Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we are forced with having to deal with an unpleasant experience, which often brings about difficult thoughts and feelings. It may be tough in these moments to notice the positive experiences throughout the day, especially when things feel completely out of our control. According to research, our brains have been hardwired through evolution to focus on the negative. Traced back to prehistoric days, primitive man had to be able to register threats to avoid danger and increase survival rates. Individuals who were more attuned to danger (negative stimuli) stayed alive longer and passed on their genes (Hanson, 2021). This is known as the “Negativity Effect”, which is the brains’ tendency to be impacted more by negative events than positive ones. The brain registers, focuses, stores, and recalls negative events much more readily than positive ones.
You may notice the Negativity Effect in your life if you tend to:
Notice and recall negative events more vividly than positive ones
Dwell on negative experiences throughout the day
Remember insults and criticism more often than praise
Make decision based on avoiding possible negative results
Be skeptical of new people, places, and things
One way to combat this effect is through consistently practicing gratitude. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. According to research, gratitude helps people focus on the positive aspects of their life. Gratitude can help build and maintain relationships with others, resulting in hope, life satisfaction, and more proactive behaviors toward others (Passmore & Oades, 2016).
So, what ways can we start practicing gratitude?
1) Start a gratitude journal. By writing out the things we are grateful for, perhaps each morning in a journal, we can start our day on a positive note and be on the lookout throughout the day for more things we can add to our journal.
2) Thanking our loved ones. We don’t always get to express our appreciation for our loved ones and sometimes we might think they already know how much we are thankful for them, but by practicing verbalizing our appreciation we can increase our gratitude and strengthen our relationships.
3) Stopping to give thanks. Whether that be through prayer to a higher power of your choosing, or a simple moment to yourself as you take in the appreciation of what is around you, stopping to give thanks can help you notice your surroundings, appreciate the hot meal you are about to eat, and express gratitude for making it to see another day.
4) Create a gratitude jar. Similar to a journal, this is a creative way to start expressing your gratitude on a daily basis. Each time you reflect on a person, place, or thing that you are grateful for, write it on a small piece of paper, fold it up, and place it in the gratitude jar. Make it a habit by the end of the month to open up each paper and reflect on all that you were able to notice and appreciate throughout the past weeks.
If you are struggling to see the positive, going through a tough season, or maybe finding it hard to see the joy each day brings, perhaps it is time to schedule an appointment to talk with a licensed mental health therapist. Here at 253 Therapy and Consult, we are here for you and want to help you through this rough patch! Call us today to find a therapist that can start working with you on your journey towards healing.