overcoming the negativity bias…

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Negativity bias. What is it? What does it mean? It’s the way our brain reacts stronger to negative stimuli than positive. It’s the reason we can hear something painful and it lasts for years, and yet something positive may not stick for the fullness of a minute!

Take today for instance. My daughter had a major dental procedure. Stressful for any kid, right? But with her combined sensory and anxiety issues, she is often taken into another realm when it comes to unfamiliar and uncomfortable experiences. So how did she do? Freaking fantastic! I couldn’t have asked for her to be braver! She blew my highest expectations out of the water. And how long did I focus on it? For a few minutes, and then I went on with my day as usual.

Rewind to a few weekends ago…

Lauren had a really rough weekend. She cried about everything. From having to touch her feet to the carpet, to the way clothes felt on her body, going to run necessary errands, and even out to eat with the family. She whined and threw a fit over all of it. How long did I focus on it? It seemed like forever! I asked myself a million questions in regards to why she was struggling again, tried to do research to see if we were missing something with her, and let my mind wind itself completely out of rational control. I could not seem to go on with my day as usual, no matter how hard I tried.

And for the most part, we don’t focus on the negative intentionally. It’s just the way our brain is wired. We recall and process negative experiences with greater detail than positive ones. But if we want to create a life that we enjoy, a life worth living, we have to do some work to change this bias. So how do we do it? Philippians 4 gives us some great instruction…

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

We can intentionally hold positive experiences in our mind. At the end of the day, instead of recalling and replaying the moments we could have done differently, we can replay the things that went well. And what will be our reward if we do this?

Well, God says it will be peace. Not only peace, but that the God of peace will be with us. When we choose to focus on the good, we can feel God’s presence in an increased way. I’ve tried it, and when I practice it, it works.

Nothing drives away the peace of God like a good batch of worry, but nothing brings Him closer than an intentional time of thankfulness and resting in His goodness. When we choose center ourselves with excellence, it changes us. It breaks the chains of depression and anxiety in ways that nothing else can.

Our fallen sinful brains may be biased to see the negative, but life in the Spirit lends itself to greatness. With all that is in you, choose to see the good, and see it way big. Because it is BIG. The light always outshines the dark. And perfect love always casts out fear.

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