Dora Gyarmati

Dora Gyarmati

Why we focus on the negative, even when the news is good | Health column

How to find a healthy emotional balance in life.

  • Friday, April 5, 2019 2:43pm
  • Opinion

By Dora Gyarmati

Special to the Reporter

I am sure you heard that in a marriage, it takes seven good acts to balance out one bad one. You probably also experienced when your boss sits you down for a review, and you have four praises and one “opportunity for growth” you end up driving home beating your head against the steering wheel about your one imperfection.

I am also willing to bet that it is no news to you that newscasters love to report on violence and scandals, but we don’t often hear about the good stuff. Steven Pinker, psychology professor at Harvard, wrote a phenomenal book “The Better Angels of our Nature – Why Violence has Declined” where he developed an argument and demonstrated it with substantial data from research how the world is getting more peaceful over the course of history. I watched an interview on television where the interviewer just about “ate him alive” everybody involved during the discussion was very determined to point out all the horrible things happening in the world right now and to prove Pinker wrong. Of course, the news anchor, succeed since 10 minutes attention spun violently is always more powerful than a 696-pages-long book, even though the book had more, and more correct information.

So why is it that we spin so many things in the news toward the negative? Even when the story is good — like Steven Pinker’s book on how the world is not doomed — we manage to make the interview about how he is wrong, and the world is doomed.

If you know psychology, you know the answer: negativity bias. That is the scientific name of the phenomena. The human brain is wired to scan for the dangerous and the negative. This is not a bad thing — it is an evolutionary necessity for survival and progress.

Yes, you read it right. Without negativity bias, there is no progress. Our ancestors had to be vigilant to stay alive. Noticing danger, such as a predator, or memorizing poisonous plants were necessary for survival. On the other hand, missing out on a tasty lunch, or sex, though not fun leads to nothing more but short term discomfort. So it happened that humans selected for mild anxiety and negativity scanning.

Without a mild dissatisfaction and anxiety about how things are, we don’t have the drive to create something better. Every invention came out of the mind of someone who thought “there is a better way…”

So here we are progressing along with our negativity searching brain, but we do need to learn to mindfully manage our negativity bias. Here are a few simple steps:

1.) Make friends with anxiety. Don’t make it negative. Understand that it is a useful part of human development. Whatever we fight, we make it stronger. Let go of the fight, merely recognize anxiety.

2.) Look around — is there anything positive? Last month I wrote about how I found joy in the middle of adversity. I hope I inspired some of you to start a gratitude journal. If you are a new reader and wondering about what I mean by “gratitude journal,” it’s simple; before going to bed at night, take time to write a few things down that are good, wisdom that you learned through adversity, the knowledge that you gained, and connections that you found or lost for the better. At first, this practice is weird, it may even seem artificial, but overtime it will teach your mind balance attention from negative to positive.

3.) Start a mindful yoga practice. Yoga allows us to integrate our body, breath and mind and balance out our attention. We often process emotions physically, our conscious brain is not as good at letting go of anxiety as our body. Mindful movement allows for healthy integration and balance of emotions.

Notice, I did not say get rid of the negative. All feelings are important, when we try to get rid or suppress our emotions, we run into trouble… but more on that next month. Yes, being mindful is a balancing act, which is why it is essential to have a daily practice.

Dora Gyarmati teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resiliency and stress management to health care professionals.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

When enjoying the great outdoors, continue to socially distance and be aware of how else COVID-19 has changed our world.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

The true meaning of community | Guest editorial

LWTech president Dr. Amy Morrison reflects on how the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the community together.

Toilet paper as essential? | Column

A monthly column about mindfulness and mental well-being.

Deserving respect for being human | Windows and Mirrors

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted. Here’s what’s been happening on the Eastside.

Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading

Gov. Inslee is cordially invited to Kirkland, Eastside

We need the governor here to know we’re a priority, not in Olympia or on cable news channels.

Trump betrays promise to protect, fight for workers

A guest opinion syndicated by PeaceVoice.

‘We can do the right thing’ | Windows and Mirrors

Clarence Moriwaki shares how we can stand up for each other and not have history repeat itself.

Bellevue College student Vanessa Lora-Garibay speaks on prejudice and discrimination during a rally on campus on Jan. 22. Samantha Pak/staff photo
We need to, but how do we talk about race? | Windows and Mirrors

Racism is still an issue in this country. How can we have constructive conversations to move forward and heal?

Commentary: Inslee vows to give state a clean fuel standard

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in… Continue reading