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A Positivity Passport = A Better Life Journey

Written by: Rosalyn Palmer, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Over the last six years in my career as a therapist and coach, I’ve learned about both the brain and our behaviours. Not only does such knowledge help me but also it provides great insight to my clients about their unwanted thoughts and behaviours. Knowing why we do many seemingly irrational things doesn’t give you a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card forever, but it certainly can help you break down the bars that may have held you prisoner.

Last year I read a book, ‘The Power of Bad: How the Negatively Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It’, co-authored by social psychologist Roy Baumeister and New York Times writer John Tierney. The book not only covers the fascinating science behind this bias we have as humans to focus on the negative and disregard the positive but also gives readers practical tips to work around it.


Say the authors: “We want people to recognize that things are almost never as bad as they’re thinking and hearing and fearing. We want people to understand that the mind naturally leans toward noticing and attending to and processing the negative stuff, but that will be an overreaction. So, it’s important to take some time and balance it out and recognize the immense amount of good that is all around us.”


The book contains the widely documented research about why we focus on the negative.

It is a result of evolution. We were primed to look for what was wrong or unfamiliar (i.e. dangerous) early in our development as a species as it was a matter of life and death. I like to compare what was going on in our primitive minds to how the Terminator works in the eponymous movie. He is primed to look for, and kill, humans. Sarah Connor in particular. In his interactions you see the Terminator summing up everyone with his robot brain and concluding quickly as to whether they will be terminated or not.


So, paying attention to danger led to survival but it also led us to a tendency to now lookout for the negative rather than the positive. Putting aside the added issue of the brain not determining what is a perceived versus a real danger – and thus filling us with stress hormones repeatedly – it is really rather a downer isn’t it?


Turning our attention back to ‘The Power of Bad’ book, the research also reveals that negative thoughts have about four times as much impact as good ones (as we are thinking/looking out for the bad more). So, to redress the balance you should purposefully create a five-to-one ratio of thinking good things to bad things.


Easier said than done.


But it is so important.


The negativity bias is seen in both adults and children. Our naturally increased sensitivity to bad stuff vs good stuff means we are more likely to respond to something negative than to something positive. Paul Bloom, a behavioural psychologist at Yale University, Connecticut studied morality in babies. He concluded that they respond to negativity when tested.


Negative belief is also powerful in shaping your biology.


Just as the placebo effect (thinking that something will do you good or make you better) can have a positive effect on you, conversely when you are influenced by a negative belief the result is dis-ease. Negative beliefs about your health can cause not just poor health but even death. This is researched by Dr. Bruce Lipton in his biology of belief and it is why medical doctors have to be so careful when managing patient’s expectations of recovery from serious illness. Most people, for example, if told they have three months to live will believe it.


In our everyday lives we have a tendency to react more strongly to negativity and also remember the bad stuff rather than the good. If a colleague criticises your work it can sting deeply and you may be mulling it over for hours. At home, when asked how your day went, you will probably say it was terrible despite the fact that only this one negative event happened. You will have discounted all the positive aspects of your day.


We actually have to learn to be comfortable with the positive.


For starters, learn to take a compliment and don’t brush it off as it is unfamiliar or slightly uncomfortable. Then, stop talking to yourself in your own head as if you were your own Public Enemy No. 1. I work extensively with clients on reframing their inner voice and my favourite name for it is from a Canadian client who calls her negative voice the: ‘Itty Bitty Shitty Committee’. Don’t listen to that committee. Don’t attend their meetings. What good will come of it? Find a better voice and kinder words and speak to yourself and about yourself the same way as you would to an innocent child that you want to protect and nurture.


After studying mindfulness several years ago, I discovered Gratitude Journals. Through the expression of gratitude, we are able to not only be present at the moment but by finding the good in even the smallest of things, get flooded with an appreciation that cannot fail to change our mood and outlook for the better. This is a way of recording the good.


When we stay focused on what problems to solve, we overwhelm ourselves and put ourselves in that stressed state of constant alert. Think about the word ‘overwhelmed’. Then it's the opposite: ‘underwhelmed’. We get overwhelmed by the challenges and difficulties of life. We get underwhelmed by ourselves, our responses to life, our visions of the future.


Now is the time to change that. Be overwhelmed with your own power and positivity.

Every day there will be something to be grateful for.


Even if it was the nice chap on the bus who offered you his seat as he saw how weary you were. A smile from your grandchild. A moment spent watching a bird feed from a tree. Notice and rejoice.


By noticing the positive, you start to rewire your brain’s neural pathways to think positively on a regular basis.


This leads to happiness and happy people release more endorphins, so they are healthier and less stressed. Those who are happy with themselves make better partners in both business and personal lives. They don’t need to belittle or control others in order to feel good about themselves. They are able to be at one with themselves and then let others in, and love and support them too.


There are beautiful, soft, leather-bound Gratitude Journals that you can buy, keep by your bed, and work through the exercises they contain every evening and morning.


Failing that, you can grab a piece of paper and a pen or use the ‘notes’ on your computer or phone. Start now. Take a moment and think about, then note down, five things that you are grateful for regarding:

  • you

  • your life

  • your home

  • your friends/family

Don’t be churlish here. You can always find five. Say out loud: “I am alive so I’ll find five!”.


Another lovely action, especially if you have children, is to create a Gratitude Jar. Get as big an empty jar as you can and create your own label.


Each time you, your children, your family, or those you live with, find a moment of joy and gratitude, scribble it down on post-it notes or scrap of paper, and drop it in the jar. On gloomy days or every so often just open it and read the notes.


Instant uplifting self-therapy that will banish that old negativity bias.


Follow Rosalyn on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and visit her website for more info.


 

Rosalyn Palmer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Rosalyn Palmer is an award-winning transformational coach and therapist, combining advanced rapid transformational therapy/clinical hypnotherapy & NLP-based coaching to create deep desired changes. She works 1-2-1 with clients and via her group courses. As best-selling author of the award-winning self-help book: ‘Reset! A Blueprint for a Better Life’ and three other Amazon bestsellers, Rosalyn makes emotional wellbeing accessible to all. She enables high performers to live their best lives that feel as good inside as they look on the super-successful outside. Rosalyn draws on extensive business experiences - in top London PR & Marcomms (‘retiring’ as a self-made millionaire at age 40 after a stellar career helping clients including Tony Robbins and Edward de Bono) and the insight of being conflicted when the outward vision of your life doesn’t serve you. Added to this are her deeper values and life experiences born from many challenges including cancer; redundancy; bereavement; menopause; divorce; financial loss that broke her open to finding out what really matters in life and how to live a life of balance and joy. As a natural communicator, she is the well-being expert for radio show Girls Around Town, has a monthly newspaper column, and two podcast series: Monkey Business and Life Alchemy.

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