We know both from personal experience and science that thinking positively can lead to a more fulfilled life. But we all come to points in our life when thinking positively can be tremendously difficult. In those instances, how do you keep your mind from being stuck in the negative?
It turns out there are some strategies that work significantly better than others, and that’s what Allison Ledgerwood discusses in the TEDx talk below.
A social psychologist by profession, Ledgerwood couldn’t help but notice that our brains get stuck on the negative, even when surrounded by positive events. In her own life, she noticed that even when papers were accepted for publication, she remembered the papers that had been rejected.
So, she says, why does failure stick so much more than success? She explains in the video below, as well as strategies for overcoming that natural proclivity for negativity:
If you don’t have time to watch the video above, consider this the text shorthand:
Intuitively, we know we can think about things in a wide variety of ways, such as the glass half-empty or half-full.
And the language we use in those instances changes our perception of the event in question.
Accordingly, Ledgerwood decided to investigate ways to change our perception of those events by shifting thinking, in particular by running a few experiments.
The first experiment required telling participants about a new medical process. For the first group, she told them the process was 70% successful. The second group she told about the 30% failure rate. Same process, same rates, told in different ways.
Unsurprisingly, the first group had much more favorable views of the process. More surprisingly, when she then told the first group about the failure rate—even though she’d already told them about the success rate—they suddenly stopped liking it. When the second group was told about the success rate, though, they didn’t like it anymore than they had previously—they were still stuck in the initial mindset.
From this, Ledgerwood noted the fundamental human tendency toward the negative: It’s easy to shift our mindset from good to bad, but far harder to shift your thinking from bad to good.
It’s literally far more work to see the upside. Fortunately, though, it can be done: We can train our brains to see the positive.
For instance, research from the University of California Davis has proven that writing even a few minutes of gratefulness each day can boost our mental state, including our happiness and contentment.
Similarly, practicing sharing positivity can help reshape our neural pathways toward further future positivity.
In other words, practicing gratitude and talking about the things that make you happy can help you retrain your brain.
But that’s not all. Knowing this can help us better understand other people’s tendencies toward the negative…and help push them toward positivity with our own, by being gentle and understanding with them.
Small acts of kindness can easily turn into larger acts for good, and we can indeed retrain our brains. So let’s all practice being more positive, more forgiving, and more thankful.
*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here.