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Recent Episodes

Episode 3: The Negativity Bias And Why It Can Be Difficult To Think Positively

If it isn’t enough that your fertility journey is stressful, it makes it harder when your brain is actually primed to think more negatively than positively.

Wait…. What?

Yep! It’s called the Negativity Bias.

So this episode seeks to balance the scorecard in your brain, so you can start to learn to cope with the fertility journey better.

This episode explores:

  • What the negativity bias is
  • Why it is so much harder to think positively than negatively
  • How daily life can trigger the negativity bias constantly
  • How our negativity bias affects our motivation (Ever wanted off this fertility rollercoaster?)
  • Why we hold on to the negative more than the positive
  • Plus, tools and techniques to help train your brain to be more positive to reduce stress and increase your fertility.

Enjoy x


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Bella Hilton:

Hey everyone, I’m your host Bella Hilton from Studio Fertility, and welcome to the podcast today from wherever you are listening in the world. I’m excited as always to be sharing with you anything I can that can help you on your successful journey to enjoying your life NOW and conceiving your baby or babies.

Now, if you follow any fertility coaches out there specialising in a mind-body approach to conceiving and getting pregnant – like me. We ALL seem to be fixated on thinking positively – right? Well, there is good reason for that – and that is because, like me, we have SEEN the miracles that happen. And it’s actually far less of a miracle when you understand the science behind why shifting your thoughts and beliefs to empowering ones and shifting your emotions to ‘feel good’ emotions actually create such amazing results – time and time again!

And of course, the positive psychology movement wouldn’t have gotten such traction if there wasn’t something in it. The trouble with it is, very few of us understand how our brains and bodies work and work together to create change in our bodies and in our lives.

And I know that I’m forever learning about more and more things that help me understand even more of how our brains work and how to help people who are struggling in life and struggling to get pregnant. I’ve made it my life’s mission so you don’t have to.

So, today I want to talk to you about a little bit of our wonderful brain programming called ‘the Negativity Bias.’

We are actually programmed to fixate on the negative and forget about the positive.

Yes, that’s right, our brains are designed towards the negative. We have a bias towards the negative – at a very primitive level in our brains. Often called the lizard brain.

Well, before you say – oh that’s just wonderful Bella, are you trying to tell us that thinking positively will be like trying to push mud uphill with a stick? No wonder it’s so hard – it just sounds like too much work.

Let me explain what the negativity bias is all about and how knowing about it can help you in your successful journey.

See, like anything our brain does, it is or was designed to keep us safe! That is what the brain is designed to do – to keep us alive and it does a remarkable job at it!

And this negativity bias comes from our cavewoman days. Okay so long ago you are a cavewoman and you are walking along looking for food and hear some movement in the bushes behind you. Do you keep looking for food because you are STARVING or do you get the hell out of there because it is most likely something that could eat you, like a tiger? Chances are you run like crazy to safety.

And the best part is, your body will be flooded with cortisol and adrenaline to give you the energy and the focus you need to get to safety, most likely making you forget you were hungry.

So back then, in our bear skin wearing days, fixating on the negative was the way to keep us safe. Because if we didn’t focus on the negative, it would essentially be lights out – permanently via way of a tiger.

And you can see that this also serves us today. If you think you are in danger, then those same systems come online and try and help you get to safety. You go into survival mode. so this is great.

So now, if you weren’t aware of it already, we are no longer cave women! I’m sorry if i broke that news to someone here for the first time. Just kidding.

So we are no longer cave women BUT we have this inbuilt system at our core – so let’s see how it plays out in your world today.

It can look something like this – we are going about our day and we have 20 positive interactions with people in our lives but we have one negative interaction. Which do we think about? The 20 positive ones or the 1 negative experience? I mean that could all be with the same person like your spouse. They could do and say 20 amazing things for you but they say or do the one wrong thing and BOOM that is what you are focussed on – particularly if you are stressed out or depressed. Right?

And it works throughout your life as well. EVERYTHING becomes a threatening tiger – your boss or colleague that you despise and undermines you or makes you feel crap or mother in-law or insert other person here, or the deadline on what you are doing at work, or trying to fit in ALL the things that you have to do to lead a ‘balanced’ life – which is a WHOLE other podcast on work/life balance and why this is a myth.

Anyway, and on the fertility journey, if you are struggling everything becomes a tiger. You know, that person that asks you when you are going to have a baby, The temperature you forgot to take or woke up too late for and are beating yourself up about, the fertility diet you are eating and starting to seriously resent, the million and one supplements you are taking and spending a small fortune on and choking down every morning.

As well as that one comment that your doctor made which you can’t get out of our head – we tend to distort what our doctors tell us BECAUSE of the negativity bias, the extreme stress of the situation AND because of the perceived level of authority that we give to doctors. But I can tell you that no-one knows your body better than you.

So on top of all your fertility challenges fighting the daily pressure of making sure we are eating right, keeping fit, keeping our household chores, getting a promotion and other 20 billion things we are meant to have done in one day – all of which is keeping us in this fight or flight mode. Particularly if you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist. Right? Wow – too much. Anyone else overwhelmed, exhausted and frazzled at just the thought of that?

And remember what I said about the physical reaction here – we trigger this fight or flight and all that cortisol and adrenaline flooding your body – well we know this isn’t good for fertility.

That’s why I’m always about creating your best life now, BECAUSE it helps you get off this stress rollercoaster. It’s not to say that we won’t experience stress, but when the majority of your life is ticking over nicely well then it’s far easier to deal with the stress!

Let’s dig in to this even further.

