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I’ve shared before information about our brain’s negativity bias. In the words of Dr. Rick Hanson, our brains are “velcro for negative experience and teflon for positive experience”.

Research in a number of areas has demonstrated that our brains need approximately 5 positive experiences to neutralize negative experience. That can seem overwhelming, but I can attest, that, with commitment, focusing on the positive in this way can transform some very entrenched, unhelpful negative habits of mind.

A few years ago I became aware of a area of strong negative focus in my mind. At that time I was in an ongoing struggle with a co-worker. I felt annoyed and put out by this person, and my mind was filled with negative thoughts about how he wasn’t pulling his weight and should really be doing things my way. I found myself either bracing myself for battle or avoiding the person all together.

After learning about this negativity bias and the need for training my brain to look for the positive, I decided to do an experiment. For two weeks, I committed to write down 5 positive things about my co-worker each day. Remarkably, within a few days, a noticed my frustration lowering and my patience increasing. I never became best of friends with this person, but my working relationship with him did become more productive and pleasant.

Finding 5 positive aspects about an individual or a situation or even yourself can be challenging. However, the benefits can certainly be worth the effort.