I’m not sure if I’m feeling a little home sick this week however my little brother – Sir Thomas the wonder cat – is on my mind and as such gets a mention two weeks in a row on the podcast!
How good are cats at focusing on the positive?
I don’t think it’s just Thomas – who granted does lead an especially charmed life!
In comparison I’m certain you’ve noticed how natural it is for good thoughts / experiences to slip off your mind like it’s wearing a teflon jacket and yet the bad thoughts / experiences cling to your mind like it’s adorned with… velcro.
Whether it’s the ONE slightly awkward conversation in a day of positive and enjoyable interactions.
Or the ONE mindless demolish-fest of almond, brazil, cashew spread straight from the jar with a fork in a day of planned and goal focused meals.
Of course from an evolutionary stand point our ancestors benefited from paying closer attention to the threatening looking creature fast approaching than all the lovely, harmless creatures minding their own business. And a negativity bias is still helpful in guiding us to make the better decision in a high risk situation. However what about every other situation?
How much more fun and successful could life (and we!) be if we got awesome at:
Escaping The Negativity Bias.
In todays show, 3 steps to help you get awesome at Escaping The Negativity Bias.
It’s amazing what you might accept as your default before you bring your awareness to just how detrimental that default setting is.
An easy example for many people is exercise. Unless you’re one of the lucky few (and by lucky I mean cultivated luck!) who already really LOVE exercise. Perhaps your default setting so far as exercise is: Boring. Uncomfortable. Time consuming. Or just plain UN-fun.
Maybe you’re running the detrimental belief that you’re: Lazy. Un-coordinated. Not a natural exerciser. And destined to be unfit.
When in contrast you could instead cultivate any number of more positive and effective beliefs. Beliefs that make it easier for you to do the exercising do! Such as: Exercise is precious me time. Each time I exercise it gets easier to maintain the habit. I get stronger, fitter, firmer.
However I’m jumping ahead of myself! Step one to get awesome at escaping the negativity bias is Awareness. Let’s move onto step two.
Two: Action (Reframe / 5 Second Rule / Gratitude)
Awareness alone will only make you miserable. You must take action to change your approach. You have limitless options however let’s dig in with 3 of my favs.
A) The Reframe.
I do this with my self talk. The reframe acknowledges that it’s natural and normal for unhelpful thoughts to pop into your head. However it also gives you the ability to choose a more beneficial way to interpret any given situation. Probably best to NOT share some of my most unkind self talk however here are a few examples in relation to food.
Perhaps you’re a new vegan faced with a less than ideal menu to pick from when unexpectedly dining out. Your NON-plant-strong choices might appear: Bland. Expensive. Disappointing. Light-weight and unsatisfying.
Maybe you’re running the detrimental belief that asking for something else will make you look: Fussy. Annoying. Self Indulgent. And like the odd one out.
When in contrast this could be a chance to: Get creative with what IS on the menu. Prove to yourself your how committed you are to your plant based lifestyle. Commit to outsmarting this situation next time by ringing ahead, eating a pre-dinner snack or even bringing some helpful protein pimps (like a mix of hemp and pumpkin seeds).
I genuinely believe it does not matter how ingrained your negativity bias or how negative a situation can seem – you can always hunt down a reframe that will make the situation more tolerable and/or encourage you to take the more beneficial action.
B) The 5 Second Rule.
This is courtesy of Mel Robbins. It’s inspired by the notion of a rocket taking off and that count down: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 -1! Whatever negative thought you’re in the habit of entertaining you get those 5 seconds to switch to a more positive interpretation. Equally when there’s an action you’re in the habit of taking (or not taking) you get 5 seconds ONLY to take the better action.
That might be: Getting out of bed the second (or within 5 seconds!) of your alarm going off. Or maybe it’s making that important phone call within 5 seconds of thinking you should make it. So far as the thoughts not the actions it takes that initial awareness we covered in step one and then you’ll need to come up with your more beneficial interpretation BEFORE you need it. For example, I got into the habit of feeling inadequate and even envy when I’d see the success of some others online. This is in a business sense however it’s absolutely applicable to body image too as I know theres abundant fuel flooding our social media to make even the most body confident feel a little insecure.
