Human brains have a built in “negativity bias” – the brain pays more attention to bad news than good news.
How come? Well, it’s a brilliant mechanism for survival situations. If the good news is that this food tastes great, and the bad news is an approaching tiger, you really shouldn’t dwell on the food!
But in today’s world, it’s more likely that the good news is that the food tastes great, and the bad news is some corruption or injustice scandal you can’t do anything about. In that case, the best way to create happiness is to enjoy the food and complement the chef.
And that means overcoming the negativity bias in your brain.
How? The first step is to notice positive experiences. If you’ve read my “Alive at Work” download (see the sidebar on the right), you’ll know that I recommend a simple exercise: write down 3 good things that have happened to you in the last 24 hours. If you do this every day for 3 weeks, you’ll be happier – the amazing thing is you’ll stay happier. You will have created a new, positive habit that counteracts the negativity bias and makes you a happier person.
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson suggests taking it further. He recommends dwelling in positive experiences for 10 to 30 seconds – so they can really “sink in.” In that way you can actually create new neural structures in your brain: physically rewiring your brain for happiness.
Would that work for you? You could try it now:
- What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?
- How does that feel?
- Stay with the experience for 15 seconds
Notice any difference?