The minute something negative happens, it is so easy to be discouraged and think negative thoughts. We get called into the boss’ office and immediately think we are in trouble; our elderly parent calls us at a 9:00p.m. and we know something is terribly wrong; our teen is late for curfew and we think there has been an accident. Typically, our mind’s first thought is negative, not positive. Generally, bad news has two to three times more impact that good news.
This is because our brain naturally has a habit of going negative. It is called negativity bias; yes, your brain is biased to go negative. And when negative thinking begins, stress hormones activate because we anticipate something bad will happen.
Negative thoughts are like Velcro
I’ve heard it said that our brains are like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. The negative just sticks easier. We give more weight to negative things than positives. Think about all the times you focused on one small criticism despite being given a host of positive feedback!
But your brain can learn and change. You can teach yourself to think in more positive ways. In fact, Scripture tells us to do so. God wired us in such a way that we can take that negative bias and turn it positive.
Recognize the negative and quickly shift the thought
First, be aware of this habit of the mind. Notice it the next time you feel anxious, doubt or fearful and take the next step- shift the thought to something positive before 30 seconds of lingering on the negative and it won’t enter your deeper consciousness.
Scripture instructs us to think on good things and count our blessings. The easiest way to do this is to think of something you are grateful for–gratitude is a game changer. Take 2 minutes each day to write down something specific for which you are grateful. Be as detailed as possible. Train your brain to scan your environment for things that are positive. You can reflect on something nice that someone else did for you, or you can do something nice for someone else. These few minutes of positive reflection train the brain for the positive.
Linger on the positive thought
Finally, stay with the positive thought for about 15 seconds. Keep it in your mind in order to flip the Teflon to Velcro. Keep the positive thought in your head in order to allow your brain to lay down a memory and rewire itself away from the negative. Remember, negative words stick easier so linger on the positives as long as you can. This is why an upbeat, positive conversation with a friend can be helpful.
Use Scripture to correct negative thoughts
The Bible has much to say when it comes to our mind and thoughts. In Philippians 4 we are told to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. Imagine how different our thinking would be if we actually did this on a daily basis. The promise of this positive focus is peace. Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge negative things in our life. But it does mean, we look for the growth or learning that comes from struggles and difficulty. When in the middle of difficulty, God tells us to direct our thoughts to Him, the hope and finisher of our faith. We are encouraged by His presence, by His promise to walk us through the most difficult situations. We have reason to remain positive.
Practice positive thoughts daily
To change any bad habit, you have to practice the new over and over. It takes more than a few positive affirmations to make change! Practice reversing negativity daily (renew your mind) and see what happens to your mood and outlook.
The process is simple: Stop and notice your thought, shift your attention from negative to positive, and then keep the positive in your mind for a few seconds. Doing this will change your brain and help you develop a positive mindset with a little practice.Reversing a negative habit of mind