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  • Writer's pictureChoice Recovery

Optimism & Negativity Biases

Our decision-making abilities can be negatively impaired by both extremes of emotions – joy and sorrow. Because of this, it is imperative that we understand how our happiest and saddest moments can cause us to avoid doing the next right thing.

When we're happy, the world seems brighter and more promising. This positive outlook, while generally beneficial, can sometimes cloud our judgment. That is, happiness can lead to a sense of overconfidence, where facts and rational thinking take a backseat. This lack of reality in our thinking can lead us to:

Ignore Facts: In our euphoric state, there's a tendency to overlook crucial details and facts and casually think, "I got this." In this state, our optimism bias kicks in, making us believe that everything will work out in our favor, regardless of the facts and warning signs.

Rationalization: Happiness can lead to an increased tendency to rationalize or frame things to our advantage. This means we might make decisions that feel good in the moment, even if they're not the best in the long run. Our brain finds ways to justify choices that may not align with our principles or purpose; this type of justification is often propelled by an unhealthy amount of self-confidence or our ego.

Loss of Humility: With happiness comes a certain level of arrogance, often subconsciously. We might start to believe that we're incapable of making wrong decisions, leading to choices that lack the wisdom of humility and consideration for potential risks.

Conversely, when we're engulfed in sadness, our decision-making abilities are compromised in different ways. The gloominess affects our energy levels, attitude, and perspective, leading to decisions fueled by an illegitimate pessimism.

Laziness in Effort: Sadness often brings a lack of motivation. Decisions made in this state are likely to be half-hearted, lacking the effort and thoroughness required for making well-considered choices.

Pessimistic Attitude: A "glass half empty" attitude narrows our thought process. This negativity bias persuades us to expect the worst possible outcome, leading to overly cautious or defeatist decisions that cause us to miss out on potential opportunities.

Confirmation of Deservingness: In moments of sadness, we often fall into the trap of past self-judgment. We let our past actions and outcomes define our worthiness, leading to decisions that undervalue our potential and what is truly possible.

The key to creating a life we love lies in recognizing these emotional biases and actively working to mitigate them. When happy, it's crucial to ground ourselves in facts and logic, ensuring our decisions are not solely driven by our emotions. In moments of sadness, it's important to push against the inertia and negativity, making an effort to view situations with a balanced and global perspective.

Life is designed so we experience happiness and sadness, which can sometimes come in extreme forms. However, for us to get where we want to go, regardless of our emotional state, we must make purposeful decisions. We can't allow our emotions to negatively influence our decision-making and our ability to do the next right thing.

The concepts learned in the rooms of recovery are the tools we can use to ensure our decision-making is not altered by the positive and negative biases of the day. Are you using the tools you have to promote purposeful, unbiased decisions?


Choice Recovery is an integrated clinic offering mental health and physical health services with a focus on co-occurring substance misuse disorders. Choice Recovery's professional staff through evidence-based care treats the whole-body, not simply the symptoms. Choice believes that everything in life becomes that much easier when an individual's mental health and physical health are in order!

Choice Recovery has clinics in the East Valley and Phoenix serving Mesa, Chandler, Gilber, Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. Individual counseling, psychiatric services, medication management, IOP, and physical health services are available at Choice Recovery. We accept most major insurance coverage including AHCCCS. For more information, please email us at or call us at 480-527-0337. Thank you!


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