In 2005 the National Science Foundation published an article regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12K to 60K thoughts per day of those thoughts. 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
If you’re finding yourself cycling around negative thoughts you are not alone. What we need to understand is that we have a “negativity bias.”
What does that mean?
It means we pick up negative information faster than positive information. And the reason why is because we’re wired for survival. We are not wired for happiness.
We’ve all had the experience of getting feedback and somebody tells us a bunch of positive information – things we’re doing really well but then somebody gives us one piece of information that’s slightly negative. And what do we seem to harp on? That one piece of information that’s negative. And that’s because we have a “negativity bias.” We need to know that that’s operating and it’s operating to help us to protect us to look out for danger and to not believe those negative thoughts.
The way that you can start to change the pattern is by actively seeking the good. Dr. Rick Hanson is a neuroscientist and he talks about this concept of taking in the good and really absorbing it. You take in a positive experience for an extra 10, 15, 20 seconds. As you absorb these good moments what happens is they gradually weave good experiences into the fabric of the brain. Instead of good experiences being passing mental states, they become net lasting neural traits.
Here’s how I practice this: When it’s a moment that I see my son playing – I really take that moment in that moment of joy that I feel when I’m watching him play. If I’m driving in my car and listening to a song that I’m really enjoying — I really take in that moment. Since the weather has been so nice when the sun is shining and I’m feeling the sun beating down on my face — I love that really taking that in.
There’s a saying in Tibet: If you take care of the minutes the years will take care of themselves.