I am reading Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat and stopped cold yesterday when I read:
Ample research has shown that we tend to think negative – self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful – thoughts more often than positive thoughts. …worrying is the brain’s default position.
WHOA! That is not what I want to read in a quest for being more positive and leading a happy life! But on reflection and more research to confirm the statement, I was somewhat relieved to find that it isn’t just me; it’s the human race that has a negative bent.
I’ve written in past blogs about turning off the news and social media because I’m sick of all of the negative doom and gloom. I begin to feel like I am suffocating in our world. So I unplug and feel better.
Where does the negativity come from?
Brain research indicates that we humans (and all other animals) are hard wired for self-preservation. Cro magnum man needed to react very quickly when the tiger appeared. He developed keen instincts that allowed the species to go forth and multiply. Those instincts are deeply imbedded in the amygdala of our brains. Two thirds of the neurons in that area are always looking for negative events/dangers. This has kept us alive.
Fast forward a few million years and tigers are not an immediate threat to our existence, but our brains keep looking for danger signals and has evolved to:
•. overestimating threats,
•. underestimating opportunities, and
•. underestimating resources
Our brains store more negative experiences than positive experiences. We have to be prepared for what might kill us so that we can avoid those experiences in the future.
It’s a great way to preserve a species but not a good way to develop any quality of life.
We are vulnerable.
Studies have shown that our attitudes are more heavily influenced by bad news than good news.
The brain is like velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. (Rick Hanson, UC Berkeley)
I am beginning to understand why people are so attracted to negative news, negative political campaigns, and violence. And the media (which is big business) will always go where the major interests and money are.
We are vulnerable to “paper tiger paranoia”. Threats bombard us every day in every way imaginable.
Are the threats real? Are they imminent? Should we live on constant high alert? Will that make our world a better place? Will we survive the stress on our bodies and our minds?
Is there a better way to live? Can we condition our brains to a positive track that will better fit a fast paced, high technology world of common good rather than self-preservation?
I’m working on it.