We love Dr. Rick Hanson, who spoke at our 2014 Changing the Odds Conference and is an incredible psychologist and author. In his book,Hardwiring Happiness, he talks about a really important component of the brain. That is, the negativity bias.
In simple terms, the brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences but slowly from good ones. So when we have a bad experience (like we get a bad comment in a performance review), our brain is wired to pay attention to that one experience so that we can learn from it. The unfortunate part is that our brain pays less attention to good experiences, so even if the performance review was overwhelmingly positive but there was one negative comment, our brain is wired to focus on that one negative comment rather than the experience as a whole. Dr. Hanson describes our brain as Velcro for bad experiences, and Teflon for good experiences.
So what can we do about it? Dr. Hanson’s work focuses on “taking in the good”. That is, making a conscious effort to savor those good experiences. He suggests that by spending just a few minutes a day, we can counteract this negativity bias of the brain. We can learn to be content with our lives and build up a powerful sense of resilience.
The big takeaway is this: take in the good. When you experience a positive moment in the day, pause and let that moment sink in. Teach children this same method. Give them chances throughout the day to savor positive experiences so that they don’t get buried under the small negative experiences. We all need to work on this, and in doing so, we can be more content, calm and confident.
For more on this idea, check out the book Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson and check out this article.