Why negative emotions stick and how to overcome it
Why negative emotions stick and how to overcome it
man-bank-negativiteit

It’s raining. It’s spring. I’m still wearing my winter coat and I’m stuck in traffic again. These are the well-known complaints of the average Dutch person. We are good in complaining and seeing things from a negative point of view. But does this really make us happier? Or would you prefer to come home feeling cheerful and happy instead of being so negative because of the weather and the traffic?

Negativity bias

It is not surprising that a person complains a lot. A person is programmed in such a way that he notices negativity faster than positivity. This is also called the negativity bias. A person is more sensitive to negative or threatening cues, because it still builds on the instinct of our prehistoric ancestors. Back then people had an evolutionary advantage to be aware of every danger, because who knows maybe a tiger was lurking somewhere around the corner! These days the function of this advantage has disappeared, but the bias has remained.

Automatic focus

A person is therefore driven by negativity. We automatically focus on negative cues. Negatively charged cues narrow the attention and intensify the focus. And by paying attention to something, the emotional value increases again. Research has shown, for example, that pain is experienced as more intense when you focus on it. So you have a tendency to focus on negative cues and because you focus on this, you also experience it more intensely … Now stop all negativity for a moment!

Awareness

Now that you have become aware of this bias, you can do something about it!

  • Evaluate the day. Why was today terrible? Why was today horrible for you compared to someone else? Or can you convince yourself that you are all in the same boat and that you just have to get through this.
  • Name something positive instead of something negative. Giving attention to negativity makes the feeling worse. Don’t talk about the weather when the weather is bad and name something positive about the day for a change!
  • Let go of what you have no influence on. You can worry about this endlessly, but you will not be able to solve it. If you can’t solve it, it’s not your problem!
  • Be mindful. If you allow yourself to be dragged by negative cues all day long, you will for sure come home feeling grumpy. Research shows that fifteen minutes of mindfulness already helps to correctly identify positive and negative cues and creates more optimism. After the rain comes the sun!

NiceDay app

Schedule fifteen minutes in the NiceDay app to evaluate the day. Was it loaded with negativity? Was it really that bad? Or were there enough positive things that you actually missed because you were in a negative spiral? Register how you feel when your mindfulness is over for 15 minutes!

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Wouter Schippers

Hey, I am Wouter. I'm a NiceDay coach and psychologist. I like to play football and to make electronic music.

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