Velcro

By Jennifer LaVecchia, LMFT

Ever wonder why that one bad interaction sticks with you all day? Or why the one bad play you made at your rec softball game discounts the fine job you did throughout the whole game? Or remember when you may have gotten all A’s on your report card but that one C stuck out like a sore thumb and made the whole marking period a wash? What is with us and negativity?

I recently came across this fascinating study while listening to a podcast where the psychologist was talking about how our negative experiences stick with us like Velcro, whereas our more positive experiences quickly slip away like Teflon. The study speaks about our brains having a built-in negative bias. It is much easier for us to dwell on our pain and quickly recall it as opposed to keep the positive thoughts on the forefront.

Now before we get too down about this, let’s understand more what this is about. Way back in the day of our primitive ancestors, it was a fight-or-flight world. For example when they woke up in the morning, it was a given that the sun would rise and they had another day. They did not worry too much about that daily gift. However, if they were out and about hunting or looking for new shelter, there might not be another day if a predator attacked or a natural hazard crossed their paths. Therefore, their brains were wired to be focused on the potential “bad” that could come their way as opposed to always be on the look out for the “good.” Those were some serious priorities. Glad those developed survival skills worked for them way back then but not so fun for us when we live in a more secure world.

So what do we do with this and how do we become more mindful of the good happening in our lives? The researchers on this study noted that on average is takes approximately 15 seconds for the positive experience to sink into our brains. 15 seconds! Which has me thinking, does God desire for us to relish in the good and be reflective of joy?

Last weekend I was in a best friend’s wedding and with all the hubbub and preparations, it was easy for the day to quickly slip away. Just before leaving the bridal suite and heading down the aisle all of us bridesmaids and the bride gathered together in a huddle, looked at the bride and said, “This is the day you marry your love, remember this moment.” This may have just been a quick and somewhat cheesy instance, but we all know how easy it is for our brains to get off topic. We need to prioritize recognizing and celebrating the greatness happening around us. Also, this reminds me of how often times in the Bible we see instances of having a moment to remove sandals due to standing on holy ground or taking time to build an altar to remember what good God has done. What if the next time when we’re capturing that perfect sunset picture for Instagram we take 15 seconds to put the phone down and soak it all in. Or the next time we’re talking with a friend or loved one and feel cared for, we take a minute to communicate how much we appreciate their care and concern, right in the moment. Hopefully by stringing together these entire precious moments one piece at a time, we will be able to rewire our brains to see the good and be grateful.

Listen to Podcast

Dr. Daniel O’Grady, Psychologist