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As a species we have an in-built ‘negativity bias': a propensity to remember, cling to, and learn from negative experiences more readily than positive ones, according to neurology research.
It made sense that our earliest ancestors should be risk averse, but nowadays that bias is completely out of step with modern life. When a bad experience is highly unlikely to be life-threatening, a propensity to constantly rake up bad memories, see ourselves through a negative prism or belittle ourselves in a way we would never dream of doing to a friend can cause us to become unnecessarily fearful and depressed.
Affirmations challenge our negative self-talk and negative self-image. Positive thoughts have also been shown to help us respond better to stressful situations by regulating the stress hormone cortisol. Basically, the more positive our outlook, the less likely our brains are to go into fight-or-flight mode when we encounter a stressful situation. Which means we have to talk ourselves up.
But it’s not as easy as looking in the mirror and chanting a mantra; if you don’t really believe what you’re saying, the whole process can do more harm than good.
Affirmations need to be realistic, otherwise, y
This is likely because our thoughts change our brain structure – the more positive thoughts we have, the more positive neural pathways we build in the brain, making it easier to think positively in the future.
So build a practice whereby every time you have a good experience – no matter how small (i.e. sending the email you’ve been putting off) – you take 12 to 15 seconds to stop and appreciate the good feelings it prompts. This is how long it takes for the experience to be stored in our long-term memory. Even without saying anything, this allows us to build more positive neural pathways in the
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