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Accentuating the positive

Several years back, Psychology Today ran an article on what it termed the human “negativity bias.” It seems that our brains have a heightened sensitivity to unpleasant news. We focus on the negative. Very likely that capacity kept our knuckle-dragging ancestors out of harm’s way. Today, however, it serves to allow politicians to manipulate us with negative political advertising and gives the news media a portal through which they can drive advertising. The impact can be seriously harmful to our sense of well-being.

Unfortunately, this bad-news bias is active not only when we sit in front of the television, but in every aspect of our lives. We remember insults far longer than we remember compliments. Fear can paralyze us into acting unwisely or not at all.

iStock_000014920298SmallAs a travel consultant, you depend on a reserve of positive energy to power your interactions with clients. Your clients are excited about their travel plans,and they want to share that excitement with you. However, if you have spent the morning in a psychological swampland, chances are you will not be at your best. Clients can read your mood, just as certainly as you can read the mood of others. How are we to inspire others if we don’t feel inspired ourselves?  Let’s don’t disappoint our clients.

That same Psychology Today article gave a prescription for counter-acting the brain’s negativity bias. In essence, you have to find a way to balance out the negative input to which you are exposed each day. Make a concerted, intentional effort to inoculate yourself against negativity and to detoxify your psyche. Here are a few suggestions: Give yourself a break several times a day. Get outside, listen to music, meditate. Find a way of introducing a quiet, positive space for yourself into your daily routine.

  • Surround yourself with positive mementos of your life. Pictures, symbols and images of items and people that are important to you.
  • Find positive influences. TED Talks are my current favorite, but intelligent books on spirituality, science, music or whatever lifts your perspective.
  • Limit negative influences. Have a co-worker that is a chronic mal-content? Limit your exposure. “Entertainment” magazines filled with gossip and insights into the worst of human nature – leave them on the rack. The worst offenders? Cut back on the shrill voices of partisan politics and news. It is a most sad commentary that our news media and our political leaders have decided that anger, bitterness and mistrust are the way to influence your perceptions. Equally as bad? The “comments” section of many blog posts that attack individuals and use a curtain of anonymity as an opportunity for letting their shadow out for a romp. Stay informed by all means, but leave the anger to someone else.
  • Re-script negative news. When you are exposed to negative influences, find a way of re-writing them to include a constructive element, a path to improvement or to some positive outcome. Here’s an idea – figure out how you can be part of the long term solution.
  • Do something physical each day. Give your mind a second break by some form of gentle exercise.

Frequent positive experiences, no matter how small, are an important antidote to the negativity that surrounds us. I read a quote the other day, attributed to Aldous Huxley: “”Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.” Be self-generating and construct your own space and mood. Otherwise, you give up your power to others less capable of navigating your life.

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