Neuroscience Fun Fact Friday: Break out of negative thinking!

"The average brain is believed to generate around 50,000 thoughts per day. Disturbingly, it’s estimated that in most people 70% of these thoughts are negative."

Yikes. Why so glum? 

While people generally default to a positivity bias when asked to report on their lives (assuming better health, social standing, etc. relative to their peers), their true feelings appear to be rooted a bit deeper. It's suggested that there is a disconnect between the conscious reporting of positive outcomes and the subconscious "reality" of the much darker thoughts knocking around in our noggins all day, but I'd like to suggest an alternative hypothesis.

An overall negative bias might have been adaptable in the time of our ancestors. A pessimistic outlook would have helped us to prepare for food shortages, or unseen sudden shifts to the environment better than a Pollyanna/Rose-colored-glasses attitude, and thus promoted the survival of the pessimistic gene. 

While negativity may have been advantageous in unstable environmental conditions, it's time we spent a little more time reconciling our subconscious negative voice in the context of our current reality.  

Acknowledging our negative voices might still be valuable in planning for retirement or perhaps for unexpected health crises but the generation of consistent, prolonged worry and stress is incredibly damaging to our health. By in large, our ancestors didn't live long enough for these detrimental effects to play out (maybe 30-40 years), but most of us today expect a significantly longer run. Ironically, it's the very pessimistic voices that helped us to survive in the past that may now be limiting our health in the present.   

As considerable scientific evidence continues to mount on the power of positive thought, take the time today to shut down a tiny bit of that pessimistic voice. The more you acknowledge and re-train your brain to the positive present, the more opportunity you'll have to live a longer, and happier, life.