Negativity effect

Let’s start by discussing a common type of harmful thinking that one’s mind may do, which psychologists call the “negativity effect”.

In your life, you have positive experiences (e.g. getting a promotion at work) and negative experiences (e.g. losing an expensive phone). Unfortunately, your mind can have the tendency of giving excessive importance to negative experiences while mostly ignoring positive experiences. This increased focus on negative experiences can make you unnecessarily feel that things are worse than they really are. 

Psychologists have named this type of thinking, where one’s mind exaggerates negative experiences, the “negativity effect”. It is quite an important one to be wary of, as if it happens too often, it can lead to one having a low mood or even depression.

The example below shows how the negativity effect can be harmful.

Joe works in a financial company and was asked to give four important presentations at a company meeting. Joe worked really hard on his presentations and was well prepared.

On the day, he gave four excellent presentations. They were well written, delivered clearly and had nice clear diagrams. Each presentation was followed by a question and answer session. During the first three presentations, Joe answered all the questions perfectly. However, at the last presentation, he made a small mistake when answering one of the questions and this made some of the members of the audience laugh. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, everyone applauded Joe for his truly excellent presentations.

Despite the presentations going well, when Joe returned to his home later that day, he became very depressed. All that he thought about was that one question he had answered wrongly. His mind was ignoring all the positive experiences of the day where he had made excellent presentations and had answered all questions except one, perfectly. That one negative episode overshadowed the otherwise perfect day, making Joe unnecessarily feel depressed. In reality, instead of being depressed, he should have been overjoyed by the overall good performance he had done on the day.

In your life, to prevent unnecessary distress, it is important to check if your mind is only focusing only on the negative experiences in your life. Try to give importance to both positive and negative experiences in a balanced way, instead of only seeing the negative aspects. You should feel good about the positive experiences and learn from the negative experiences.