Gratitude practice counteracts your natural negativity bias

Here’s yet another post on the internet about how you should have a gratitude practice and that it “really works.” I’ve made my family say 3 things they’re grateful for at dinner (like Thanksgiving but every day) for a couple years now, but I’d like to incorporate a deeper gratitude practice into my life. Because am I ever aware of my own negativity bias. 

As I’ve learned from the huge pile of books I’ve read about various topics in the realm of psychology and/or self-help, we humans have a brain hard-wired to focus on negative things. It’s an evolutionary thing- it’s helped us as a species to pay attention to all the things that would cause us harm (like I don’t know… saber-toothed tigers) but, in the modern world where we’re not constantly in danger of being eaten, it’s not something that necessarily serves us. It’s negativity bias that makes us ignore the 9/10 positive comments we get on our social media post and ruminate over the one troll. It’s negativity bias that causes us to remember, sometimes at 3am, that dumb thing we said like 7 years ago. It’s negativity bias that makes it really hard to overcome bad first impressions. It’s negativity bias that makes us constantly think about all the bad things that could happen and then we get busy trying to prevent #allthethings and we completely lose sight of the present moment. 

So maybe, for a second, don’t think about all the merchandise that comes with gratitude practices and think about this: Making a daily habit of listing things that are positive in your life might actually help you build new neural pathways that will cause you to pay more attention to things that are positive- which can counteract your natural, evolutionary, hardwired negativity bias. And there’s lots of research that says people who do this (people who “practice gratitude”) are happier in general. Here, let me google that for you. 

Here’s where the typical blogger is going to introduce a 30-day challenge or something and offer to send you a guide in exchange for access to your email address for all of time. I feel like that makes it into a Big Deal (it is a big deal… but not a big deal time commitment…). Try making a list of all the things you’re grateful for, and then try making a list of 3-5 things for the next couple of days and see if something changes. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. I’ve found that I taste my food more, enjoy my conversations more, notice things like particularly pretty trees or clouds… and reframe things like the messy kitchen (I have a kitchen with food to clean up…). Happy gratituding 🙂

(have I mentioned I need a graphic artist?)


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