Everybody feels negative now and then. In a society where the media is constantly pushing unobtainable norms upon us about how we are meant to look and the lives we are meant to lead, it is not surprising that we may sometimes feel down about our lives and circumstances.
What most people don’t know is that negative thinking is actually a survival strategy our bodies have developed over thousands of years to protect ourselves by recognising and avoiding danger. The problem is, these negative thoughts were only meant to be used in fight or flight situations. If the body finds itself in a chronic negative thinking pattern its main defence method is depression so that it can dull all emotional response.
This is why it is incredibly important to train yourself out of negative thinking patterns, before they start to affect your physical and mental health. Here are five things you can do right now to combat negativity.
Recognize the negative thoughts
As the age old saying goes, the hardest part of fixing a problem is recognizing that there is one. Before you try and ‘be positive’ allow yourself to first identify and understand your negative thoughts and their patterns. What is it that you ruminate on? Are your negative thoughts focused on anxious worries, self-criticism or regret and guilt?
Once you recognise your negative thoughts and their patterns, you can then start focusing on how to combat them.
Turn negative thoughts into positive ones
One of the most damaging things about negative thoughts is that they are one sided and lack perspective. Your negative thought patterns often present you with an over exaggerated and gloomy version of your life. Once you have managed to recognize these negative thoughts, try adding some perspective to them.
If you have had a bad day at work, rather than look for all the negative, add some perspective to the situation and look for just one positive; even if it might only be the fact that you have a job. If you are worried about something, try turning on its head and looking for the opportunities that such a challenge may offer you.
List three things
This is a fantastic habit to get into if you find yourself in a negative thought pattern. Every day, before bed or when you wake up (dependent on when you feel the most negative), list three things that you are grateful for. You can either say them out loud to yourself, tell someone or keep a diary. They might be the same three things each day or they may change over time. By spending a part of your day recognizing the three things that you are most positive about in your life, it can help dwarf the significance of the negative things.
Surround yourself with positivity
This is fairly straight forward, but incredibly important. Surround yourself with positive people and with beautiful things. Go on walks in nature and marvel and the beauty around you. If the sun is shining, go out and enjoy it for 10 minutes. Call your best friend up for a chat. Volunteer at a local charity. Do things that make you feel good and that are positive experiences even if it is just for 10 minutes every day.
Make the effort
The Dalai Lama was once quoted saying “see the positive side, the potential, and make an effort”. This is one of the most important things to remember about turning your negative thinking into positive thinking; It will take effort. Lots of effort. At the start you will need to keep recognizing your negative thoughts and keep them in check. Being positive and feeling positive may feel unnatural, it may even feel like a chore, but this because your mind is used to its negative thought patterns and these new ones feel strange and alien. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep making the effort, because one day it won’t feel like an effort any more.