Breaking Out of Negative Thinking
Have you got a minute? That may be all you need to build a more positive mindset and remove negativity.
You've been anxiously waiting on some very good news, but you just find out it's not the news you wanted? Or maybe you've been waiting anxiously for days for a response to an email you sent, but your inbox is empty. How do you react in these situations?
If you’re like most people, your mind floods with negativity and you get knots in your stomach. “I didn't deserve that good news”, or “They aren't interested in the email I sent”.
Neuroscientists have a name for this automatic habit of the brain: “negativity bias.” It's an adaptive trait of human psychology that served us well when we were nomads thousands of years ago.
Today, however, this old habit of the brain leaves us reacting to negative events as if our life were in danger. It activates a cascade of stress hormones and leaves us fixated on potential threats, unable to see the bigger picture.
Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has a great analogy for this strange quality of the mind. “Your brain,” he writes in his book Buddha's Brain, “is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” When you lose a client, or when you face the hundreds of other daily disappointments of life, you’re wired to forget all the good things and to instead obsess over the negative.
So how can you change this hard-wired habit of the mind?
Three words: Notice. Shift. Rewire. This simple strategy is based on the concept of neuroplasticity: that brain isn’t fixed. Its habits aren’t like plaster. They’re more like moldable plastic, strong enough to resist the occasional push but pliable enough to change in response to repeated effort. in the words of early neuroscientist Donald Hebb, “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
That’s the magic of Notice - Shift - Rewire. By taking a moment each day to bring our attention to this practice, we build the habit of shifting out of negativity bias to more useful mind states: remembering our past successes, affirming the things we do well, and remembering that other opportunities are always around the corner.
How do you integrate the practice of Notice - Shift - Rewire into the midst of everyday life?
Notice your negativity bias.
The first step is to be aware that you are drowning in negative thoughts. Catch yourself when you slip into self-doubt, rumination, anxiety, and fear. Notice when your mind starts spinning out worst-case scenarios.
Shift to a moment of gratitude or a past success.
Whereas Notice above opens the space for carving new neural pathways, Shift allows you to flood this space with more productive thoughts. Just a few seconds of gratitude or a positive memory of success is the most efficient way to do this. Think of something you're grateful for right now. Your family or relationship. Your job. Or recalls your talents and strengths, or something you did really well. Positive energy is key here.
Rewire your brain.
Here’s where the real work begins. Instead of dwelling on the negative, take 30 seconds to stay with this new mindset of positivity and encode it deep into the fabric of your mind.
This last step is where we transform our ordinary habit of overlooking the positive. It’s where we shift the brain's response to all the good in life from Teflon to Velcro. We’re flipping our evolved wiring on its head -- taking just a few seconds to build stronger memories around all the good things happening in life.
The best thing about this practice is that it’s time efficient, portable, and powerful. It takes less than a minute and you can do it anytime and anywhere. Repetition of this practice will help you to experience a shift in your mindset.
Successful people can shake off bad news. While the methods people use may vary, they are all based on the concept of moving past the negative and refocusing their energy of the next opportunity. If you can teach yourself to do this, the challenges that you face every day can become a whole lot easier to conquer.
At Restoring Health, we recognize that everyone is different and the above techniques may not work for everyone. Some people need professional help to get back to a more normal state of mind. That is why we offer neurofeedback: a computer based system for retraining brainwaves into making more healthy patterns. For those with advanced es neurological issues, neurofeedback could help get you back into a more normal and healthy state of mind. To learn more , check out our neurofeedback page on this site or call (321)-444-6750 for more information.
Posted In: Neurofeedback