Not all emotions are created equal: Why we're hardwired for negativity!

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We all possess an inner voice that enjoys highlighting our possible shortcomings, playfully dubbed the 'Chimp' by Professor Steven Peters, author of The Chimp Paradox. Emphasising negative outcomes over positive outcomes is often referred to as ‘negativity bias', and this style of bias takes on many different forms, such as focusing on criticism rather than praise and overly worrying about potential consequences.

Looking on the bright side, studies show that our genetic makeup plays an influential role in our attraction towards negativity, with negativity bias serving as an important evolutionary trait, e.g., back in the day, humans of old had to stay on heightened alert for predators and other dangers to make it through. Further, research by  Lyubomirksy et al. (2005) and others indicates that our happiness is shaped by a mix of genetics (50%), activities (40%), and life circumstances (10%). It could, therefore, be said that we have a greater than 50% chance of achieving a positive approach through our thoughts and actions.

Whilst it is almost impossible to eliminate negativity bias from our minds completely, we can be aware of it and take action to influence how it shapes our perspectives and decisions. One method might be to periodically check in during the day by reflecting on both positive and negative thoughts, and, when a negative thought arises, ask yourself how it serves you, and if it doesn't serve you well, let it go.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, "If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then paint anyway, and that voice will be silenced.” Remember that you can achieve amazing things. Take the time to be present and celebrate even the smallest of your successes, and when self-doubt creeps in, choose to think positively and keep moving forward. You got this!