Have you ever noticed your brain’s tendency to focus, fixate and ruminate over the negative? Then with that same audacity, your brain negates or places less emphasis on the positive things working in your life.
Your brain is wired towards a bias for negativity. Negative emotions, news and facial expressions tell our brain: Warning there is danger or harm ahead that you need to pay attention to. The price to pay for avoiding the negative is much larger than the price one might pay for avoiding the positive.
Say you submit a piece of writing to a yoga magazine, and they respond to your submission with “Good job. Please use the spell-check feature next time since there were a few spelling errors.”
What are you likely to fixate on? The feedback that the content was good or the typos?
Another way to think about this is that in some ways the default setting of our brain is negative. When left to its own devices, your mind will chatter about all the things not working in your life, all the things you need to get done or how you don’t measure up.
Think about it! When was the last time you were up all night, unable to fall asleep, ruminating about all the things going right in your life? Chances are it’s been quite a while, if ever. This means that if you want to experience more positivity or happiness, you need to do something. That “something” will vary depending on the situation. And if you don’t do something different, your brain will default towards neutral or negative.
For example, adaptation is a well-researched theory in psychology. We adapt to the things in our lives… You buy a new yoga mat (top of the line) and for the first few months, you are in love with it. You feel that your practice is so much better because of your new mat. You show it off to your yogi friends; they are excited for you. After a year or two, your level of happiness decreases. You’re done with the mat; you need a new one. You think it’s too old or you no longer like the color.
If you don’t do something different—like savoring your experience on your yoga mat and expressing gratitude for it—your brain defaults to taking it for granted.
So next time, if you find your brain swirling from one negative thought, judgment or worry to another, recognize that tendency to be both normal and controllable.
Be aware of your thoughts: They are very powerful!