Negativity Bias, Positive Moments Journal, and Charles Dickens
March 14, 2021
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” An immortal line from the opening of A tale of two cities by the infamous Charles Dickens. The exceptionally eminent sentence resonates well with readers regardless of the period in which they live.
Now in 2021, and a year after most countries went into complete and partial lockdown, the opening line stands strong. Many believe we’re living in the absolute worst of times. While at the same time recognising that this period also holds a positive side to it. Hence, once again, the relevance of the quote. But is there something else to take into account here? Is there something that might be remotely affecting our perception of our realities? The answer is Yes. It is known as The Negativity Bias.
Simple examples of the negativity bias
Before we delve into the definition of negativity bias, consider the following simple experience. Imagine getting a phone call from an unknown number, and imagine two scenarios. In the first one, the phone call would bring you long-awaited happy news. In the second scenario, it is one of your worst fears coming true. Now, and as you are reading these words, chances are you’re still mulling over the worse scenario. That’s because, as it turns out, we are programmed to give greater weight to negative emotions or thoughts.
Defining The Negativity Bias
The Negativity bias is our tendency, as humans, to place greater attention and weight on negative incidents as opposed to positive ones. Psychologist Rick Hanson likes to say: “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”
It is essential to highlight that you can get a better grip on this bias and limits its effects. Psychologists say that consciously attempting to embrace positive experiences and emotions should help you overcome this tendency. “That’s why, for me, taking in the good is an absolutely crucial skill to develop, and a wonderful way to balance this unfair tilt embedded in your own nervous system.” Explains Rick Hanson.
Positive Moments Journals as a method to Surpass our Negativity Bias
Referring back to the previously mentioned quote by Charles Dickens, it can be challenging to embrace positive emotions and experiences while we live in times of great uncertainty. That, however, doesn’t mean it is not achievable!
I find it essential to keep, what I like to call, a Positive Moments Journal. My thought behind this was: since our brains and nervous systems are wired to memorize and focus on negative experiences more than positive ones, it is only just, to us and to our mental health, that we take a mindful decision to try and intensify positive experiences we go through, by keeping a journal of positive moments we enjoy.
The benefits of journaling as an activity on our physical and mental health are almost uncountable. A Positive Moments Journal is a sort of Gratitude Journaling or Writing with Gratitude that has been proved to help:
- Scale down symptoms of depression for as long as we keep the practice
- Increase optimism (which indirectly positively affects our happiness)
- Augment our well-being in the long term
- Enhance sleep quality
A positive moments journal helps me control my mood and outlook when I am a little overwhelmed by circumstances or Issues I am going through. Admittedly, my nostalgic self also likes to flip through happy moments of the past, and I can feel a beaming smile showing on my face. Which, truth be told, is an immensely gratifying way to wrap a long, exhausting day.