How Negativity Affects Life
Several weeks ago, I was in a yoga class taught by the incredible Joel Klausler. He was involved in my teacher training program, and has always been a source of inspiration but also light to me. After a lovely class, he shared his findings on positivity. He explained how challenging it is to be positive when our minds are more susceptible and responsive to negativity. He shared that negative experiences are more powerful in the brain than positive, and that in order to neutralize a negative comment, we have to hear about five positive ones. In my studies of meditation and the mind, I have heard similar things. Our minds wander, they become weak, and we choose to attach and avert experience, which leads to misery and suffering. But how the brain responds to negative experience beyond just aversion is something that intrigued me. I had to know more.
Most research shows that negativity is what actually helped our ancestors survive. As hunters and gatherers, negativity became valuable part in avoiding predators. It was more or less a survival mechanism in the way that it helped one avoid risks and be cautious. In modern life, the survival mechanism still stands in the way that the brain also gives more attention and importance to negative experiences than the positive ones. Studies show the negative events in our lives pose more danger so the brain is on a high alert and therefore pays less attention to the positive, perfect, right?
Every human is different on how one responds to negativity. It’s like water boiling in a pot. For some of us, we respond to negativity very quickly and with great force, therefore, the burner is turned on high and one may feel depressed, angry, frustrated, miserable,etc. Some of us respond a little differently, some with humor, some with just less urgency, and it takes the water longer to boil. So even though we all respond to negativity with similar chemical reactions in our brains, the amounts of those chemicals being released and what actions they turn into look differently.
Well what to do about this negative bias? How do we live more positively, how can life be more peaceful? Tune in next week, I will continue this blog post with solutions and suggestions on how to train the mind to be more positive and peaceful.
References: Jain, Renne. 2013. Why It’s So Easy to Be Negative (and What to Do About It). Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/negativity-bias_b_3517365.html
Force, N. (2010). Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power To Change Your Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/10/20/humor-neuroplasticity-and-the-power-to-change-your-mind/
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