I just wrapped up a podcast recording during which my co-host and I review the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. A central theme of author Dr. Rick Hanson is that our pesky brains tend to overestimate threats and underestimate resources. Why is that?
The human brain is like velcro for remembering the bad things (that time you tripped in front of your 6th grade crush) and like Teflon for the good things (the time you got an award for...what was it??). Back when all we needed to remember was the saber-toothed tiger lurking outside our cave, this was a good thing. It kept us safe. These days, our cubicle-mate isn't the same sort of threat. Unfortunately, now it feels we have to fight our own DNA to fseek the good and stay positive! This phenomenon is called Negativity Bias and we all have it to some degree.
How hard is it to fight negativity bias and our incessant worry? A recent study by Robert Leahy, Ph.d. reported that roughly 85% of the things we worry about don't happen! Below, find a quote from an article that appeared in the Huffington Post, reviewing Dr. Leahy's book:
Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.
Unfortunately, worry isn't just something that happens in our heads. It happens in the body, too. Worry and stress lead to heart disease, depression, dementia, premature aging, and more. To combat negativity bias, it is helpful to remember:
Being positive takes work and it takes practice but you CAN rewire and retrain your brain to find the good faster and easier. Over time you will become a more positive, calm, and confident person.
You may feel uncomfortable for a while as you 'fake it' but I promise the new neuropathways are being formed! Stick with it!
Slip-ups will happen. Lifelong worriers feel like their worry gives them control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation. When something BIG happens, they are likely to go back to old habits in order to feel safe. That's ok! Any movement in the right direction is progress.
In the coaching process, one of the processes I spend the most time on crafting just the right affirmations and mantras to directly contradict deeply held and well-worn grooves in each unique client's brain. The work is highly individualized because each person comes with their own set of limiting beliefs and unique experiences. If you'd like to know more and single-session coaching or my 10-week program, you can find more info here!