Every time I look back on something stupid I’ve done, I can feel it viscerally in my bones.
I shudder at the dreadful things that I’ve done throughout my life, and feel almost consumed by them.
I remember failed relationships, missed opportunities, unkind words. But I forget the good things. The great things I’ve done for others, moments of my success.
The times where I’ve felt happiest are the most out of reach, unless I really try to remember.
This is the negativity bias.
Our brain finds it easier to dwell on the negative aspects of our life because we are fundamentally risk averse. We prefer to be more cautious and avoid the possibility of a negative outcome. This means that we remember criticism more than praise, and make more decisions based on negative experiences than positive ones.
Today’s world makes this even more difficult to manage. The news and social media are an easy echo chamber for the negativity bias. We’re bombarded with negative inputs, and it’s difficult to see the positives, let alone dwell on them.
That’s why I regularly purge my socials of anything that isn’t uplifting.
I’d urge you to do the same, and the next time you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, or lamenting your life, think back to a particularly memorable happy memory.
It might not make the negative go away, but at least you'll be conscious that there's more to life than the negative inputs that we're surrounded by.
Find your happy place.