Negativity Bias Revealed: What is It and How It Can Impact Our Mental Health
There’s a psychological phenomenon that dictates how we process information, and it can have a significant impact on our day-to-day lives. This phenomenon is called negativity bias. This is the idea that we humans are hardwired to pay more attention to negative or dangerous environmental cues than to less threatening or positive ones. It’s thought that this is because, throughout human history, it was more important for us to be aware of potential threats as a protective factor for our safety and survival.
This also impacts our memory and research suggests that we tend to remember negative experiences and interactions more vividly and for longer than positive ones. We also react more strongly to negative news and information than positive news and information. Based on this understanding, it can be said that this bias leads us to see the world through a lens of that can often focus solely on what is potentially threatening in our lives and overshadow moments, experiences and interactions that promote an image of our own safety, wellbeing and life satisfaction.
When is Negativity Bias Helpful?
While negativity bias can be helpful in some situations – it can help us stay alert and aware of potential dangers – it can also be harmful, leading us to make bad decisions and experience unnecessary stress. This bias has been shown to have a number of effects on our behavior. For example, it can lead us to make poor decisions when we are hyper focused on our fear of potential danger, be more pessimistic or doubtful, and experience more stress and anxiety. It’s a type of cognitive bias, or a pattern of thinking that influences our judgments and decision-making.
Impact on Mental Health
If you’re struggling with depression, your negativity bias may make it difficult for you to see the positive aspects of your life, or to think positively about yourself. If you’re experiencing anxiety, your negativity bias may make you focus on the potential dangers in every situation, and make it difficult for you to feel calm and relaxed. Negativity bias can also lead us to believe that the negative things in our lives are permanent and unchanging, when in reality they may be temporary or even reversible.
How to Overcome Negativity Bias
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to overcome negativity bias and improve our mental health.
- Recognize and acknowledge your negativity bias
The first step in overcoming negativity bias is recognizing and acknowledging that you have it. This isn’t always easy, but it’s important.
- Promote Self-Compassion
One way to overcome negativity bias is by practicing self-compassion. When we are kind and understanding towards ourselves, even in the face of our own mistakes and failings, we are less likely to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings.
- Engage in Mindfulness and Grounding Exercises
We can also practice mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. By focusing on the here and now, we are less likely to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions.
- Practice Expressing Gratitude
By consciously dwelling on the good things that have happened to us, we can gradually start to shift our focus away from the negative.
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