Why our Brains Love Bad News and an Antidote that Promotes Well-Being

Our news media focuses on devastation, destruction, drama and trauma even though it’s estimated that bad news accounts for only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of total life experience. Why is this?

What if our obsession with bad news is just the way our brains evolved?
Anything the brain perceives as a survival threat gets processed by the Limbic Brain, which is biased to respond instantly before there is conscious awareness. You find yourself jumping back at the appearance of a snake on the path ahead. Upon closer examination you see it is only an old piece of rope.

For survival, it is far better to jump back 1,000 times from a rope than not jump back one time when it is an actual snake. So the Limbic Brain is biased to notice, perceive and react to threats…in the same way you may find yourself compelled to glance at the headlines while passing a news stand or unable to look away from an auto accident.
Threats are processed by the Limbic Brain, while the positive, good news is processed by the Cerebral Cortex. The threats are remembered and the good times forgotten. As Rick Hanson, author of “Buddha’s Brain,” says: “Our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences.”

The Good News for our brains and our sense of well-being is that by consciously spending short moments focusing on the good things, we can equalize the neuronal pathways in our brains. So the emphasis of the Limbic Brain on what could go wrong is balanced by the healthy attention of the Cerebral Cortex to what is good and well in our lives.

Rick recommends a practice for parents that has a profound effect on children: simply ask a child at bedtime, “What were a couple of good things that happened to you today?” We can do the same for ourselves. Spending a couple of minutes before sleep remembering the good things will, over time, rewire our brains to promote an experience of life as fulfilling, joyful and fun.

When our nervous systems are kept in alert mode from the media saturation of possible dangers, the brain habituates and we begin to live with a background of fear and anxiety even though our lives may be perfectly okay. We worry unnecessarily about the future, and we all know that worry is not good for our health, happiness, and definitely doesn’t help in making good decisions.

Simple practices like paying attention to good things when they are happening gradually shifts our neuronal pathways to allow us to enjoy life. The Brainwave Optimization that Deborah and I (Dan) do at Ashland Brain Harmony is a breakthrough technology that allows the brain to restore healthy balance in a short time frame so that we can experience life again as peaceful and joy-filled.

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