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Our Brains Are Predisposed to Misery, But That Doesn't Mean You Have to Be Miserable

Guest Writer
Speaker and Maximum Performance Strategist. CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you know any of those beautiful people with supermodel looks who could not stop talking about how devastating it was that they had gained a half-pound or how ugly they look and feel at certain times?

I always wondered how they could look at themselves in the mirror and see only the flaws. Why can’t they focus on the positives? I also wondered what would happen to them if something major occurred -- illness, loss of loved ones, etc. -- in their lives. Would they be able to survive?

Related: 16 Tips for Living a Happy Life Starting Right Now

As human beings, we are wired to focus on the negative and give all of the failures, problems and hardships in our lives more attention than all of the good and beauty that surrounds us. It's just like those beautiful people who will go to extreme lengths to point out the bad while totally forgetting that they are incredibly blessed with good looks.

I have talked a lot about the importance of reconditioning your mind and taking control of your thoughts every day over the years, but I never realized that we were physically hardwired to be negative until I started conducting some research.

Researchers, in a laboratory setting, showed participants identified pictures of angry faces much faster than happy ones. "We have a sixth sense for misery," as Cracked put it. 

So when you fail or something doesn’t go as planned, it’s natural that you begin to think negatively and let those diminishing thoughts take over. 

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, states that research in neuroscience is showing that we’re all hardwired to register and remember negative events more quickly and deeply than positive ones.

Have you noticed that you often focus on the negative? Have you ever wondered if you’re just a negative person or if society and the media downloaded so much negativity into the world and ultimately into our brains, that it has become a natural part of us? 

Related: 6 Ways You Can Make Bad Situations Better

"Evidence does suggest that agitation, anger and fear are easier for most of us to access and sustain than peace, happiness and fulfillment, and that a genuinely happy life doesn’t happen without deliberate effort," writes psychotherapist Tom Moon.

Before you get depressed about all this, remember that you can change your emotions and feelings.

"What this means in practice is that if we are serious about striving for happiness, we need a sustained intention to take the actions necessary to produce it, and we also have to devote regular attention to the positive events in our lives," Moon writes.

What we think about every minute is a whole lot more important than what most people think it is. Even when they’re the little thoughts that you believe have no meaning at all, they certainly do. Those little thoughts of negativity will add up to big thoughts, which will eventually take over if you’re not attentive to them. Get intentional about experiencing the very best that life has to offer.

Focus on your wins for the day, not the losses. Live in a space of gratitude and constantly give thanks for all of the blessings in your life. Be sure to engage in positive and uplifting conversations with family and friends. In all that you do, make sure to feed the positives in your life. As I stated above, we are wired to be negative and concentrate on all of the misfortunes in our lives, and the media doesn’t add any solutions to that problem.

From this moment on, don’t wait for anyone else or for a certain event in your life to bring you the happiness that you desire. It’s a choice that needs to be made from within, and only you can make that decision for yourself. The power of intention is extraordinary when practiced and harnessed every day of our lives.

Related: How to Hardwire Your Brain for Happiness

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