Hard wired negative thoughts – they needn’t be part of your daily life.

We’ve all been there. That feeling of fear and sometimes nausea that we can experience before an interview. Dread before an annual appraisal or a meeting with the boss about a deadline we have missed. That sickening feeling of disappointment when we are told we didn’t get the job we had banked on. Perhaps worst of all public speaking. Its good to be ‘in the zone’ as its often called but often our feelings drift beyond that and become negative feelings that affect our performance and can influence our happiness and well being.

39091872 - stressed young businessman sitting outside corporate office. negative human emotion facial expression feelings.

The human brain has evolved over aeons and enables us to achieve many things that our forebears wouldn’t have been able to imagine in their wildest dreams. Our ancestors did however have to constantly scan their environment for very real physical threats. That rustle in stone age bushes may have been a harmless bird or small animal. It may though have been a hungry sabre toothed tiger.

Early humans were more likely to survive if they took the cautious approach. Assume the worst until you have proved otherwise was likely to give our ancestor a greater chance of survival and of course their genes have been passed down the generations. Over time this negativity bias has become part of our genetic make up. The psychologist Rick Hanson says the human brain is “Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”.

Rewiring your brain for happiness

Some smart ancestors though did make the effort to pay attention to what was actually there so that threats could be responded to on their merits and they didn’t have to keep running from phantoms of their own imagination. Using mindfulness our inherent negativity bias may be retrained and we may practice dealing with what is rather than what we think might be. Over time and with practice experience-dependent neuroplasticity will hardwire the ability to distinguish between reality and imagination.

Self Compassion and the tend and befriend circuits.

When a friend or colleague has a difficult time for whatever reason most of us are inclined to support or comfort. We use what may be called the tend-and-befriend circuits. If we find ourselves in a similar situation our response is usually to be self critical and imagine the worst. The fight/flight circuits quickly come into action and the supposed problem fills our mind. Great for an activation response to a physical threat less helpful with the pressures of everyday life.

The pressured living of the 21st century can give the fight/flight circuits lots of exercise. With practice they can seem ever present and sometimes we can seem forever ‘wired’. If we are able to judge ourselves less harshly and treat ourselves with the same compassion we would treat a family member, friend or colleague our tend and befriend circuits would become stronger and the fight/flight weaker. The more ‘practice’ they get the stronger they become and the more effective we may become at dealing with reality rather than an imagined catastrophe.

If you would like to talk about mindfulness or emotional agility call me on 07802 238697 or email me on ricbandrews@gmail.com


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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