Did you know your brain is built with a greater sensitivity to negative information than it is to positive? Apparently, mine is too. It’s as if your brain automatically amplifies negative messages and puts positive messages on silence. It’s called the negativity bias. Click here to read more about the brain’s negativity bias.
Yet according to WebMD, “although some studies do show that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones right when they are happening… positive emotions win out over time. Boosting your positivity quotient is one way to help those positive emotions win out over time.
There are many ways to boost your positivity quotient such as praying, meditating, quoting affirmations, and keeping a gratitude journal. Another tool is a POTB file. Especially if you work in a less than positive environment.
POTB stands for “Pats on the Back” and is a file where you organize and store thank you notes, commendations, and compliments that others have given you. These are positive notes, emails and other messages that customers or clients have shared with you. They may come from audience members who have heard you speak. Or they may come from professional colleagues (current or former), a mentor or a boss. These positive pieces of feedback boost your morale and sense of self. I don’t know about you but when I get these positive notes, I smile and feel satisfied inside that my work, my leadership, my gifts were a blessing to someone else. In fact, I feel good that the person thought enough of me or my service to say thank you. Or to let me know how a message helped them. I appreciate being appreciated. Don’t you?
Well, there’s research now that suggests when others show us appreciation, they are affording us a type of status. And being a recipient of these acts triggers powerful reactions in the brain. According to a study reviewed by UC Berkeley psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner, “participants lying in an MRI scanner listened to phrases written by their friends that expressed esteem for them: ‘You have always stood up for me when I really needed it.’ ‘You give me strength.’ ‘You have inspired me to keep going during times of doubt.’ Hearing these status-elevating expressions activated the dopamine-rich circuits in the participants’ ventral striatum, the region of the brain activated by the experience of delight upon eating chocolate or getting a great massage. That is, being esteemed by fellow group members triggers the brain reactions associated with cravings.” Click here to take a peek at Dr. Keltner’s book.
Well, isn’t that good to know that receiving a compliment can be as gratifying as eating a piece of chocolate? And compliments are better for your waistline! What’s more, this study infers that if you save those compliments, you can reread them later and get a similar brain boost! This study affirms what early 20th century philosopher/psychologist William James taught:
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]“the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”[/tweetthis]
That’s important to keep in mind because we live and work in increasingly negative cultures. Have you read the comments to OpEd articles lately? They can be downright hateful. Click here to see one newspaper’s study on negative comments.
Notwithstanding the anonymity of the digital space that accounts for those negative comments, even face to face performance reviews seem to be more negative. At least for some groups of people. For instance, if you are a woman, your performance reviews are more likely to include critical feedback, while men tend to receive constructive suggestions. Click here to review this study in the tech industry.
You need a buffer to appreciate yourself. So let’s get started!
Choose your Media
You can choose a hardcopy/paper file or an electronic file. I have two. One is for the hardcopy notes I get. I just started an electronic file in my Evernote app. Here I can save emails, digital messages/recordings, even screen shots of social media posts.
Use a Label That Works for You
Find a file folder and label it. Create a folder in your favorite Notes App and label it.
You may label it POTB for “pats on the back” as I did. You can label it something else that is more meaningful for you. Here are some suggestions for other labels:
- The BARNABAS file (named after the New Testament apostle who was known for his encouragement).
- Congratulations Collection
- My High Fives
The next time you get a positive note, after you read it and acknowledge the sender, file it away. Save that positive note for that rainy day of negativity.
But here’s the important part. The next time you are having one of those days, and feeling down about your accomplishments or lack of positive feedback at work – or home — pull out your file and start reading…and reflecting.
Use the 5:1 Rule
Research shows that it takes 5 positive messages to counteract 1 negative message. So start your file off with five positive affirming messages to yourself. These can be any of the following:
- Five favorite inspirational quotes (turn the quote into a first-person statement about you by placing your name in the quote)
- Five affirming scriptures about your identity (make it personal by starting the scripture affirmation with “I am…” or inserting your name into a scripture promise)
- Five affirming song lyrics (try to make it personal)
- Links to five motivational videos on YouTube
- Five pre-recorded messages affirming your strengths
Let’s face it. One of these tomorrows is going to bring negative comments or feedback. And left unchecked, your brain is wired to amplify the negative. So be intentional on retraining your brain to see the positive. There is evidence all around you of your worth and value. You have to snatch those messages when they come your way and save them for when you need to encourage yourself!
Don’t let someone else’s negativity ruin your day or dampen your sense of self. Be prepared with an antidote that boosts your brain’s positivity quotient. Go to your POTB file, read your notes, listen to your recorded messages and give thanks.