimate themselves. So they wouldn’t take unnecessary risks.
  2. It made them naturally anxious and wary of change, unknown things and unfamiliar situations. So they would be vigilant and stay away from any potential dangers.
  3. It ensured they focussed on bad experiences and remembered them better than good ones. So they could recognise and avoid hazards they encountered before. This is called negativity bias.

These 3 mechansims are still operational today. And negativity bias, as a way to learn from horrible experiences, is as active now as it was in the Stone Age. In fact, research has shown that our brain responds with more vigorous activity to negative stimuli than to positive ones.

But nowadays, we are far less likely to be devoured by a wild beast, tumble down a steep cliff or succumb to poisonous berries than our early ancestors did. But while our surroundings and circumstances have changed dramatically, our brain hasn’t.

So, instead of preventing physical danger, it obsesses about intangible threats to our wellbeing and our ego. It occupies itself with other people’s opinions about us, dwells on our mistakes and shortcomings. And it frets about distant, improbable menaces we see on the news.

It zooms into every tiny criticism, clings to signs of disapproval and gorges on tales of catastrophe, disaster and tragedy.

All the while fuelling our anxiety and destroying our self-worth. But, if it is our nature to get hung up on the negatives, what can we do about it?

How to outsmart negativity

Our brains might be honing in on the negative. But we don’t need to resign ourselves to a life of doom, gloom and self-flagellation. We can counteract our natural negativity instincts in many ways:

  • Become mindful of the automatic response. Negativity is our brain’s preprogrammed, habitual response to any new, challenging or unpleasant situation. Every time you feel, talk or respond negative about a situation, remind yourself that this is evolution trying to protect you. Nothing more.
  • Avoid negative influences. It is tough to be upbeat about life if you are trapped in a toxic swamp. Steer clear of constant complainers, apocalyptic prophets and conspiracy theorists. And ditch the news! ALL OF IT! You might be less informed. But who cares! You will be happier.
  • Power up your shields. It isn’t always possible to remove yourself from negative influences. But it helps to have a force field to protect you (like in Star Trek!). Just imagine an invisible energy field that envelops your whole body and only allows positive energy to permeate while blocking negativity. I’ve been doing this for years and swear by it…but then again, I’m a geek. ?
  • Shower yourself with positivity. It’s imperative that you regularly cleanse yourself from negativity. So next time when you take a shower, imagine the water as a stream of positive energy that washes out all negativity and replaces it with positivity, happiness, love and joy (or whatever else you fancy). Rinse and repeat regularly.
  • Heal your low self-worth. With a healthy sense of worth and the knowledge that you ARE worth personified, it becomes much more difficult for negativity to grip hold of you. Especially if the negativity is about yourself, your abilities and your life.

So, next time you feel negativity overpowering you, remember that you now have the tools to respond differently. You have power over your actions. And reactions. You have a choice!

Choose positivity! Because you deserve it!


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