Ain’t that the truth? Lately I have felt myself being drawn in to some negative conversation whirlpools, mostly on Facebook. I’m sure you’ve seen these posts where someone states a negative opinion, and it releases a flood gate of continued negative spew. I so want to engage, not to join in the chorus of darkness, but to ask questions and find out the source of all the rage. What are you so angry/sad/hurt by? But I refuse to engage via social media. However, if I run into these people by chance, and we can have a face to face discussion, I will surely engage in a civil, respectful way.
I had a friend who was going through a divorce. Her soon to be ex-husband would text something to her, and it would soon dissolve into a text flurry of negativity. She would come to me practically in tears, or angry and red-faced, asking me what to do. I would calmly respond – DO NOT ENGAGE IN ANY MORE TEXTING. If he wants to have a conversation with you, meet him somewhere public and have a grown-up discussion of the issues.
I have said it before, but it is SO easy to feverishly type negativity, and it can spread so fast (see Mr. Ice’s quote above), and create a vortex of negativity that serves no one. Vent to friends? Sure. State it as such, keep it short, get your support, end the discussion with gratitude for that support. This will help avoid the death spiral of negativity.
Need some help turning from the dark side? Check out the tips below. It takes practice and work to stop yourself from sliding down the negativity slope, but it so rewarding to your well-being that it is worth it. Let’s see if we can spread positivity FASTER than a Justin Bieber song.
Here are six steps to transform your outlook on life, to stop your negativity and see life positively.
1. Stop complaining
When you sit around complaining all day about how terrible your life is, your life is going to be terrible. Complaining, wallowing, self-pity: none of these things are creators of an enjoyable, satisfying life. The first thing you need to do to transform your outlook on life is to stop complaining about how bad your life is. Even though you don’t have the tools yet to make your life better, you already have one to stop making your life worse.
2. Practice thought stopping
Before you can open yourself up to positive thinking, you’ve got to stop your negative thinking. When all of your thoughts about the world, situations, and other people are negative, negativity will be all you know. Remember: energy follows thought.
You can practice thought stopping by becoming more aware of when your thoughts are based on negativity rather than facts. When you recognize that you are thinking in a negative, rather than factual, way, you stop the thought before it can cloud your perception.
3. End your “yes, but” attitude
“Yes, but” is a marker phrase of a negative outlook. When you “yes, but” life, you see the hole instead of the doughnut. When asked “Do you like your job?” you respond, “Yes, but it doesn’t pay well.” When someone suggests you look for a better-paying job, you respond, “Yes, but then I might have to move to a different city,” and so on.
While every life has its ups and downs, when you see only the downs as significant, you miss all the ups. Happiness can be as much a state of mind as a factual situation. Step two of your transformation into a positive person is to stop yes-butting your life. Try “yes, and” instead. “Do you like your job?” “Yes, and I’m working hard to further my career.”
4. Beware the self-fulfilling prophecy
Sometimes you think you perceive your authentic inner world when you are actually pushing your experience in a particular direction. It’s called a “self-fulfilling prophesy.” You tell yourself your life is terrible and will never get better, so you do subtle things to make your life terrible and stuck in a rut. Why? Because it’s good to feel right, even when feeling right also means you feel awful.
In my work, I see patients who feel more comfortable telling a version of their lives that keeps them stuck in victimhood rather than risk exploring why they feel like a victim. Examining their feelings might reveal that they’re the authors of their misfortune. Mindfully—purposefully and non-judgmentally—examine the ways you see yourself as a victim. When you look at your life through a neutral lens, you may be surprised at how many areas there are in which you have more control than previously thought.
5. Replace negative beliefs
By replacing negative, unhelpful thoughts about yourself with positive, helpful ones, you can become more empowered. If, for example, you use people-pleasing thinking, believing that you’ll only be happy once everyone likes you, instead concentrate on liking yourself. If you think pessimistically, that your life will never work out, instead tell yourself that your life can be what you decide to make it.
You can reframe every negative thought you have about yourself in a positive way. Remember, this isn’t the same as you lying to yourself. It does, however, mean you spend more time looking at the donut and less time at the hole, and it means that the donut has frosting and sprinkles and the hole is … just a neutral, unremarkable hole.
6. Take positive action
Often it’s not enough to change the way you think about situations and yourself. Sometimes you have to do things differently, too. If you once complained about being single and you’ve now changed your negative thought—”I’ll never meet anyone I like”—to a positive one—”I haven’t met anyone I like, yet, but I still can”—the next step is to get out there and date. If it’s a new job you’re after, it’s not enough to tell yourself “It’s not that all jobs are chaotic and stressful, it’s just that the one I currently have is,” you’ve got to polish your resume and get out there and network.
Realize that you do, indeed, have the power to choose a different way. You can see life through a dark, everything-is-terrible-and-will-always-be-terrible lens and have a negative outlook on life, or you can see life through a clear, everything-is-what-it-is-and-life-has-ups-and-downs-and-that’s-ok lens and have a positive outlook on life. The choice is yours to make.