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Negativity Bias and Neuroplasticity: Why Mindfulness?

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Person sitting and meditating on the floor

A very interesting fact: Our brains are keen to focus on the possibly worst outcomes and calculate the most negative possibilities before we take any action. This is how they function: "What if"s collide in our heads, and we find ourselves worrying over something unlikely to happen.\


In other words, our brains love drama. If you often find yourself approaching things from a more negative perspective, it might be because of human evolution rather than a personality trait. It is a tendency of the brain called negativity bias.

"The negativity bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events."

And, don't worry, there is a good explanation for why. A long long time ago in earlier human history, imagining and contemplating the worst could be a matter of life and death.

"Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were exposed to immediate environmental threats that we no longer need to worry about – predators, for example – and being more attentive to these negative stimuli played a useful role in survival."

What is even more interesting and wonderful is that we can reshape and reorganize our brains! We can train our brains to unlearn negative thinking. Neuroplasticity does exist. But how? How can you intervene in your chain of thoughts causing panic attacks? It is possible through mindfulness! By paying attention, and by being mindful towards what's going on inside, you rewire your brain.

"While people used to believe that the brain became fixed after a certain age, newer research has revealed that the brain never stops changing in response to learning."

Mindfulness prevents you from being lost in your thoughts. Ironically, it also helps you to be more aware of your negative-thinking mind. But the difference here is to learn not to trust every thought that your brain produces. Our minds are not always the most trustable sources, especially when it comes to assumptions and predictions.

Mindfulness also allows you to notice what is going on inside the body, which is a great way to get away from the unreliable mind. By focusing on your breaths, for example, you can enhance the parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body.

Yoga is, too, a perfect tool to start practising mindfulness as it focuses on breath and movement synchronization, physical sensations, and meditation.

"Practicing mindfulness is one good way to become more attuned to your own emotions (Charoensukmongkol, 2014). Through guided meditations, reflection, and other mindfulness interventions, you can start to observe your feelings and thoughts more objectively."

It is, of course, inevitable to have negative thoughts in life. However, the key point here is to minimize the anxiety caused by the negativity bias. Practising mindfulness can change your brain and therefore your life. It is so much more than sitting on a cushion. It is a training where you each and every time face what is really going in in the mind.

If you want to start but don't know where to start, contact me!