The Negativity Bias

One of the reasons we are unhappy is because of the negativity bias. The brain is wired to notice danger more than delight. The brain is more alert to what is bad than what is good. We respond more quickly and powerfully to what is unpleasant than to the pleasurable.

In fact, our reactions to good and bad are just not equal. Bad is much more powerful. We are wired to notice threats, problems, setbacks, and to act to protect ourselves from what is bad.

It is easier to be cynical than it is to be cheerful.
Sarcasm is easier than sweetness.
Complaining trumps cheerleading.
We take for granted our health, but obsess over our aches and pains.
Unhappy is just a step away, but we have to climb our way to happiness.
The pleasure we get from winning an amount of money is much less than the pain we experience at losing that same amount.

This is why the evening news focuses so much on what went wrong during the day. (They also have enough psychology to provide a positive pick-you-up-story late in the newscast.)

I will say it this way: Nature apparently wired our brains for being dissatisfied, discontent, wary, concerned, bothered, frustrated, and so on. Or, if you prefer, fallen nature is that way. The reality of sin intermingles with brain functioning.

Therefore, you need a lot of nurture in the pursuit of happiness, satisfaction, contentment, peace, and joy.

You have to work at becoming happy. You have to work at this thing called JOY. That is why the Bible gives us so many imperatives (or commands) about joy. When the Bible says, “Rejoice” it does not come in the form of a suggestion. It is a command. Do it. Do it right now. Do it constantly. Or you will not experience it.

So, don’t be upset that happiness and joy are not coming quickly or easily. And don’t be surprised that you will have to pay attention to these things for the rest of your life.

Today will be one more day to practice joy.

I can tell you this. The longer you practice it, the more natural it becomes.

Your fellow negativity-biased, but hopeful practitioner of the good things of God,
Pastor Brian

Brian Rice

What I love most about my job:

Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.
Brian Rice

Latest posts by Brian Rice (see all)