By Christine Schulz on Mon, Mar 25, 2019
Why is it that you often forget the last time someone complimented you, but you can clearly remember the last time someone gave you negative feedback? The answer is because our brains are wired to be more sensitive to negative news. While we are programmed to become the best version of ourselves that we can be, ironically our overwhelming gravitation towards negativity can make that difficult. Thankfully, we don’t have to be victims of our own negative thoughts. We can override these feelings, emotions, and thoughts by improving our self-control and understanding how negativity affects our brains to turn those feelings and thoughts into positive action.
How Does Your Brain Process Thoughts?
Experts believe the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. Of those thoughts, an estimated 80% are negative. Negativity has an impact on all four brain systems, including emotions, feelings, cognition, and self-control. When we dwell on something negative, it affects our mood, how we feel, and impairs our focus and memory.
There are two modes of brain functions: conscious and nonconscious. Before you even have a conscious thought, your nonconscious reactions process and weigh the most beneficial outcome and response to any situation. Most of what we react to is processed nonconsciously. Nonconscious responses can be helpful, but can also leave you vulnerable to actions and reactions that may be damaging to you. For this reason, you must learn to align your conscious and nonconscious reactions. Your nonconscious intuitions are most helpful to your rational decision making when you reconcile them with your conscious brain processes.
Reflect on Your Negative Thoughts
A thought has no power other than what you give it. The key here it to catch negative thoughts before they hijack your brain and focus on your self-control. For example, a manager turning down your idea could bring forth the thought “My manager doesn’t believe in me or respect my decisions.” For someone who fears rejection this could flood the brain with even more negative thoughts causing anxiety, stress, and inability to focus. Don’t try to push these thoughts away. This could actually amplify its reaction to make things worse. But you shouldn’t dwell on them either. Instead, align your thinking, emotions, and feelings to improve your overall self-control of the situation. When you catch yourself reacting negatively, reflect on your thoughts before choosing how to respond. Ask yourself: Did I really get rejected because my manager doesn’t believe in me or my skills? The odds are not likely. Instead of jumping to conclusions, take the opportunity to view this challenge to improve your self-control and allow yourself to be the most effective person you can be.
Surround Yourself with Positive
It can often be difficult to surround yourself with positive people, especially in a work environment. While it may be unavoidable to choose who you work with, you can choose not to give in to their negativity. When you’re faced with something negative, reframe their comment or action by asking yourself “How can I see this differently in a more positive way?” You can also keep things on your desk that make you happy, such as pictures of family or friends. Remember not to let negative actions get to you and don’t take them personally. Ultimately, you are in charge of your own self.
Beware of Non-Conscious Cues
Did you know that forcing yourself to smile when you’re sad can actually improve your mood?1 Your body language says a lot about you. When you sit in a meeting with your arms folded or your hands cradling your head, you’re not only giving off a negative impression, but you’re more likely to think something negative as well. An action as simple as changing your posture into an upright position can cause an improvement of mood and energy.1 Similar to how negative people can make you more negative, positive people can make you more positive as well. If you’re positive around others, they’ll more likely become positive around you.
Now that you understand some of the ways your brain processes negativity, it’s up to you to take positive actions to improve the way you react to these thoughts. The power of positivity can decrease your risk of mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing your wellbeing and overall ability to focus and be productive. Identifying your brain patterns and improving your thought process will take time, but the end result will be a more positive and healthier you.