When you think back to your childhood, what memories flood your mind? It wouldn’t be surprising if it were the times you felt hurt or embarrassed. And when someone praises you and then provides criticism do the words of praise fade away because you focus on your weakness?
Why are people so negative? Is it hardwired or can it be changed? What can you do to focus on the positive?
Interestingly, scientists have discovered that the brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres. That’s good news! Because if the brain “handles it”, we are in control of how we process negativity and positivity.
Let’s first consider what generally happens when we hear or experience negativity and why it takes on a stronger influence, and then we’ll discuss what we can do to rewire our brain to focus on the positive.
We focus on negative emotions more.
We live in a world of negativity – think about the news cycle! And while bad things happen every day, we don’t have to let that bring us down. We can mindfully choose to focus on negative emotions less and positive emotions more.
We dismiss or downplay compliments and positive feedback.
The key to “seeing the positive” is cultivating a spirit of appreciation and gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or can’t do, look for what’s going right; what’s possible; what you do have. Tell yourself, “I work hard”. Tell yourself, “I’m capable”. Tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can do right now!” And believe it! It helps to also record sincere praise from others in your gratitude journal and savor it. This is a powerful exercise.
We process negative information more thoroughly – going over it again and again.
When going through terrible situations, it’s okay to grieve, and be hurt, angry, disappointed, or embarrassed. But you don’t need to stay in that space, dwelling on it. It’s your choice to look on it as a learning experience. Ask yourself: “How do I want to handle this next time?”, rehearse that and move on.
We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter and we give greater weight to criticisms.
Perhaps because children are praised for too many meaningless things, they don’t get the opportunity to build up resilience when they do receive negative feedback. If you’re bombarded with critical comments, stop them and say “Let me process this. I can only handle only one critical comment at a time.” And when you give feedback, make it constructive and do so sparingly.
We remember words that follow criticism more clearly than those that come before.
It’s best to offer feedback first and then follow up with positive comments. Therefore, reframe feedback you hear in this sequence – criticism first, positive last. When you look for the good in others, and you’re kind, supportive and encouraging, it produces a snowball effect in that it becomes easier to see the positive in yourself.
We use stronger words to describe negative events than happy ones.
For example, have you described a negative event this way “It ruined my day!”? And then turned around and described a positive event with “It was okay.” Give more weight to positive events by learning to experience and describe them differently.
It all boils down to what we choose to see. In every person, in every situation, there is something good. Most of the time, it isn’t obvious. It’s easier to glance at a situation, see the negative and go with that. If you want to empower your life with more positive thinking, please feel free to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” complimentary consultation with me so we can explore a coaching partnership.