I’ve recently had a few conversations that have made me realise that it’s much more important to avoid negative influences than it is to create positive ones.
The human brain is naturally wired to give more weight to negative events than positive ones, a phenomenon known as ‘negativity bias’. Despite this, I think that a lot of us convince ourselves that we should just ‘tolerate’ negative influences or just ‘think about the bright side’.
However, negativity bias can have enormous impacts on our self-esteem and happiness. If we were to receive 10 genuine compliments, and one hurtful negative comment, a lot of people would probably find the insult harder to get over.
This has made me realise that it’s possibly more important to remove negative influences than it is to create positive ones. I hadn’t realised it, but I had already been applying this to my life:
- When I study I try to remove as many negative influences as possible (my phone, distracting cards, items on my desk) so that I’m more likely to stay focused.
- I also try to introduce negative influences if I don’t study (telling my friend I’ll pay them $100 if I don’t follow through). I find that this works much better than trying to give myself a reward at the end.
In my relationships, I think it’s important to consider the people that bring negativity into my life. I’m lucky to say that I adore all of my friends and find that I have very few negative influences. However, I know that there can be friendships that are good 95% of the time, and bad for another 5%. Even though this may seem like a good ratio, I think that the true cost of the bad 5% is much greater than people would expect.
Arguements, bad behaviour and breaches of trust stay in our minds for much longer than positive actions. The time we spend mulling on negative experiences is often significant, and sometimes it might be better to not have the experience at all. If you have one of those 95/5 relationships, it would be a great idea to try and mend that 5% because the benefit might be much larger than you expect.
In saying all of this, I think it is important to show gratitude and appreciation for positive experiences and people, but it’s possible that you could be underestimating the impact of negativity bias on your happiness.
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