Relevant Resilience: Lafene health educator on counteracting negative bias

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Chris Bowman, health educator from Lafene Health Center, presents ways to create positive emotions and help build optimism. Bowman's workshop, "Pursuing the Positive," explored ways to counteract what is known as negativity bias. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back, or how we bounce back, said Chris Bowman, health educator at Lafene Health Center, during his workshop called “Pursuing the Positive.”

The workshop was the first of seven in the “Relevant Resilience!” series.

Bowman’s workshop explored ways to counteract what is known as negativity bias, which he defined as “the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.” Examples of these are unpleasant thoughts, emotions, social interactions or harmful/traumatic events.

Starting off, Bowman asked those in attendance to write down three things from today or yesterday that they are grateful for and why.

After showing a clip from a TED Talk, Bowman delved into ideas of positive psychology, and described it as the study on how to flourish.

“There’s a really important piece about positive psychology,” he said. “Positive psychology is aimed to be a supplement to what could be maybe more psychological traits, tools and treatment.”

He said the idea around it is to get people to a place where they are not fighting for survival, and that it’s about the lens through which someone may view reality.

Bowman said that it seems like every time you turn on TV news, it’s negative.

“People are drawn to negative things, people are drawn to drama,” he said. “This negativity bias, this is nothing new. I guarantee your media outlets, your news outlets, they know about this.”

This negativity bias is rooted in survival, and has long history, he said. We often focus on the bad things that happen to us and don’t spend as much time on the positive. Even if something positive does happen while we are in a slump, it won’t get us back to normal.

To reverse this tendency, he said, we need to train our brains the same way that we would a muscle.

Bowman went through five methods: writing down three things you’re thankful for, journaling, exercise, meditation and random acts of kindness. While some of these may be a reiteration and there is no one way to perfectly help everybody, he said, they’re still good to remind ourselves of.

He said that when he started journaling and writing down three things was he was grateful for, it felt silly at first, but he saw great results.

Marissa Lord, another health educator in attendance, described journaling as long-term reflection.

“If you journal for a long period of time, you’re able to go back,” Lord said. “I can go back and look at it and say, ‘I’m out of that situation, I grew from that.'”

On meditation, Bowman said he thinks at first of a monk that can turn their mind off for 72 hours, but meditation can happen while listening to music or running.

“It’s where you can quiet the noise inside your brain and you can concentrate,” he said.

Bowman distinguished between expected and random acts of kindness, saying that it may be expected to help someone pick up after they drop a bunch of stuff.

“If I’m at work, and it just hits me in my head, or maybe I journaled about it the night before, I’m going to email one of my coworkers, ‘You’re working hard,'” he said. “You’re going to start looking for other random acts of kindness.”

David Ollington, academic advisor for sociology, anthropology and social work and senior in anthropology, said he used to have the same five methods on his office wall, and that the talk was beneficial even though he already knew lots of the material.

“It did make me want to get back into daily gratitude writing,” Ollington said. “A lot of times I think through gratitude, but for a while I was real disciplined about, every single day, writing down three.”

The next workshop, “Resiliency in the Face of Trauma,” will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@kstatecollegian.com.