Have you ever noticed yourself looking for things to correct in others? Do you find yourself negatively judging the actions of others more readily than praising what they do well?
If so, you are not alone. It turns out our brains are wired for negativity.
But, don’t worry. There is good news!
HUMAN BRAINS ARE WIRED TO BLAME RATHER THAN PRAISE
Fortune Magazine’s 2015 article, “Human Brains Are Wired To Blame Rather Than Praise” tells us that new research shows that the human brain is wired to react more emotionally to negative stimulus.
It turns out that the labels of blame and praise are processed in different parts of the brain, by different mechanisms. While blame is assigned from a very emotional place, praise comes from a more logical spot.
It turns out that we are most likely built this way. It goes all the way back to the first people.
…we may be built this way because ‘good actions’ aren’t as important for us to track. It’s the people taking ‘bad actions’ we must look out for, evolutionarily speaking.
However, more recent brain research has identified that it is possible to change the way we react to negativity.
OUR BRAINS CAN BE REWIRED
Mindful Magazine’s 2013 article, “Rewiring Your Emotions” tells a somewhat different story that taps into the power of neuroplasticity. In case you haven’t heard of neuroplasticity, here is a brief description from the article:
Most of us have heard of neuroplasticity by now, the neuroscience research tells us that each time we learn something new our brain creates new neural pathways.
The premise is that each time we learn something new our brain changes and grows. This applies to all ages (the younger ages display a more dramatic growth). The new brain science says we can rewire our brains by consciously making the choice to resist blame and search for a more positive and productive response. This takes time, practice, and intentional work. They say it can be done, and here’s why:
Fortunately, the brain’s emotional circuits are actually connected to its thinking circuits, which are much more accessible to our conscious volition. …The “cognitive brain” is also the “emotional brain.” As a result, activity in certain cognitive regions sends signals to the emotion-generating regions. So while you can’t just order yourself to have a particular feeling, you can sort of sneak up on your emotions via your thoughts.
Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford Psychologist and author of The Willpower Instinct, provides us with a useful strategy to support rewiring our brains. She calls it “Pause and Plan. In simplest terms it means to take a moment before you act or react. This triggers your brain to move from fight, flight, or freeze to a more productive state where you can make more objective and informed decisions. There have also been studies done recently that partaking in a daily mindfulness practice builds a focused and aware mind. This allows us to utilize “Pause and Plan” in times where negative thoughts are winning out over more positive and productive ones.
BRINGING IT TOGETHER
When you find yourself challenged by life, instead of acting immediately, take a moment to “pause and plan”. Recent neuroscience research is showing Just putting a small gap of time between thoughts and decisions, and doing this over time, can rewire the brain to improve decision-making and response to stressful situations.
In what area(s) of your life could you implement “pause and plan”?
Kyle Miller is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who focuses on working with Men’s Issues, Trauma, and Relationships. He is also a Professional School Counselor and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with over 13 years of experience as a private practice therapist.
Email or call today to schedule an appointment.
Phone: (708) 991-7103
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