Why shouldn't you be negative

Why we experience negative thoughts & feelings more intensely than positive ones

Bet it will start raining the minute I leave the salon with freshly styled hair? Bet the new mole on my arm is cancerous? Bet I'll oversleep and miss my flight? Bet my blind date is a serial killer? Or at least overly boring?
In situations with an uncertain outcome, many tend to have negative thoughts. You envision a future that is far from bright and you are practically certain that everything will go wrong. Why? Because they want to avoid disappointment.
In the world of psychology this phenomenon is called negativity bias, negativity bias, or negativity effect. Put simply, it means that negative experiences, feelings or thoughts have a greater impact on us than neutral or positive ones - even if the latter are in fact just as intense. In other words: In many situations we perceive negative (or seemingly negative) things very quickly, strongly and sustainably, while positive things only to a limited extent. If any.
So we already know how the socio-psychological phenomenon is expressed, but what happens in the body? Dr. John Cacioppo and conducted research observing electrical activity in the brain. He showed subjects pictures of things that are commonly perceived as positive (like pizza), things that most people are neutral about (a hair dryer), and things that are usually considered negative (a dead cat). The result: the brain reacts more strongly to everything negative. And that in turn means that, for example, you are more likely to react more violently if the bus pulls away from you than if you find money on the street.

Pessimism and depression

Dr. Scott Woodruff, a psychologist and director of the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment program at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, adds that negative thoughts could also be linked to rising rates of depression. However, it is important to understand that pessimism does not mean depression! It becomes problematic when a negative attitude prevents you from doing things that you actually like to do.
Depressed people tend to cut themselves off from the outside world and not be as active anymore. Sometimes these symptoms can also be associated with negativity. For example, if you expect to miss the plane anyway or if everything goes wrong during the trip, you are likely to travel less than others. Chances are you're not going to a birthday party if you reflexively imagine you are about to have a terrible evening and no one is talking to you. You probably won't ask your crush if you think you have zero chances with him or her.
Woodruff says if you always assume the worst, you might decide at some point not to take the risk and stay home right away. “We try to prevent possible disappointments or possible regrets. We think: if we do nothing, nothing can go wrong - we cannot fail and we cannot do anything that we later regret. We organize our lives in such a way that we avoid losses. "
But these tactics and your negative attitude can slow you down, hold you back. “You may think it would be good to keep an eye on the negative things and prepare yourself mentally for the worst-case scenario. But that is a fallacy. The minor advantages that this behavior can bring with it are clearly exceeded by the major disadvantages. ”And by that he means not only missed opportunities - both professionally and privately - but also the fact that you are missing out on positive reinforcement.

What you can do about recurring negative thoughts

Do the situations and thoughts described sound familiar to you? Then, according to Woodruff, there are a few things you can do to get rid of your black-and-white attitude. First: exposure. Expose yourself to the things that you are trying to protect yourself from. If you realize that the only reason you haven't started golfing is because you think you might be bad at it, try anyway. Go on the blind date even if you are nervous (please watch out for warning signs anyway). Ask about a raise if you think you deserve one. Accept the invitation to the birthday party, even if you only know the hosts and nobody else. Second, reverse your thoughts. Try to be more aware of everything positive (and neutral) in your life and thus draw attention away from the negative. For example, you can keep a diary and write down every night before bed what went well and what you are grateful for, what you were happy about or what went better than you thought. This will take you a maximum of five minutes, but it can have a very big effect on your well-being because you will eventually get a more optimistic basic attitude.

Exaggerated optimism is not a solution either

While both of these techniques can be very helpful, we must remember that the world is not black and white. The goal is not to be 100 percent optimistic every day from now on and not to allow any more negative thoughts. Finally, worries, fears, and concerns can simply be part of your intuition. Giving your ex another chance if they've been emotionally abusing you for years is probably really not a good idea. And you probably shouldn't eat the bread if it looks like the pond in your parents' garden.
The glass is not always half full and oneto An optimistic attitude is just as bad for your mental health as one that is too negative at times. According to Woodruff, aexaggerated positive attitudes have negative consequences: “It can lead you to think that something is wrong with you when you do have a negative thought. Everyone has negative thoughts at times! It is perfectly normal. That's why I'm an advocate of realistic, unbiased thinking. "
Now you might be wondering how you should know when it is okay to have negative or just realistic thoughts instead of positive ones. To find out, for example, you can write down your expectations - before exposing yourself to a situation that goes wrongcouldsays Woodruff. After the event, the date or the conversation, you take your notes again and compare them with what really happened. Was it really as bad as you thought it would be? Did the disaster happen? This method can help you assess whether your expectations are skewed.