The Negativity Bias: 9 Ways To Stop Fixating on Negativity

Negativity bias

The negativity bias is our tendency to dwell on negativity. An insult will stick in your mind far more than a compliment in your mind.

Guy with negativity bias.
Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash

A few upsetting events can cast a dark shadow over all the good times. Then when you look back on your life, your perception is distorted with negativity. As a result, you’ll think your life was a  disaster when it actually was pretty nice. Unfortunately, we all have this habit deeply embedded into our psyches from long ago.

Why are we drawn to the negativity bias?

Ancient negativity bias.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

Humans have the negativity bias because of our ancient ancestors. It was wise for them to look out for any predators lurking in the bushes. Whereas those who didn’t bother checking if a cave was vacant before running inside, didn’t survive.

However, in the modern world, fixing negative things isn’t as beneficial anymore.

Dwelling on potential risks at every turn takes a toll on our work performance and confidence.

In times like these, emphasizing negativity is the last thing we need. The good news is we can retrain our brains to search for the positive things in life. Without changing anything else, we can find more opportunities and happiness.

Ways to overcome negativity bias

1. Emphasize the good times

Photo by Maria Orlova from Pexels
Photo by Maria Orlova from Pexels

To defeat the negativity bias we need to practice positive emotions by emphasizing pleasant moments. It’s more effective if you use the same strength of emotions you would if it was something negative.

So, every chance you get, relish the simple pleasures in life.

  • If there’s a gorgeous sunset outside, go bask in its glory.
  • Or if someone did something well, tell them.
  • When you cooked a steak perfectly, savor every bite.

Even if it feels strange, truly enjoy every little moment of bliss. Doing this brightens your mood, and anyone around you will feel better too!

2. Beware of negativity bias in your thoughts

Beware of negativity bia.
Photo by Gahan N Rao on Unsplash

Negativity bias leads our thoughts into a defeatist mode. Just like if you had a fantastic day but one person’s rude remark can destroy your mood, We tend to zero in on that one imperfect moment. As a result, all the happy times get tossed in the trash.

So, pay attention to your thought so you can catch the negativity bias when it tries to take control. Then you can stop and then flip things around to reveal how great other parts of your day were.

3. Defeat negativity bias with gratitude

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels
Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

Your brain creates new neural pathways with everything you do. Therefore, each time you focus on negativity, the more you’ll tend to do the same in the future.

So, you need to practice thinking positive thoughts every day. A great way to do this is to focus on what you’re grateful for instead of what’s missing.

Create a habit of writing (or thinking) about three simple things you’re glad you have in your life. For instance, you might be thankful that you have a place to live, a job, relatives, pets, or even talents. When you purposely point out the good things, they appear more often.

4. Use hobbies to distract yourself

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Our hobbies get our minds off of whatever is bothering us so we can relax. As a result, this activity is valuable for our mental health. So, instead of stewing in pessimism, why not lose yourself in your favorite hobby?

5. Undo negativity bias with the 5 to 1 ratio

Undo negativity bias.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Before a relationship starts sliding into the abyss of despair, you can save it with the 5 to 1 ratio. This magical ratio counteracts one negative interaction with five positive experiences. You can repair almost any friendship or relationship with this proven theory.

Also, it works for the bond you have with yourself. Each time you catch yourself absorbed in a harmful thought, counteract it with five happier memories.

6. Question the negativity bias

Photo by Victor Miyata from Pexels
Photo by Victor Miyata from Pexels

When you start focusing on awful memories, then it’s up to you to end them. Don’t allow it to drag your mood into the ditch, stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I catastrophizing the situation?
  • Should those bad times dictate the rest of my life?
  • Does that situation really hold much importance in the grand scheme of things?
  • Even though this terrible moment happened, what positives did I gain from it?
  • What does the scenario look like from the other person’s shoes?

If you never bother to question the negativity bias, it will run rampant all over your brain.

7. Realize the importance of failure

Guy in darkness dwelling on  negativity bias.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

You won’t get far on any goal if you believe that failure is a sign that you should quit. Thinking that you must avoid failure at all costs leads to a possible life sentence in your comfort zone. Then you’ll never push yourself to make progress. As a result, you might be stuck there until they learn to escape.

In reality, we learn far more from failing than we ever do from succeeding. Furthermore, those lessons stick in our memory much longer. If you failed more, you’d advance faster than you would by always succeeding.

8. Point out positive qualities in other people

Photo by Thirdman from Pexels
Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

A toxic partner can taint all your future relationships. You’ll think everyone will behave the same way. That’s because your amygdala is on high alert for warning signs. So, you might subconsciously punish a great partner for things they didn’t do. But you can train yourself to notice the positive qualities of other people. and situations with practice.

9. Journal about the best parts of your day

journal about negativity bias
Photo by George Milton from Pexels

Journaling is a fantastic thing to add to your routine. It’s helpful to map out your life and instill better thinking habits. If you write more about the good things in life, you’ll naturally start thinking the same way.

Photo by Kate Andreeshcheva from Pexels
Photo by Kate Andreeshcheva from Pexels

In short, when you overcome the negativity bias, you make your entire life seem better. Now you won’t focus solely on the difficult times you’ve had and instead realize that things weren’t all bad. You can reminisce on the fun times. Emphasize the positive moments of each day.

You’ll want to keep including positivity by subscribing below. Also, leave a comment. What areas in your life have the negativity bias skewed to seem worse than it was?

About Author

Hi, I'm Sheryl Barnes the writer here at Motivated Progress. I write about productivity, goals, psychology of the mind, and ways to enhance your inner self.

(2) Comments

  1. Trent Cumming says:


    Thanks for another great post! I especially like the part about neural pathway formation, and the 5:1 ratio method!

    Keep on inspiring us all to greatness!


    1. Thanks Trent! I’m gLad you liked it!

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