Challenging Negative Bias Using Positive Habit Formation

Do you ever find yourself jumping to the worst possible outcome? Can a small thing throw you off and shadow your day? Let’s look at how negative bias affects us, how we can counteract it with positive habit formation.

What is Negative Bias?

Negative bias is a sneaky one – it subtly influences our perception of the world, colouring our thoughts with shades of pessimism. It’s a psychological phenomenon where individuals tend to give more weight to negative information than positive information.

This cognitive predisposition is thought to have evolved as a survival mechanism, helping our ancestors stay vigilant to potential threats in their environment. Fast forward to now, and our brains still have this built-in tendency to focus more on the bad bits, manifesting in various aspects of our lives, potentially affecting how we interpret events, relationships, opportunities and, well, just about anything!

Negative bias can greatly impact the decisions we make in our day to day, and long term, affecting the direction of our lives. Studies have shown that our brains respond more strongly to negative stimuli, meaning negative moments have a longer and deeper affect on our brains, creating stronger associations, and entrenched thought patterns and behaviours, such as avoiding situations in fear of negative outcomes.

Examples of How Negative Bias Affects Decision-Making:

  • Impact on Mental Well-being: Continuous exposure to negative thoughts can contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and overall dissatisfaction with life. The cumulative effect of negative bias may contribute to mental health challenges.
  • Risk Aversion: Negative bias often leads to heightened risk aversion, causing individuals to shy away from opportunities. Fear of failure or adverse outcomes can hinder personal and professional growth.
  • Overemphasis on Criticism: Negative bias can amplify criticism and overshadow praise. In personal and professional relationships, this can lead to strained interactions and heightened stress.
  • Selective Attention: Individuals with negative bias tend to focus on the drawbacks of a situation while overlooking positive aspects. This narrow focus can lead to distorted perspectives and impact the ability to make well-informed decisions.


Negative bias can be tricky to work around. Even if you’ve had multiple positive experiences in your day, one bad thing can knock it all down… So how do we take control?

Understanding negative bias and adopting positive habits to counteract its influence is crucial to form a more balanced and optimistic approach to life.

Countering Negative Bias with Positive Habits:

  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Call it out! Name it. Actively questioning and challenging the negative thoughts can disrupt the pattern of negative bias, allowing you to retrain your brain and build resilience. Ask yourself ‘what evidence do I have to support my belief?’.


  • Cognitive Restructuring: Reframe the experience in a positive light. Weight up the evidence. Change the way you speak. For example, instead of saying, ‘I have to go to work’, try ‘I get to go to work’. ‘I get to wake up in the morning’, ‘I get to go outside’, ‘I get to spend time with my family’. Create a new perspective for yourself.


  • Visualization: Before you enter a situation that holds negative connotations for you, imagine it going perfectly. Close your eyes and imagine every aspect of it – what it looks like, what it feels like, but only in a positive light. When practiced with mindfulness, this is proven to form neural pathways in your brain, as if you’d actually experienced it, predisposing you to a positive outcome rather than the negative bias.


  • Cultivate Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and mindful awareness, can help you become more attuned to your thoughts, surroundings and emotions. By acknowledging negative bias without judgment, you can begin to reframe perspectives more easily.



  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) This therapy looks at the ways you think and behave and can help you to change the way your thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact in day-to-day life. You can self-refer for free CBT therapy through the NHS IAPS


  • Practice Gratitude: Savouring little moments builds up positive mental images and helps balance the negative bias. Regularly expressing gratitude and reflecting on the small and grand positive experiences can shift your focus from what’s lacking to what’s abundant. Try writing or saying aloud something you are grateful for each day, make it a habit and feel your mindset change.


“I am grateful for the roof over my head”, “I am grateful for the dinner on my plate”, “I am grateful for my family”, “I am grateful for sunshine”, “I am grateful for my health”


  • Surround Yourself with Positivity: Engage in activities and surround yourself with people who promote positivity. Positive social interactions and uplifting environments can contribute to a more optimistic outlook.


  • Set Realistic Goals: Establishing realistic and achievable goals can help mitigate the fear of failure associated with negative bias. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks, celebrating achievements along the way.


Being aware of something is the first step towards change. By understanding, noticing and actively addressing negative bias, you can reshape your perspectives, enhance resilience, and foster a more balanced and optimistic approach to life. These techniques are designed to become positive habits, and so consistency is key when using them to challenge negative bias! You hold the power to become more in tune with yourself and your thoughts.

If you’re interested in Positive Habit Formation, why not try our article: Positive Habit Formation for Busy Working Dads

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Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.