Scientists believe a negativity bias is wired into the brain as protection against all the dangers faced over the millions of years of evolution. Our brains are alert to potential threats that might have an impact on our survival. In effect, the brain is like sticky tape for the negative experiences we encounter, while the positive experiences slide right through like water poured in a strainer.
If left unchecked, this bias toward the negative influences implicit memory. Underlying feelings, expectations, beliefs, inclinations, and mood can be tilted toward the negative unless you consciously take note of the positive.
Tilting toward the good is beneficial for everyone, and parents can teach children how to “take in the good” to help them deal with life in a more resilient, confident, and joyful frame of mind. Leaning toward the good doesn’t deny the tough parts of life. Rather, creating more balance by noticing the good will actually help put life’s challenges in perspective, lift spirits, and spotlight resources.
If you want to nudge your brain to take in the good—and help your child do the same—take note. Look for positive aspects of the world and self. Notice the flowers blooming, the birds chirping, the sun shining, or someone being nice to you.
Next, really let the good feeling seep in. Sit with it for a few seconds, knowing that the longer you hold the positive experience in your awareness, the stronger the trace left in implicit memory.
Then sense that good experience. Let it sink right into you. Visualize the warmth of the experience in a way that works for you, whether sensing it as being wrapped in a soft, warm blanket or basking in the sun. Perhaps your child will imagine being wrapped in your arms or drinking warm cocoa on a cold day.
Tilting toward the good can be a family affair too. Whether at mealtime or while driving in the car, ask each person to share three good aspects of his or her day.
Tilting toward the good is good for all of us. When we consciously take in the good, we are firing and wiring the positive into our implicit memories. Why not make it part of your family’s routine?