In our day-to-day encounters we experience people who lean toward positivity, and then there are those that tend to be more negative. Of course, it is much more pleasant to be around people who exude a joyful energy, but research actually indicates that we have been “hard-wired” toward the negative. Because of a phenomenon called the Negativity Bias, we pay more attention to unpleasant events, they remain in our memory longer, and we make them more important than they really are. It is likely this bias has early beginnings. While our ancestors had to focus on things that were dangerous to keep them safe, and it is still important for our personal safety that we respond quickly and efficiently to negative stimulus, this should not be the norm in all situations. Researchers also have identified that the Negativity Bias is evident among infants within their first year of life. For example, when reacting to negative, positive, and neutral stimuli, infants demonstrate a stronger response to negative stimulus. This pre-disposition affects our behaviors, our attitudes, our decisions, and our relationships.
We are not doomed, however, to forever be curmudgeons. It will take a little bit of work and focus to re-train our brains. When we find ourselves focusing on a negative event, it is important to try to reframe the experience in a more positive light. Establishing new patterns can change our attitudes as well – exercise, prayer, music, and reading – all send positive endorphins to the brain. Finally, savoring the positive moments is a great way to shift the mindset. I just need to open my photo app on my phone and scroll through all of the images I have captured of my five grandchildren – this is always a great positive boost for me.
Over the past year, it has been easy to dwell on the negative, focusing on what we missed rather than looking to things that were gained. The loss of life, incomes, and opportunities understandably led to feelings of despair, and the pain for so many people was very real. But even in the sadness, there were those who brought light and life to others. This past weekend, 85 students and adults received the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Michael’s Parish. Bishop McElroy presided over the Mass, and his homily, which focused on JOY, was the perfect message for everyone. Please take a few minutes to listen to his words of wisdom and inspiration. We pray for all of those in our Diocese who have accepted the call to be fully initiated into the Catholic faith, and we welcome them into our family of believers.