Silencing Negative Bias – Gaining Positive Outlook

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, May 13, 2020
By Erika Fernandez De Castro


When thinking about mental health, many automatically think of the negative aspects of mental health. The association of “mental health” with serious mental health issues is commonly made and turns many people away from seeking help. Undeniably, there are many serious mental health disorders but there are also some empowering and enhancing aspects of the field that can knowingly make a positive impact on one’s life.

The human thought process has a built-in mechanism called the negative bias. This psychological occurrence helped our early ancestors survive. Negative events have a stronger imprint on our brain and memory than do positive events. For our ancestors, the easy recall of negative events diminished the chances they would repeat and therefore increased their chances for survival. Our brain instinctually focuses and settles on the negative events. The same is true for our thoughts. They too are naturally drawn to negativity. Simply put, we tend to recall criticism over praise, traumatic events over positive ones, and negative thoughts over positive ones.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that negative bias can impact your mental health. Focusing on past hurtful experiences can make it difficult to maintain a hopeful and positive outlook. Negative bias can influence behavior, everyday decisions, and sometimes relationships.

How do we break that pattern of negative influence? What can we do to alter the programming that we have had for so much of our lives? The answer involves self-awareness and practicing our ability to recognize that negative tone in our thoughts about ourselves and our surroundings.

There are a few things you can do to lessen the impact of the negative bias and bring conscious attention to the good:
1. Recognize negative self-talk. (i.e., Self-criticism, self-defeating and limiting
2. Minimize and ultimately stop the negative self-talk.
3. Embrace the positive moments.
4. Redirect your negative mind by participating in an activity that is joyous to you (listening to music, exercising, or reading a good book).

Incorporating these suggestions may be difficult at first. Years and years of programming develop a pattern of automatic responses that are not easily broken. Recognizing the negative bias, even if it is after the fact, creates an awareness that helps diminish it.

The positive aspects of mental health can serve to improve and empower the individual. Fine-tuning our thought process and minimizing negative bias is just one way it can have a profound impact on our lives.

End your day by recalling an experience that made you smile.
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