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I don’t know about you, but I can get very self-critical sometimes. I seem more likely to replay negative experiences in my head than remember the positive ones. I learnt recently this is called negativity bias. As human beings, this negativity bias is how our brains are wired. It means that no matter how amazing you actually are, you colour your positive experiences with negative ones, and beat yourself up over that slightly more critical piece of assignment feedback or that awkward moment when you farted in the library blue zone (NOT a true story).
Because of this negativity bias, it’s important as human beings to have ways of overcoming the way our brain is wired and to emphasise the positive:
- Savour the pleasurable moments. Some people call it “meditating on the positive,” on being grateful for that B+, or for speaking up in class.
- Have something to get excited about each day. While it’s good to have a holiday or special occasion in the future to look forward to, try and find that something that keeps you going each day. It’s about living in the present as well as the looking forward to the future.
- Have perspective. You failed a 20% assignment, that sucks. But use that experience to do better in the next one. I’d be very surprised if a potential employer questioned you on your D on that one assignment you did in first year.
- Acknowledge that you are only human. We often hold ourselves to very high standards. It’s good to have those standards, but don’t beat yourself up over being too tired to do your readings before a class because you had an essay due the day before—which you handed in just before an eight-hour shift at your part-time job.
Amidst all the stress of upcoming assignments and tests it can be very easy to fall into negativity bias. Try at least one of the methods and reclaim control of your thoughts!