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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