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Countering the Negativity Bias

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to Day Four of our Seven Day Meditation Challenge. I hope you enjoyed yesterday's session with Cory, where he explored the BBQ method and how it can help you stay more grounded in stressful situations. Today, I'd like to share with you how we can shield ourselves from excess stress and negativity by countering our mind's negativity bias. So imagine for a second that you do a presentation at work. And then everyone in your team has a chance to give you feedback.

If five of those people compliment your work and one person criticizes it, which one will you remember later? Which one could keep you up at night ruminating about it? If you're like most of us, it's the criticism and it gets highlighted in our mind because of what's known as the negativity bias. Now this bias towards the negative is completely normal. As human beings evolved over the last 200,000 years, most of that time, our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers and life was pretty dangerous and difficult. For those reasons, it was really important for them to learn from negative experiences so they could outwit predators and avoid dangers. So this human mind that we've inherited registers negative experiences very quickly, highlights them and stores them in memory.

This helped us remember how to avoid future potential threats. Now we live in a very different world today than our ancestors, but the problem with the negativity bias for us these days is that over the longterm, we can develop a growing tendency to be pessimistic, stressed, and negative. Now, particularly in difficult times, like what we're all going through now in the world, this focus on the negative and the fear circuitry in the brain tends to get really the ramped up. So we can get stuck in this negative way of perceiving the world if we're not careful. And the effects of this include a growing sensitivity, distress, and anxiety, a tendency towards pessimism and resentment.

And over the long term, we can even start to slip into a depression. So what can we do to counter the negativity bias in times like these? It's actually really simple. Neuropsychologist and author, Rick Hanson teaches that we can do this, we can counter the negativity bias through the practice of taking in the good. So here's the invitation for today and the rest of this week, start deliberately seeking out and paying attention to good experiences each day. And they can be so simple.

Appreciating the beauty in your garden, the taste of your tea or coffee, the sound of the rain or the wind in the trees. And you want to stay with each good experience for at least five seconds, preferably 10 to 20. Now, this is not about positive thinking. It's about your direct experience. So you want to open up to the body sensations, the feelings, all that's happening in the present moment and really drink in the good experience, letting it fill your body and mind.

Lastly, have a sense of really absorbing the experience. Take a moment to appreciate the experience and have an intention to take that good feeling that you have in your body with you in memory and in your being. Every single time you do this, it's like doing a rep in the mental gym. And over time, these little differences, these little moments of taking in the good will add up, gradually gearing your mind to be more naturally positive, balanced, and resilient. So in today's meditation, we'll take some more time to grow and cultivate this capacity for taking in the good.

So let's settle in for that now. And as always, thank you for your practice and your presence here with us.

Melli O'Brien

Countering the Negativity Bias

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hi, and welcome to Day Four of our Seven Day Meditation Challenge. I hope you enjoyed yesterday's session with Cory, where he explored the BBQ method and how it can help you stay more grounded in stressful situations. Today, I'd like to share with you how we can shield ourselves from excess stress and negativity by countering our mind's negativity bias. So imagine for a second that you do a presentation at work. And then everyone in your team has a chance to give you feedback.

If five of those people compliment your work and one person criticizes it, which one will you remember later? Which one could keep you up at night ruminating about it? If you're like most of us, it's the criticism and it gets highlighted in our mind because of what's known as the negativity bias. Now this bias towards the negative is completely normal. As human beings evolved over the last 200,000 years, most of that time, our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers and life was pretty dangerous and difficult. For those reasons, it was really important for them to learn from negative experiences so they could outwit predators and avoid dangers. So this human mind that we've inherited registers negative experiences very quickly, highlights them and stores them in memory.

This helped us remember how to avoid future potential threats. Now we live in a very different world today than our ancestors, but the problem with the negativity bias for us these days is that over the longterm, we can develop a growing tendency to be pessimistic, stressed, and negative. Now, particularly in difficult times, like what we're all going through now in the world, this focus on the negative and the fear circuitry in the brain tends to get really the ramped up. So we can get stuck in this negative way of perceiving the world if we're not careful. And the effects of this include a growing sensitivity, distress, and anxiety, a tendency towards pessimism and resentment.

And over the long term, we can even start to slip into a depression. So what can we do to counter the negativity bias in times like these? It's actually really simple. Neuropsychologist and author, Rick Hanson teaches that we can do this, we can counter the negativity bias through the practice of taking in the good. So here's the invitation for today and the rest of this week, start deliberately seeking out and paying attention to good experiences each day. And they can be so simple.

Appreciating the beauty in your garden, the taste of your tea or coffee, the sound of the rain or the wind in the trees. And you want to stay with each good experience for at least five seconds, preferably 10 to 20. Now, this is not about positive thinking. It's about your direct experience. So you want to open up to the body sensations, the feelings, all that's happening in the present moment and really drink in the good experience, letting it fill your body and mind.

Lastly, have a sense of really absorbing the experience. Take a moment to appreciate the experience and have an intention to take that good feeling that you have in your body with you in memory and in your being. Every single time you do this, it's like doing a rep in the mental gym. And over time, these little differences, these little moments of taking in the good will add up, gradually gearing your mind to be more naturally positive, balanced, and resilient. So in today's meditation, we'll take some more time to grow and cultivate this capacity for taking in the good.

So let's settle in for that now. And as always, thank you for your practice and your presence here with us.

Melli O'Brien

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