Overcoming Negativity Bias


Negativity bias is the name given by psychologists to the human tendency to be much more likely to focus on and to remember negative experiences, instead of neutral or positive experiences.

Human beings developed a negativity bias—that is, they evolved to notice and respond more forcibly to the negative because this bias helped our our ancestors to stay alive. Thousands of years ago, when we were living in survival mode and real danger was always present, it was more important to escape dangerous (negative) situations than it was to approach opportunity. However, in many ways, this bias no longer serves us in modern-day life.

A strong negativity bias can severely impact our sense of wellbeing and quality of life.  Fortunately, there are ways to deal with the negativity bias. The list below includes some ideas taken from the study of positive psychology and learned optimism which can help you to rewire your brain for increased positivity.

Some strategies to re-wire your brain:

  • Be aware of your bias. Knowing that you have a negativity bias will help you to recognize when and why you’re dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation.
  • When something positive happens to you, try to hold on to the feeling for a few extra moments. Replay it in your mind a few times so that the memory of the positive experience gets stored in your long-term memory.
  • Scatter simple pleasures throughout your day in addition to the bigger ticket events (like vacations) that you are looking forward to. Simply put, make sure that you make time to do more of what you love.
  • Gretchen Rubin—owner of “The Happiness Project”–recommends that you create an “area of refuge” in your brain. Have a list of positive memories, quotes, or lines from poems or favorite books—that you can think of whenever you find your mind wandering into negative territory. You can also make your home into a sanctuary in which you display art, photos, and objects which remind you of the things/people/ideas that you love.
  • Make gratitude a habit. Journal each night about all of the good things that happened to you throughout the day. Be specific! You can also think of three things that you feel grateful for every morning before you get out of bed. By focusing on the good you’ll gradually be rewiring your brain for happiness. If you do this long enough, it will eventually become a habit.
  • Keep a “well done” list. Every time you accomplish something (no matter how small), face your fears, help someone out, or receive a compliment, make a note of it on your well done list. When you are feeling bad about yourself, bring out your list and remind yourself of the good stuff you do.
  • Practice mindful awareness of your emotions. Try to accept yourself for having negative emotions and realize that they are part of the common human experience. Observe your emotions without judging them or acting on them. Do not let them define who you are. So instead of thinking “I am an angry, jealous person”, say “I am experiencing some feelings of anger and jealousy in this moment.”
  • Learn more about how to rewire your brain. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom”.  Martin Seligman has written about positive psychology topics in books such as The Optimistic Child, Child’s Play, Learned Optimism, and Authentic Happiness. His most recent book, Flourish, was published in 2011.

By Polly Guetta

What on earth is “forest bathing”?

By Polly Guetta

While looking at all of the beautiful photos that have been submitted for our photo contest “the Healing Power of Nature” (www.gogophotocontest.com/mdabc),  I have found myself wishing that I was spending more time in the great outdoors. And I mean really outdoors, as in far, far away from concrete, cars, and, skyscrapers. To really feel the healing power of winter magicnature, I think we need to have a fully immersive experience.

While researching the evidence that direct contact with nature really can help people to heal, I kept coming across the term “forest bathing”. What on earth is forest bathing? Is it nude people running through waterfalls? Rolling around in fields of flowers and “bathing” in the dirt?


After a little bit of digging, I found out that forest bathing is also known as Shinrin-Yoku and the term was originally coined in 1982 by the Forest Agency of the Japanese government. In Japanese, shinrin means forest, and yoku, although it has several meanings, refers here to “bathing, showering or basking in”. And so, forest bathing is simply the art of being truly present in nature, specifically forests, and using all of your senses to fully absorb all of its awesomeness.

Intuitively, we feel that when we connect with nature, we often feel more grounded, healthier and calmer. Personally, I find that when I am surrounded by nature, my breathing becomes deeper, and I have more energy. Now, there is a ton of research that backs up what most of us have known all along. Forest bathing has a positive impact on many markers of stress; it has been shown to decrease blood pressure, anxiety symptoms, and stress hormones. When we feel relaxed, the parts of our brains that are sometimes in overdrive can slow down, and the parts of our brains associated with pleasure and empathy can have a chance to flourish. Our bodies and minds can then start to heal and transform.

So, who’s up for a little forest bathing this weekend? Let us know how it goes!





How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Rid of Your Clutter (Once and for all!)


By Polly Guetta

The benefits of feeling that your home is your own personal sanctuary are plentiful; a sanctuary is a place where you can retreat to when you need to soothe your senses and your mind. A sanctuary is vital to good mental health because it offers a space where peace and calm prevail and where you can just relax and breathe.  If your home, however, is full of clutter and piles of stuff that you don’t need, it can be difficult to find any kind of serenity amidst all the chaos. Although tackling the clutter may seem like an exceedingly daunting task, it is the first step towards creating an inspiring, beautiful space that you can retreat to when you need to restore your sense of wellbeing.

By breaking down the decluttering process into small, manageable tasks, the project becomes a lot less overwhelming, and you will be much more likely to follow through on the goals that you have set for yourself.  Try the following tips and strategies to stop procrastinating and get rid of your clutter once and for all. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

  1. Begin with a goal in mind.
  • Carefully consider how much storage space you have and make a commitment to yourself to only keep what you have the space for.
  • There should be a place designated for everything in your home. If an object has no “home”, it will end up being unsightly clutter.

2.   Determine how you will decide to keep something or get rid of it.

If you haven’t used an item in the last year, it is highly unlikely you really need it or that you are going to ever get enough use out of it to justify it cluttering up your home. Take the plunge and get rid of it! Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter:

Do I use this?

How long has it been since I’ve used it?

Will I use it again?

Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?

Would I really miss this item?

 3. Start with just one area.

  •  Start with an area that is a relatively easy one to declutter like a bathroom or a bedroom.
  • Once you have had success in one area, it will easier to move on to a more challenging part of your home

4. Break it down into small/manageable tasks

  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is such a big job that you will never be able to do it. Try using an affirmation such as “I have tackled big projects before and had success. I can do this by breaking it down into small pieces”.
  • Set a timer and declutter for 30 minutes every day or set a small goal for each decluttering session such as one closet, one bookshelf, one dresser, etc.
  • Congratulate yourself each time you complete a session and think about how much closer you are to your goal.

5. Use boxes or garbage bags for sortingclear clutter

  • Don’t just sort piles of stuff into more piles of stuff -physically separate your stuff in bags or boxes.
  • Use a three bag sorting system – donate, keep, throw away.
  • Once your bags are full, don’t wait to get rid of the throw away and donate. Take them to the trash or your local thrift shop right away.
  • Look through your keep bag and be ruthless. If you can’t find a home for the item, then you will have to donate it or throw it out.

6. Issue an official household spending-freeze.

  • Make it a goal to not buy any new items for yourself or your home until your decluttering project is finished unless it is something that will help you get organized (like binders for papers, baskets, or containers) to manage the stuff you already have.
  • A good rule to keep in mind when you are trying to maintain your decluttered home is that for every new item brought in an older one will go out.

7.  If you are really stuck, enlist a friend or a loved one to help you.

  • Many people have trouble when it comes to clutter so be honest and tell someone that you are stuck and need a little push.
  • If you want to motivate yourself to get started, put a photo of a space that you find to be serene and beautiful up beside your bed. Look at the photo every night and morning and remind yourself that this sanctuary is available to you.

clutter quote


Remember: The objective is to get stuff out of your home, not to move it into another room. You will be amazed by the sheer volume of unused and unneeded items in your home. Don’t spend time inventing reasons to keep these things.