Controlling My Negativity

You try not to be negative, but here's a news flash: the human brain is built for negativity! It's a survival skill.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D, who wrote Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, says our brains are designed to scan for danger. When we see something to worry about, the negative information makes a big impression and we're more likely to be affected by it, because that's going to help us stay alive. Positive information, on the other hand, isn't so sticky.

Blue sky, big deal. Saber-toothed cat? BIG deal.

To make matters worse, our fast-paced, information overload-culture increases the amount of scanning our brains do. So we're constantly gathering more and more negative data.

And we're stressing the hell out!

On the one hand, it's kind of cool to think that my brain has a good reason for focusing on the negative. (And here I thought it was just me.) I appreciate the evolutionary necessity of this tendency.

But now that we understand why it's happening, we can perceive some of our anxiety as an unreliable narrator wringing her hands. Just because the murder rate went up in Texas last year doesn't mean I have more reason to fear.

Tell your inner worrier to chill.


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