In the past couple of weeks the idea of the Negativity Bias has come up when talking to friends, in two books I am reading, and through a little more online research. The premise is simple - we are hard wired to attach to negative comments, thoughts, ideas quicker than we are positive ones.
You know how it is, someone gives you a compliment and then they throw in a zinger about the scuff on your shoe and all you can think about is how they think you look terrible. And if you are lucky your neurosis kicks in and you obsess about what a terrible dresser you are, how you know nothing about fashion, how you are hopeless in public, etc. (I MIGHT have that problem. ;) )
Here's the thing, though, the negative comment might not even be true or it might be so small that in perspective it doesn't matter. Yet, that comment, can swing your whole moment, meeting, day into a tizzy. One comment.
So, I have been thinking about how to hard wire the brain into a different pattern. One that doesn't cling for that moment when we are knocked down and instead builds a little equanimity. I think the key is gratitude. There have been numerous studies that show that focusing on gratitude can make you happier - and we all know that Americans are driven to pursue happiness. Sure, gratitude has been the hip self help stuff for the last 10 years - with a whole slew of journals, products, and things to purchase to help you feel more grateful. I don't think you need to go spend a chunk to make this work - you just have to cultivate a practice.
The Experiment: Practicing Gratitude - If You Choose to Accept It:
For the next two weeks spend some time every day writing down at least 5 things/people/moments you are grateful for in your day. They can be big or small. The point isn't to rate them, or judge them, but to, instead, notice them.
Then, during those two weeks, notice when negative personal comments come zinging towards you what your reaction is to those moments.
I'm going to try it! I hate when a single comment throws my whole evening, work day, or meeting with someone and I believe this might be a better way. Want to experiment too? Comment and then I'll check back with you in two weeks with you! Let's get over this hardwired way of living and start living intentionally.
For the Tech Savvy: There's an App For That
HappyTapper.com has a series of apps that you can use on your iPhone or iPad to help you do just this! I just downloaded them and am delighted by the ease of use, the reminders and the subtlety of design. Now there is no excuse - that said, pen and paper would work just fine, but for those of us tied to our devices it is nice to have the little push to remember.