Does being positive often feels like something you need to actively think about? Way too often you have to rationalise that things will be alright after having a flood of intrusive negative thoughts that tell you otherwise. And then, just like that, your mind goes straight back to thinking negatively...sound familiar?
Being and staying positive is much easier said than done considering that our brains are hardwired to remember negative events better than positive ones. That’s why we recall insults better than compliments or dwell on negative experiences more than positive ones-- it can almost feel as though feeling pessimistic and assuming the worst is by default.
The glass-half-full, half-empty analogy comes to mind and it’s true. When we have a gains frame outlook (glass half full) it’s very easy for our positive outlook to shift to a negative one, but when we have a loss frame outlook (glass half empty), we find it near impossible to tilt into a more positive perspective.
This is what psychology refers to as the Negative Bias. Some days it can feel like a negative mindset can be the default way of thinking and so we need to work overtime to assume a positive one
Well, we’ve done our research and come up with a few different ways that you can combat negativity in your life because you deserve to have moments of positivity.
Be more selective of your content consumption
This piece of advice is versatile because it applies to many aspects of your life. Consumption isn’t just about the food we eat, but rather apple to everything in our lives that we take in or attend to. This could mean food, but also extends to television, social media, our buying habits and even the people we surround ourselves with.
When we use social media we forget how much of its content skews our perspective on life. We forget that no one is posting their losses in fact when it comes to social media, everyone’s glass isn’t just half full, it’s teeming to the brim and so this must be an accurate depiction of how their lives are...right?
When all you see is people posting their new car or house or trips to Greece you start comparing yourself to people you haven’t seen in years or don’t even know and like clockwork, the negative self-talk (or thoughts) start to treacle in.
It’s nos surprise that social media use has been linked to increased feelings of inferiority, envy and life dissatisfaction.
When I started filtering the kind of content I was exposing myself to online, I was able to follow and engage with platforms and accounts that better resonated with me and where I was emotionally and mentally.
I replaced the time spent on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with Pinterest and Quora. I found that these platforms were better suited for inspiration and honest conversations about difficult topics like mental health.
When you start removing content from your life that doesn’t serve your best interests, you open yourself up to things that inspire you and help you feel less alone. So get to unfollowing, muting, and blocking to help you get into the right headspace.
Re-route your thoughts
This one is a little harder to do especially because negative thoughts tend to be intrusive and difficult to shake once they enter your mind.
I can confidently say that the period of waiting for my university results was one of the most nail-biting, anxiety-inducing, sleep-deprived times of my life! Somehow, I had convinced myself that I had failed my degree and wasted 3 years of my life and my parents would be so disappointed and…*deep breath*. Can you tell it was a stressful time for me?
I learned how important it is to identify but not indulge in these thought processes. I had to stop spiralling and ask myself “What makes me think I’m going to fail my degree?”. Once I asked myself this, I realised that many of the negative thoughts had no basis for them and I was able to better regulate my feelings of anxiety.
Acknowledging your negative thoughts without allowing them to drive your emotions is a superpower we could all do with, especially as it can be much easier said than done.
Find new ways of dealing with negative outcomes
Experiencing something negative can easily (and understandably) make you want to jump into your baggiest joggers and t-shirt, crawl under covers and hide away from the rest of the world.
Many of us, myself included, aren’t well-equipped to deal with the F-word. No, not that one.
It’s so easy to attribute your perceived shortcomings as something that’s a part of you rather than your situation.
For example, failing an exam is just confirmation of your lack of intelligence rather than a classic case of performance anxiety. We tend to delve straight into thinking about how we “could have” and “should have” done something to get our desired outcome without paying attention to other contributing factors.
When we extend ourselves the same compassion we grace others, this is shown to have better effects on our mental and physical health. Begin embracing an anti-perfectionism way of living your life whether it’s your academics or work life or even romantic life.
You can tell yourself things like “failure is just an opportunity to start again” or “It’s a bad day,
not a bad life” and gain a little perspective into just how little failure can and should keep us down.
My advice? Be brave and human enough to make mistakes and not chastise yourself for them.
Avoid toxic positivity.
As a child, I always insisted on eating ice cream and wouldn’t take no for an answer. After spoiling my dinner and experiencing what felt like a child’s equivalent to a hangover, that’s when I learned a very valuable lesson; too much of even a good thing can be poisonous.
Yes, even something as perfect as chocolate chip ice cream can be bad for us when we have it in excess. And that concept also applies to positivity.
One thing I’ve seen a concerning rise in is the encouragement of maintaining an unshakable positive outlook on life, regardless of the situation. A perfect example of this was during the first UK lockdown when people were so critical about people who just wanted to spend their quarantine on the sofa, watching Friends.
People encouraging others to start a business in the midst of mass unemployment or to go out and achieve their weight goal despite everyone’s mental health circling the drain. Nobody wanted anyone to just be.
It’s always great when you’re able to see the brighter side of a situation or when people encourage you to make lemonade out of the lemons life gives you, however when you do this for the sake of keeping a positive disposition you don’t realise you’re doing yourself more harm than good.
The idea that we must function on a limited range of emotions; gratitude, happiness, resilience especially in such trying times is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Minimising or invalidating your own emotions without considering how this could affect your mental health, in the long run, can begin to impact your ability to process negative experiences.
Much like showing yourself self-compassion, being able to admit when things are not okay can be hard. You don’t need to tell anyone else if you’re not ready to and you really shouldn’t sweep your emotions under the rug as if they aren’t there.
Try meditation to encourage positivity.
The purpose of meditation is to let go of stress or worrisome thoughts. The more you spend each day feeling relaxed and peaceful, the more positive your mind will become. You naturally think more positively when you feel more relaxed.
Breathing exercises are a big part of meditation which is a great way to relieve yourself of negative thoughts or desires from your mind, helping you to not dwell on them.
Positive thinking and empowerment are the two components of one specific type of mediation: Affirmation Meditation. We associate affirmation with anything we repeat out loud or in our minds that we repeat over and over again-- As you begin to observe your breath,
begin to visualize that your body is filling up with positive energy and vitality.
Admitting that everything isn’t great is the first step to making a small action plan to help you get back to the life you want to lead rather than the life people expect you to lead.
Not being okay is really okay, I promise you.
I’ve found that doing a little bit of each of the tips above has helped me not just quieten my anxious mind, but also kept me in a healthy relationship with how I view myself and the undesirable situations I find myself in.
As I mentioned before, being negative can sometimes just be a natural response to the world we live in (thanks to our brain’s negative bias), but that won’t matter as long as your afterthoughts are filled with more positive rational that counters that negativity.
So go out today try one of these tips and see how you can slowly, but surely, create a mindset free of negativity.