Why is it easier to focus on the negative than on the positive?
This scenario may sound familiar to many of you out there: you do how many good and thoughtful things for the significant other in your life, but somehow that person always seems to remember the one thing you forgot to do. Big deal that you painted the living room, washed the car, and cooked a delicious dinner. The point is you forgot to flush the toilet when you were rushing to the phone to take a call from the groomers telling you that Fido was ready to be picked up.
Doesn’t it just annoy you that it’s easier for people to remember negative things better than those that are positive? It’s not that we forget about good things that have happened to us. Sure, we remember that great vacation we had in Montana, that surprise birthday party our friends threw for us, and that girls’ night out at the movies. What we really remember, though, are the details of that parent-teacher-conference-turned-therapy-session in which you the teacher were made the scapegoat for the divorcing parents’ marital problems.
The experts say that it’s all about our emotions. Negative emotions pack in a bigger punch than positive ones. Furthermore, because negative emotions affect us more deeply, we think about and process bad experiences much more thoroughly than good experiences. So in other words, we’re wired to be more negative than positive. Nature makes us sourpusses to protect us from repeating experiences that can harm us, like touching a hot stove.
Nevertheless, just because we’re made to be like Oscar the Grouch doesn’t mean we can’t be more like Elmo. Overcome your negative thinking by entertaining more positive thoughts, even if it’s just one happy thought a day. Do something you like doing and spend time with people who have a sunny outlook–happiness (not just misery) loves company. Once you start down a positive path, you may just want to stay on it for as long as you can. I can’t help but wonder, however, why we can’t be more balanced and focus on positive things as much as we focus on negative things?