According to an article by Very Well Mind –

Some finding from psychological research includes that the negative bias influences motivation to complete a task. People are less motivated when an incentive results in gaining something, but are more motivated when an incentive will avoid the loss of something.

Do you run faster if your house is on your fire or to reach a $million dollars. That’s your survival mode in action. You will run faster to get away from danger. And with all this stress going on in your life your body isn’t devoting the resources it needs to your fertility – to survive.

(So sticking to your fertility diet might prove a very negative experience if you REALLY REALLY love that sourdough bread down the street.)

They go on to say that:

Additionally, studies have shown that negative news is more likely to be perceived as truthful. Since negative information draws greater attention, it also may be seen as having greater validity.

Now that is really insightful to know on this journey.

Plus the brain has a greater reaction to bad news than neutral or positive stuff.

In studies conducted by psychologist John Cacioppo, participants were shown pictures of either positive, negative, or neutral images. The researchers then observed electrical activity in the brain. Negative images produced a much stronger response in the cerebral cortex than did positive or neutral images.

Due to this surge in activity in a critical information processing area of the brain, our behaviours and attitudes tend to be shaped more powerfully by bad news, experiences, and information.

And it is easier to feed into the negative news for many reasons:

It confirms our own doubts and thoughts and beliefs – it’s like YES i’ve found evidence! Even my doctor thinks I can’t.
Because quite often we are looking for evidence and confirmation about why something happened (and it’s far easier to believe that it is something physical than something in our belief systems – because that is the way we’ve been brought up!) – that our mind doesn’t really matter on our fertility journey.
it is far more relatable!

Because not only do we have a negativity bias – but we are also conditioned from a young age to relate to other people based on negative experiences which feeds into our negativity bias.

Just listen to the water cooler conversations anywhere – you will hear about weight that someone can’t lose, a crappy partner doing something wrong, how exhausted people are and have ‘no time’.

And we all nod our heads and go yep – I’ve been there – you poor thing – and then we add our own tails of woe.

So it is often said when talking about this negativity bias that we have a velcro brain for the negative and a teflon brain for the neutral and positive things in our lives.

And it’s no wonder, if our brains are lighting up like Christmas trees when we have that negative experience.

So if you find it easier to focus on the negative aspects of your fertility journey, you are not alone and it is not your fault. However, awareness goes a LONG Long way to turning around this lizard brain of ours.

So, I’ve given you a lot of information – but what can we do?

Firstly, you can be aware of the negativity bias. Just knowing that negative things can trigger you into a fight or flight state – and these so called negative things might not be what you always think they are, can help you to see things with greater perspective. And can help you assess whether or not you are in danger.

Is that deadline really going to eat you?

You forgot to take your temperature or supplement – is this REALLY going to affect whether or not you get pregnant this month?

You ate a piece of bread – how many countless women ate bread and conceived?

Let’s face it ladies, conditions to NOT have to be optimal for you to get pregnant. Women with PCOS and endometriosis can and DO get pregnant – these aren’t considered optimal for fertility.

That’s why it can be important to have a look at your life from the ground up and find out where those things are that cause you a lot of stress and try and reduce the things that trigger the stressful situations OR change your mindset towards these things.)

You know if your job is stressful, you can either quit your job or change jobs, reduce the stressful things you do in it, or I know people who flip their hatred of a deadline to one of love – Instead of focusing on the stress, they notice that when they have deadline they do their best work.

It’s possible to love your diet despite not eating bread if you give yourself a BIG enough reason why and associate positive feelings towards that big enough reason.

It’s when we feel FORCED to do things and give our power away that we experience this ‘I have no choice stress’.

So be aware of what triggers you, and assess if you are really in danger.

But also, the negativity bias lives in the primitive part of our brain. The instinctual part. It doesn’t live in the unconscious or the conscious mind – and these are two parts of our thinking mind that we can have more control over.

So effectively training the rest of your brain to think positively and wiring that brain with new synapses and neural pathways will keep your brain in balance. Then the lizard brain to look for REAL danger while the other parts of your brain can get on with seeing the good in life and balancing out the really stressful things.

This way when the stressful times come along you are able to make better decisions and have a greater perspective if you are geared towards the positive.

Things you can do to help yourself include having a gratitude journal or even just focussing on what is going right.

So the trick here is, we need to savour the positive moments in our lives. We need to focus on those and remember them.

Take an extra 20 seconds to notice when you are really having a lovely day or somebody says something nice, or even when you wake up in the morning to think about your lovely house, and your amazing husband and whatever else is going right in your life.

Build the neural pathways in your brain, so that positive thinking becomes the path of least resistance in your brain. And you do this by thinking positive things.

Maybe you want to keep a journal of the things that are amazing about your life or at least HAVE been amazing about your life if you are struggling to find the positive right now. Sometimes if you are in an extreme rut, you have to be mechanical about getting yourself out of it and forcing yourself to do this stuff until it becomes so natural that you don’t even think about it – it just happens.

So honestly, for yourself, write yourself a list of all the ways you feel like your fight or flight response is triggered on a daily basis and start to work out where you can reduce it.

And force yourself to think about the positive things that are happening in your life right now or have happened in your life and find the balance in your brain.

Thanks for tuning in today to the Studio Fertility: Fertility Blueprint podcast were we talk abut the power of your mind and emotions on the journey to conceiving your baby. I’m Bella Hilton and I look forward to podcasting with you again soon.

If you have enjoyed today remember to leave a review.

Anyway, happy positivity hunting everyone. You deserve success, you deserve your baby.

Big hugs to you all. xx 

And remember, Miracles Happen.