My new 5 second rule interpretation when I feel a wave of inadequacy and envy approaching is: “Thank you. I’m grateful for the inspiration you provide and each day I will take the steps to ensure I enjoy the same success I admire in you.”
Deploying the 5 second rule not only gets you to take the better actions it also saves you from wasting time and energy spiralling down into that frustratingly ineffective yet all too common pit of reasoning yourself out of results via excuses and self doubt.
Perhaps your simplest way to escape a negativity bias is to embrace an attitude of gratitude.
I’ve devoted entire shows to the power of gratitude and if i had to some up how to lead a more positive and happy life in just one word it would be gratitude. It’s not co-incidence that the anti-mentors I come into contact with have both a debilitating negativity bias and an astounding lack of gratitude. Irrespective of how much it would appear they have to be grateful for.
As the saying goes: If you can’t be grateful for the small things you’ll never be grateful for the big things.
To make Gratitude a little more actionable I recommend a combination of ‘in the moment’ and ‘structured’ habits.
In the moment, might be taking the time to be fully present and appreciative for 10 seconds several times a day or emphasizing the emotional intensity and gratitude you feel for each good thing (your first coffee / sunrise / a shared smile) while downplaying the emotional intensity of each less good thing.
Structured, might be thinking of 3 things you’re grateful for when you first wake up or journaling your daily gratitudes or even doing a A to Z of things you’re grateful for. It works just as it sounds… A is for Alarm free mornings, B is for Beach walks, C is for Cashews etc.
The bonus benefit of gratitude is that’s it’s the antidote to fear. You cannot feel both emotions at one time so the more you make gratitude a part of your daily routine the more you’ll nudge out fear. I discuss this more way back in show number 011: Gratitude.
Three: Accumulate Reference Points For Success (and focus on them)
Equally as vital as having an awareness of what’s not working and what action to take to change it for the better is having an awareness so far as your progress. Your reference points for success. This is my personal struggle-street step!
If you can relate then maybe you’re already aware of the thoughts and subsequent actions that are not working for you?
That’s your (OUR!) negativity bias rearing it’s necessary (yet not to be over indulged) head!
I know with the things that are working well for me I’m pretty good at focusing on my reference points for success. I’m sure that’s not a co-incidnece because what you focus on expands. The tough bit is focusing on your reference points for success in the areas of your life at which you’re not yet excelling. It’s not going to come naturally because… well, if it came naturally it wouldn’t be an issue.
However I do know that a conscious even manufactured focus on your reference points for success (no matter how small) will in time lead to a more natural and unconscious focus. Which will in time lead to greater success. To make this step a little more actionable I recommend making a daily habit of documenting your reference points for success. This might mean writing down 3 things you do well each evening or it might take the form of tracking your positive habits as you complete them each day.
That’s something I’m doing this month. I asked myself: “What habit would have the most positive impact on your life if you did it for 30 minutes a day for the next 365 days?” For a lot of people exercising 30 minutes a day or doing 30 minutes of food prep a day might be the obvious answer. For me, there wasn’t a most obvious so I brainstormed 50 potential habits to get non-negotiable with and then narrowed it down to 3. I’m taking all 3 for a spin this month and TRACKING them. At the end of the month I’ll decide whether I continue with any or all of them for the full year. If you like the idea of this approach I’d love to hear your most positively impactful habit that you’re committing to for the next 30 (or 365) days? You can let me know via the comments below.
The Healthification podcast is proudly bought to you by my FREE ‘Easy Vegan’ plan. It took me 25 years to transition from a meat eater to a happy, healthy, non-judgemental Vegan! You can do it in just 3 days with my simplified ‘easy vegan’ plan! Get the fit, strong, and healthy plant based body you deserve… while avoiding ALL the mistakes I made along the way!
Till next time, remember Creating a body and life you love is Freedom. (If this ex-carb queen, NON-genetically gifted, naturally uncoordinated VEGAN-chick can do it – so can YOU!!!)
If you liked ‘Escaping The Negativity Bias‘ you’ll also like: How To Strengthen Your MINDSET
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