It’s A Matter Of Nature, Not Nurture
We all have our own unique personalities which of course has something to do with the way we interpret information and of course, there are our own unique experiences that create a baseline of what to expect in similar situations. However, we know that even from infancy, we are more receptive and more likely to respond to negative attention than we are to positive attention.
This is why for every negative comment or experience it takes 5 positive comments or experiences to correct the lasting negative information you received. This is particularly important when it comes to correcting children in school and at home. The research finds that students need negative feedback or constructive criticism to motivate change, however, this needs to be mixed in with the positive affirmative messages as well.
When it comes to schools, it is also super important to think about the home environment a student might be coming from as well. If we know that home is not supportive, you might find better results from the positive reinforcement rather than the negative, not to mention what this will mean to that student.
Emotional Reactions Create More Pronounced Memories
I have had a running joke with a few friends and family members who have a notably “bad memory”, and when they do remember situations or experiences it is because it is tied to a strong emotional reaction. Have you noticed this in your own life?
It is why throughout history we know exactly where we were and what we were doing when big news hit, such as 9/11 or the Challenger explosion, or when JFK was assassinated. Some of these events were scary and traumatic.
A traumatic incident is an intensely negative situation that threatens a person’s well-being, physically or emotionally. Part of the physical reaction to a traumatic incident is for cortisol and other stress hormones to be released into the bloodstream, which helps you survive the situation. Typically these stress hormones hinder memory however, there is also an argument that these experiences (and the hormones in our body) can cement something into our brains as well.
Undoing The Negative – Rewiring Your Brain
In the past, this inclination to be more sensitive to negative information, our negativity bias, protected us and kept us safe, but the world we live in today is far safer than it was even just 100 years ago. What kept us safe then, is not necessarily what will keep us safe now, in fact, negativity puts us at risk for anxiety, depression as well as a lack of happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
But evolution is slow and this is just another manifestation of the way modern progress is working against nature and keeping us from experiencing the many positive and beneficial aspects we have available to us in the modern world.
Being too focused on the negative today is far more likely to detract from our overall happiness than contribute to our well-being.
The root of many mental health challenges is the way in which we think about the information we are exposed to and the experiences we have in our daily lives. Therefore it is also important to take an active role in flipping the script when it comes to how we see and interpret negative information in our lives, which I would argue will increase anxiety and depression in the long run.
We need to learn to incorporate the good with the bad around us and work harder on remembering the positive.