Negativity and the Brain

Yesterday, Monica and I did a podcast/Facebook live video on negativity and your brain and I wanted to go into a little more depth as to how your brain handles negativity, so I thought I would write about it just a bit more. This will be very simplistic, but the core message is what I want to focus on. 

Human beings evolved to focus on negative occurrences. We are 5 times more likely to remember a negative experience than a positive one and the reason is simple, survival. Your brain ranks memories in terms of importance. It has different categories for each situation, but those that are more important to remember are given priority. Human beings used to walk the planet with other things that were constantly trying to take a chunk out of our legs. Early human beings also didn’t have the luxury of knowing which plants or fruits were safe to eat. Therefore, it was much more important to remember that a certain plant could kill you, as opposed to knowing that bananas tasted good. The humans that were able to remember these important facts survived and inherently passed the trait onto the rest of us. 

Today, it’s not nearly as important to know which plants are poisonous. We all, for the most part, live in major cities and very rarely spend enough time around plants that we know nothing about. We also domesticated wild animals to the point that only REALLY dumb people (yes, the people who jumped in the cage of the tiger at the zoo are dumb) still get eaten by them. However, the negative self talk or negative remembrance of events still rules our brains. 

Meditation has been a technique of the spiritually enlightened and military personnel for eons. Military training routinely focuses on breathing techniques to help soldiers dealing with the stressors of battle. I personally don’t meditate but understanding how negative thoughts might control our everyday lives; I believe it would be a good idea to begin to incorporate some kind of meditation technique. It doesn’t have to include any kind of monotone humming. The ultimate point of meditation is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness of the moment. You can only control that which occurs in the moment and constantly reminding yourself of that will provide some clarity as to how you should approach each day. We all live in a world in which we constantly are thinking about the next task that needs to be completed. This can create a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. The meditation you do can simply be 3 things you’re grateful for in the moment and how you can complete only the task you’re prepared to handle in that moment. 

This is something that we absolutely preach in the gym each day. At some point, progress is going to slow down. It’s at that point that we must now begin to challenge you again, like when you first started. You’re going to fail, a lot. However, there is no other way in which we can create adaptation. This is where the positive self-talk will come into place. You must focus on the changes you’ve already made and understand that failure is a stage of success, not its opposition.