Studies suggest that positive and negative emotions are not equal. In fact, positive and negative information doesn’t hold equal weight in our minds. Negative emotions impact our well-being 3 times more than positive emotions. Research Psychologists call this tendency to give more importance to negative experiences over positive and neutral experiences, “negative bias.” This means, that we’re more likely to remember an insult, a criticism, a negative experience, or a piece of negative information rather than a compliment or a piece of positive information. Not only will we notice negative experiences more, but they are quicker and more likely to be stored in our memory. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint, since we would not have survived as a species had we not been finely attuned to notice the dangers and possible risks all around us. The caveman that was relaxed and noticed all the positive things in life, probably got eaten by a Saber-toothed tiger!
So, now that you’re all experts on the negative bias, you may wonder what we can we do to change this? This may be easier said than done. To change our mind’s tendency to notice the negatives, we must be active in engaging positive thoughts, experiences, and people three times more than negative ones in order to balance things out. Most people have no trouble recognizing the big moments that bring them notable joy, but it’s the small pleasures that are present every day that add up and truly contribute to long lasting happiness, and many people don’t notice them.
Create a list of positive experiences every day, take a moment truly enjoy all of life’s little joys, and work hard to find a positive twist to negative events.
Here are some ideas to engage Positive emotion:
Pictures (e.g., family, funny pics, and places)
Gifts (treat yourself or someone you care about. It doesn’t have to be big)
Memories (Fun times, old friends, and funny jokes)
Smells (e.g., something baking, sun block, flowers)
Accomplishments (Big and small)
Fun experiences (try to do something fun everyday)
Future plans (e.g., vacation, weekend fun, Diet cheat day, time on the couch)
Exercise or Sports
Hobbies (e.g., knitting, drawing/painting, something that you lose yourself in)
Maybe just a good cup of coffee (Café con Leche J).