Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away–well, no, actually right here on Planet Earth, and not all that long ago, there was a thing called a “typewriter.” It was the precursor to our beloved computer keyboards and required no electrical energy, no wires, no plug-ins, nothing but your fingers pounding away. And there was a round key on that keyboard labeled “shift,” which a dear friend of mine made into a ring that she wears every day, to remind herself to “shift.”
As in, “shift” her energy to the positive if she finds herself veering off into the land of negative thoughts. It’s what scientists would call moving from a negativity bias to a positivity bias–a vitally important part of our continuing evolution.
The Negativity Bias
The negativity bias is a survival mechanism. It’s the mindset we needed when we lived in caves and jungles with lions, tigers and bears about to pounce on us for their dinner. You may sometimes feel no different than our primitive ancestors, but life has changed greatly. We now depend on our ability to communicate and cooperate with each other to assure our survival as opposed to seeing mortal danger everywhere.
A survival instinct is good: you want to get out of the path of a speeding car. But the negativity bias–a tendency to see the worst in all situations and people all the time–interferes with our ability to live a full and rich life.
Make A Shift To The Positive
As much as you can, develop your positivity bias. Choose to see something good, something worthwhile, something fun, something pleasing in as many situations and people as you can. Don’t, of course, put yourself in danger, i.e. walking down dark streets at night whistling a happy tune and showing off your bling. Or crossing the street not looking both ways and texting all the while. But when it’s safe, which is most of the time, shift to the positive.
How? According to neuroscience, start by noticing when you’re letting your worry or doubt spiral into catastrophe thinking: “Chicken Little the sky is falling!” Take a breath, and deliberately shift to a more positive thought. The quickest way is usually to focus on something you’re grateful for. It doesn’t matter what: your pet, the sunshine, a nice text from a friend, whatever. Then stay with that moment of gratitude for 15 seconds or more, which will allow the positivity bias to begin to rewire your brain. That is literally what happens. What we think habitually becomes hard-wired into our brains.
This may sound like bad news but is actually very good news. We don’t have to be locked into our misery-producing thought patterns. We can deliberately and consciously choose more positive thoughts, which in turn impacts how we feel and increases our physical well-being and longevity.
Nice payoff, wouldn’t you say?