Updated: Oct 5
Life is hard and sometimes bad things happen to good people. There are times when it seems that life just dumps everything on you at once and things keep coming at you as though you were made of steel. It can be hard to think positive or find any silver lining within these circumstances. After all, how much can one person take? Well, what if I shared why it’s vital for your health to be more positive despite life’s shortcomings, and how to begin overcoming your negativity in eight steps.
Effects of Negativity
Negativity breeds negativity. Have you ever heard the phrase, hang out with positive people and it will rub off on you? Well, this is true but it takes more positive influence than negative influence to direct our attitude. Simply said, it's easier to believe the awful stuff about ourselves and the world around us. For example, humans have an instinctive need to survive and thrive, therefore, there is an internal vigilance inside each of us to look out for danger and avert these snares.
But when this gets out of hand, we can become hypervigilant, looking for danger and ominous threat everywhere, even within ourselves. This is why experts argue that negativity is more contagious than positive talk because of the fear factor and desire for safety. Therefore, being around extremely negative people who never see the bright side of things or offer you any hope can further bring you down and keep you down, and the results of this can be serious health problems.
Fear breeds anxiety and negativity and gloom and doom breeds depression. Anxiety and depression are a dangerous mix and can be debilitating. For example, anxiety activates the parasympathetic nervous system and turns on the fight/flight stress response. If this occurs short term then the body has done its job, but long-term anxiety can wreak havoc on your body.
· Body aches and pains (fibromyalgia)
· Digestive issues (IBS, ulcers, GERD, etc.)
· Heart disease
· High blood pressure
There are more negative results of anxiety and long-term negativity, but I won’t go into that here.
Sometimes it’s not easy to feel any positive emotions during times of grief and loss, but there are several things you can do to prevent being overtaken by complicated grief and further deterioration of your mood. Grief can be more than an emotional response to loss. It can affect you physically as well as change your behavior for a time. Losing someone in divorce can also feel like a death, and it’s important to allow yourself to feel the pain and journey through the grief. Finding someone you trust to walk-alongside you rather than be alone in your grief is important. Knowing that what you are feeling is normal and having those feelings validated can be key to forward movement and recovery from your loss.
Eight Steps for Taking hold of positivity
· Surround yourself with supportive and positive people
· Allow yourself to grieve (join a grief group—get out of the house and go)
· Change Talk
As discussed above, by surrounding yourself with positive people who are always looking on the bright side, they may illuminate light on things you haven’t thought of, help motivate and support you, and guide you toward a different line of thinking.
Allowing yourself to grieve is especially important. Life can be demanding and often times distractions and staying busy might feel better in the short-term, but this strategy is not allowing you to get to the root of the problem and move through the stages of grief. This is where self-care comes in.
By implementing self-care through talking to someone you trust and journaling your thoughts, memories, sadness, and feelings you are facing the loss and working through it. Allow yourself to feel both good and bad feelings. When having the urge to laugh or good days, guilt might creep in and tell you that you don’t have a right to feel anything but grief or sadness. Those thoughts are lies. Negative thoughts have a way of feeling true, although they are not necessarily true … they are just thoughts.
Exercise can be a wonderful way to get your body off the couch or out of the bed and get it moving. And moving around usually makes us feel better. Going outside for a walk can do wonders for your mood. Just observing a different scenery can be healing and evoke positive emotions.
Allow yourself to laugh. Watch funny movies, listen to jokes, read comical stories. Find a friend who jokes a lot and sees humor in things. At the least, make sure your friends see positives and are not a breeding ground for negativity.
Get a hobby. What do you enjoy or what have you always wanted to do? Get in there and try. Is it cross-stitch, knitting, quilting, drawing or painting, dancing or singing (you can do this at home—even alone), baking or yoga? Find something you want to do and allow yourself to do it.
Although I chose to share this last of all, this should be at the top of your list … try some change talk. Negative thoughts and negative talk are debilitating and can bring you down as well as bringing everyone around you down. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your hurt feelings with those you trust, but 24/7 gloom and doom talk about everything is not helping lift your spirits.
· Change: I’m never going to find any friends to Maybe I’ll join a book club and meet a
friend. Or Maybe I'll call so and so. I haven't talked to her in years.
· Change: It rains every day and I never get to go outside to At least the plants are getting
plenty of water and I might try out that new recipe I’ve been wanting to fiddle with, or I’ll get
that puzzle out and try it.
· Change: Everyone always judges me, so I don’t want to go and be around anyone to I
think I will go to the social and enjoy the meal and entertainment. Their mood is about them,
not about me.
You can’t change anyone else, but you can change your attitude and your self-talk. It takes practice. CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) is a great modality of treatment that works to help you change negative thoughts into positive ones so you can become the positive person you desire to be. There is always something positive to glean within any experience. It takes intentionality to change a negative habit, why not start today and journal a few goals and ways you can take better care of yourself. Try journaling your own positive contrasts to those negative thoughts you’ve been having.
Remember: Everything starts with a thought, be it negative or positive. Have a good thought today.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. - Proverbs 17:22
Lori C. Helms M.A. LMHC