Our brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Why? This built-in negativity bias helps keep us safe. This means that we readily notice and internalize anything negative that happens to us during the course of a day, while glossing over anything positive because we’re busy solving problems or scanning for something to worry about.
So, if by nature our brain defaults to negative, is it possible to reshape our brain to hardwire all the positive experiences to ‘take in the good’ that happens in our everyday life? We can make this happen by consciously turning a positive event into a positive experience.
Take 10, 20 or 30 seconds to savor the positive moment. There are many of them during the course of a day, but we just don’t notice them. These brief seconds of paying attention to what has happened and relishing it makes the positive experience sink in so it can develop into a neural structure. The more we do this, the better we become at balancing our hardwired negativity bias with an ability to take in the good.
To build inner strength into our brain, we need to meet three core needs: safety, satisfaction and connection. Learning which positive experiences can satisfy these core needs every day goes a long way toward helping us cultivate positive emotions and hardwiring contentment and peace so we can focus on a successful life.
The following three tactics, which help fulfill your core needs, can help you concentrate on the positive.
Practice Being Calm
You can boost your sense of safety by regularly focusing on experiences that make you feel calm. Calm is an attitude of composure that lets us function at our best in stressful, harried or charged situations. This means moving away from a crisis-driven mindset.
We often miss opportunities to practice calmness because we’re used to being “on” all the time. For example, calmness isn’t rushing from one airport gate to another when there’s ample time for making our connecting flight. It’s taking a real break from your business during the day to have an uninterrupted meal. It’s waking up an hour earlier so you don’t have to rush through traffic. It’s giving your child an extra 10 minutes of peaceful attention in the morning.
Create such moments during your day to experience calmness, and intentionally focus on the experience for a few seconds to relish how it feels. Repeatedly internalizing experiences that bring a sense of calm to your life helps you build that emotional muscle so you’re better able to face situations in your business or personal life without feeling pressured or rattled by them.
Raise Your Satisfaction Awareness
When you’re feeling satisfied, you’re more likely to experience such feelings as gratitude, gladness, accomplishment and contentment. These are powerful antidotes to the negativity bias in our brain, so it’s important to become more aware of what satisfaction means for you, and then take the time to savor the experience when it happens.
For instance, it may be closing a sale or completing a project ahead of time. Or it may be as simple as learning something new every day. You need to be clear about whatever it is that brings you satisfaction so you can create more of these opportunities but, more important, so you can savor them when they do happen.
Value The People In Your Life
You can strengthen your sense of feeling connected by regularly focusing on experiences during the day in which you feel cared about or valued. You can also focus on experiences that make you feel like a good person, such as when you feel compassion or when you’re doing something kind for others.
As psychologist William James once said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Don’t let the daily preoccupations with your life or your business cause you to miss the appreciation you receive from those closest to you.