No matter who you are, negativity can take over your mood and drag you down for a day, a week or even longer. We all face it—negative self-talk, cynicism and bad mojo. Sometimes it seems like there’s negativity everywhere you turn: Listen to the news; it’s usually negative. Look at Facebook—everyone seems to have a happier or better life than you. Think about those around you—there’s always drama.
Between dealing with people at work, in the community and friends and family, do you ever feel like shouting, “Stop the world, I want to get off!”?
It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity because it’s biological. Your brain actually has developed to focus on the negative: It monitors for threats, and even if the thought or situation isn’t really posing a threat, our brain can convince us that there is one. Now, we could consider how the brain works, how the chemical cortisol flows freely and encourages negative thoughts and how thinking positively helps the flow of dopamine, bringing warm and happy feelings; but let’s keep it simple with this one simple rule: You have the power to control your thoughts.
You have the choice to see things positively, though it may take effort and practice. This is easier said than done, though. How do you deal with your co-worker who is always complaining or the friend who likes to “help” by criticizing you in some way or the newscaster who is warning you of the dangers of global warming? You take back your power of choice. Here are three steps you can take today to begin developing positive inner peace.
- Question your thoughts.You are responsible for your thoughts, and you have the right to question your negative self-talk. Ask yourself where your thoughts are coming from—are they caused by something in your past? Are your thoughts about fearing a future event? The past is given to us as a lesson. We don’t know the future, so our mind tends to wander in the past because that’s what we know. Rather than dwell in the past, it could be helpful to ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? How likely is that worst case?
Or maybe your negative thought is driven by something someone did or said. Remember that what people do and say is about them, not you. They may blame you or judge you, but it’s coming from their perspective, belief system and past lessons. What they say and do is their choice, what you think (and say and do) is yours. Put your thoughts into perspective and make a conscious decision as to whether the thought is true or exaggerated in some way. Our thoughts can often “lie” to us, so make sure you only allow truth into your world.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude reminds us that there is good in the world, and that we are the recipient of goodness from an outside source. No matter who you are or what you may be going through, you can find blessings if you look. Look for the silver lining and be grateful for even the little things. You can practice gratitude by naming one thing each day for which you are grateful. If you keep a written or digital journal, you can go back and see all the blessings in your life. Perhaps begin a ritual of reviewing your gratitude journal on New Year’s Eve to start the new year with a positive outlook!
Think about this story: A man was walking to the bus stop after work, tired and frustrated by the events of the day and anxious to get home. As he sat on the bus waiting for his horrible day to be over, a woman getting on the bus caught his eye. This woman had only one leg, but she was greeting everyone around her pleasantly. The man looked out the bus window and saw a child in a wheelchair. The child had no legs but was smiling and laughing with the adult walking along side of him. The man realized that putting his problems into perspective helped him see the blessings he’d been given, even the ones he had taken for granted.
- Seek out positive surroundings.Have you ever heard the saying, “You are the company you keep”? The people with whom you surround yourself can influence your thoughts and behavior. Their energy can be absorbed by you like a sponge, so make sure the people you allow to be around you bring positive energy and exhibit realistic optimism. Find the people who lift you up and remind you to be your best self. Recognize setbacks as temporary situations or learning experiences. Remember, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Determine who and what you want in your life—the people and things that lift you up. And make sure to spend time outside every day. Nature is an amazing emotional healer!Better yet, take a walk with a good friend to maximize the positivity.