Do You Have a Negativity Bias?

Do You Have a Negativity Bias?

Published on January 16, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Even people who view themselves as relatively positive and upbeat may be harboring an unconscious negativity bias that shapes the way they perceive the world. Adverse events and circumstances have a more significant impact on the human brain than positive ones.

This means that people who have experienced sadness, hardship, and trauma, have a stronger negativity bias, This makes it difficult to create positive changes in your life. Recognizing this bias is the first step in lessening its grip on your perception.

The Function of Negativity Bias

When analyzing your own negativity bias, it is essential first to understand that some negativity is natural and healthy. Research has found that people react more powerfully to negative comments than positive ones. People remember a terrible first impression more clearly than a good one, and they recall their mistakes more than their successes.

It is believed that this tendency developed as a survival instinct. When avoiding dangerous situations, early humans needed to remember events that frightened or hurt them. Now, most of us do not need to worry about a wild animal attack, and this tendency can do more harm than good.

However, for those who work in dangerous conditions or emergency situations, such as first responders, preparing for the worst can make them better at their jobs. It is when this tendency to expect the worst is brought into the personal sphere of life that it becomes problematic.

When a Moment Colors Your Entire Day

Strong negativity bias can be detrimental for many reasons. One common way that negativity bias affects your mental health is when an unpleasant incident changes your mood long after the moment has passed. For example, you might be having a good day until you are cut off in traffic.

You continue to feel angry and wronged throughout the day, making it seem as if everyone is mistreating you. This one moment can make situations at work more difficult to navigate. Conversations at home begin to feel tense and confrontational.

If you frequently allow inconsequential moments of negativity to change your mood for an entire day or more, you may be dealing with an unhealthy negativity bias. 

When Past Failure Makes It Hard to Envision Success

Negativity bias also means learning from the past. In some ways, this can be a useful tool. When it comes to assessing your own capacity to change, however, past failure can be the most significant roadblock to your evolution.

For example, if you have tried and failed multiple time to quit drinking alcohol, you may begin to develop a strong negativity bias towards addiction recovery. This bias makes it feel as if staying sober is impossible. This outlook can affect your treatment and inhibit emotional growth.

Remember that every time you try something, you are approaching the situation with new knowledge and resources, even if you’ve failed before. Fight your negativity bias when attempting to achieve a goal.

Constantly remind yourself that this time is different than the last. Acknowledge how those changes are likely to affect the outcome.

When Negativity Affects Your Prospection

Prospection is your ability to imagine your future. Most of us think about our futures constantly, often in a way that involves worry and cynicism. While it is important not to dwell on the future too much, envisioning a positive future for yourself can help create that reality.

However, continually imagining worst-case scenarios or picturing yourself fail can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can even become a contributing factor to depression. Instead, make a conscious effort to spend a few minutes every day imagining the best possible outcome for your future.

Over time, this vision will begin to feel more realistic, and you will naturally start to take steps that move you closer to that image of yourself. 

When You Have a Hard Time Connecting with Others

Perhaps most significantly of all, a strong negativity bias can affect your ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. People with a history of trauma or emotional pain may begin to assume that they are not capable of giving or receiving love, compassion, or praise.

This can lead to extreme isolation and a tendency to run away from human connection. A therapist can help you to work through these tendencies and learn to be vulnerable so that you can experience the joy and safety of healthy relationships.

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490