Humans are wired for negativity.
No matter how evolved we are or how much personal development we do, our brains are emo little lumps that narrate our lives with pessimistic commentary. (We’re like this for evolutionary reasons that I won’t get into today but just know that it’s totally normal and is actually designed to keep us alive.)
Every single day we think more negative thoughts than positive. Not only do we think negative thoughts in greater quantity, but we also believe them with more conviction than we believe our positive thoughts.
We also think longer and in more detail about unpleasant experiences than we do about enjoyable ones. We ruminate on what happened, discuss it ad nauseam, and dissect it so we can understand what went wrong and (hopefully) prevent it from happening again.
We process negative emotions differently than we do positive emotions which makes us feel them more intensely. We feel joy but it doesn’t create deep memories that allow us to recall the intensity of feeling in the same way that we can recall and experience anger and fear as though we’re still in the moment. This is why we have post-traumatic stress.
We also use stronger, more varied language for negative things than positive which gives us more ways to relive the experience and further ingrain it in our psyche.
We even think people who say negative things are smarter than those who make positive comments so we pay more attention to critics than we do to supporters.
This bias towards negativity makes it really fucking hard to be happy.
Sure, you may have days punctuated with moments of joy, but feeling like you are happy the majority of the time is tough without conscious awareness of the negative thoughts your emo brain is throwing at you. Without this awareness it’s really easy to fall into a negative thought spiral only to find yourself in a shit mood and with zero motivation to do something awesome.⠀
Being able to stop and notice when you’re dwelling on negative thoughts gives you the opportunity to decide if they are worthwhile for you to have and if they are even based on reality. If they aren’t, you have the power to take control and change the story you’re telling yourself. You can tell your emo brain to shut up.⠀
This does not mean pretending you never have unhappy thoughts or emotions other than joy…that would be unhealthy and unrealistic.
What it does mean is developing the ability to notice what you’re thinking and how it’s making you feel so you can decide if you’re getting what you need and want out of those thoughts or if focusing on something positive would be better for you. Sometimes it’s not, usually it is. What matters is that you feel in control of your thoughts rather than letting them control you so you can do all the awesome things you’re here to do.
It will feel weird at first to observe yourself as though your thoughts are coming from somewhere else but feeling in control of your thoughts rather than being controlled by them is immensely transformational. I think it’s a requirement for personal growth. Without this ability to question your thoughts you won’t get the full benefit from any self-development work you do as you’ll always be at the mercy of your emo brain.