Great question!  I’ve once thought the same thing!

To answer that question, we are biased to thinking negatively because negative feelings help to keep us safe. They protect us from situations that might be harmful to us.

Think about walking in the wild and seeing a lion. That fear response might save your life. Or think about your emotional response to a bad performance review. That heightened awareness might prevent you have doing the same things in the future that may cost you your job.

Negative thoughts are meant to keep us safe and as such our brain allocate a large reaction when something negative happens. Our brain cells have an electrical potential that propagates along the length of the cell when they are turned on. Research shows that the evoked potential related to a negative stimulus is larger than an evoked potential related a positive stimulus. This means that our brain takes more notice of a negative event.

Negative thinking however becomes problematic when we ruminate on it and fail to resolve it.

So what can we do about our negative bias? Here are 4 suggestions from psychologists:

  • Stop negative self-talk. Instead of fixating on past mistakes that cannot be changed, consider what you have learned and how you might apply that in the future.
  • Reframe the situation. When you find yourself interpreting something in a negative way, or only focusing on the bad aspect of the situation, refocus so that you give fair and equal weight to good events.
  • Establish new patterns. When you find yourself ruminating on things, look for an uplifting activity to pull yourself out of this negative mindset. This would potentially better situate you afterwards to deal with the event more objectively.
  • Savour positive moments. Because it takes more for positive experiences to be remembered, it is important to give extra attention to good things that happen.

 Negative thinking is not the problem. How we respond to the negative thoughts could be. So embrace the information and then engage in your action plan.