A mounting body of research is showing that we can improve our wellbeing and enhance our ability to experience happiness if we learn to focus on positive things, and develop regular habits of noticing the positive aspects of our lives.
The Negativity Bias
Our brains evolved in order to keep us alive – they enable us to solve all sorts of problems, and focus our attention on the things we need to be aware of in order to survive.
For this reason, our attention is naturally directed towards threats to our wellbeing – like danger, potential danger, pain, discomfort, and problems that may hamper our goals.
This focus of attention has been extremely useful in solving the problems of survival that our species has faced, and has made us a very successful animal in most environments. The focus has been on problems, threats, and other negative information.
How to Develop a Positivity Bias
Positive Psychology encourages people to counter this negativity bias by actively looking for positive events and information, and deliberately experiencing the feelings that they evoke in us.
Aside from the overall positivity mindset, specific techniques can be employed.
This might involve keeping a journal of positive experiences each day, or taking time to notice a positive character trait in ourselves.
It could involve developing a regular habit of feeling gratitude for the things you have, no matter how small or insignificant, or working on forgiveness and letting go of past grievances.
The research is clear: Positive Psychology can make very powerful differences to people’s lives.
Author: Dr Catherine Hynes, BA Hons (Philosophy & Neuroscience), MA (Cognitive Neuroscience), PhD (Clinical Psychology & Clinical Neuropsychology).
Dr Catherine Hynes has a PhD in clinical psychology and neuropsychology from the University of Queensland and can provide expert help utilising a Positive Psychology framework. She uses evidence-based therapies, and works with her clients in a warm and supportive way to help them decide what therapy and what strategies are most suitable to their personal tastes and circumstances.
To make an appointment, you can book Dr Catherine Hynes online, or freecall Vision Psychology on 1800 877 924 today.
- Hansen, R (2013). Taking in the Good, Chicago Ideas, published on April 11, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA3EGx46r4Q&list=PLZwaG5do7TJ2V_O_VKL2YqLNXEKj66WMI
- Seligman, M (2002). Authentic Happiness. Australia: Simon and Schuster.