Expressing Gratitude

Have you ever noticed that negative experiences tend to have a greater impact on you than positive ones?

I was having a particularly bad day when I first had this realization. But once I did, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I started noticing how a stubbed toe would ruin my entire afternoon, but a night out with friends would give me only a fleeting moment of joy. A small mistake at work would send me into a spiral, convincing me that every piece of positive feedback I’d ever received was void.

Was there something wrong with me? I took my concerns to the internet, and, despite what usually happens when I Google my problems, I found a bit of solace.

What I discovered is that our brains are literally hardwired to notice and acknowledge negative experiences and emotions more than positive ones. It’s often referred to as “negativity bias,” and it does have its benefits. For example, when you burn your hand on a hot pan, you need to remember the pain to avoid burning yourself in the future. But those beautiful flowers you passed on your way to work, their bright colors and smell — your brain considers that information less “useful.”

That’s the problem: Even if you’re a generally happy person, it’s very easy to forget about the good things in life. But don’t worry. There are also ways to combat this biological tendency.

The key to overcoming negativity bias is to force your brain to focus on the positive over the negative. In other words: Practice gratitude. I’m notoriously bad at doing this, so I get it if you’re rolling your eyes right now. But really, it works! When we take the time to express what we’re grateful for, either out loud or in writing, our brains release dopamine and serotonin — two hormones that make us feel happier.

So, the next time something upsets you or you find yourself caught in a negative spiral, pause. Grab a piece of paper or open your notes app, and ask yourself: What are three things I’m grateful for right now?

Article and Credit: Kelsey Alpaio 


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