Negativity gnawing at you? Shift your attention to break the cycle

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(Image courtesy bluekdesign on Flickr)

In a blog post titled “Overcoming Your Negativity Bias,” The Energy Project founder Tony Schwartz explains that we all come with a built-in evolutionary imperative to pay more attention to the bad things in life than the good—the lion chasing you, for example, rather than the nice feeling you had after eating a delicious dinner.

But now, in a time when most of us don’t have to worry about hungry lions, consciously shifting our attention away from negative thoughts and onto positive ones “such as joy, contentment, interest, pride and love pays huge dividends.”

This practice is sometimes referred to as “overcoming negativity bias.”

“It’s a simple concept,” he writes. “We construct our internal reality–our experience of the world—in large part by where we put our attention. More often than we recognize, we can make that choice consciously and intentionally. Doing so influences not just how we feel, but also how we perform, individually and collaboratively.”

In the world of ‘doing good,’ it can be especially easy to let negativity encroach: your program didn’t get the funding you were counting on, your star volunteer called out at the last minute, the wrong email went out to donors—and it’s hard not to take it all to heart because you’re passionate about what you do.

Try this quick tip: the next time you feel negativity creeping up and your energy grinding to a halt, take two minutes away from what you’re doing and write down everything you feel grateful for in the present moment.

Schwartz writes of his own experience with this attention-shifting practice: “Saccharine as it may sound… I got on a roll, and after just a couple of minutes, I was not only feeling remarkably better, but also far more able to concentrate on the task at hand.”

Might be worth a shot, huh?

Read Schwartz’s original post in its entirety for more insights about letting stifling feelings of negativity go.

What do you do to overcome negativity when you feel it coming on? Share your wisdom in the comments below.

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Comments (3)


  1. Jordan writes:
    August 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I like it! But isn’t this just the Power of Positive Thinking dressed up in yoga pants?


  2. Najee writes:
    August 30, 2013 at 2:40 am

    It’s always the kind of attitude you display that directs your negative or positive outlook.

    I find that praying usually calms me down and makes aright my perspective!
    We’re negative because we’re naturally self-involved instead of others-oriented.
    My attempt at trying to overcome negativity is through focusing on my blessings. I post these on http://www.hellohappyheart.com


  3. April Greene writes:
    September 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    That is one way to look at it, Jordan :) In the original post, Schwartz does tip his hat to Norman Vincent Peale’s 60-plus-year-old classic. He also mentions newer scientific studies that bolster the case for positive thinking and gratitude exercises… A lot of different roads lead to the same conclusion.


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