In my last journal post 9 Ways To Cultivate Positivity, we covered how to cultivate positivity and gain more resilience in our lives. Now let us turn our attention on how to counteract negativity. We know that we cannot entirely escape negativity in our lives. We also know from the research that “faking it” is just as bad (if not worse) than negativity. So what can we do to counteract negativity?
In general, we can “turn toward the light” to counter negativity when it strikes just as a plant turns toward sunlight and away from darkness. This turning into the light helps to broaden us, and thus it expands our range of vision according to Barbara Fredrickson, Ph. D. and author of the book Positivity.
First, we can dispute negative thinking as negative thoughts and emotions feed on each other. If we can counter negative thinking we can stop the fuel that ignites negative emotions, but how does this happen?
Here are some ways to help turn the table on negativity:
1. Dispute Negative Thinking
Negative thoughts and emotions feed on each other. We can help to stop the spiral of negativity by examining the facts of the situation allowing us to take note of where we may have distorted or incorrect thinking. Consider what it was that set you off? What happens when you consider the cast of the situation? When we can dispute negative thoughts, we can take the bite out of the cycle and lighten the view. Maybe it isn’t devastating after all. Perhaps you are mildly disappointed, but through fact analysis you gain a bit of hopefulness. Known as non-negative thinking, disputation doesn’t negate negativity or ignore your thoughts and feelings. It merely gives you the opportunity to check thoughts and feelings against reality and dissolve those that you find to be distorted.
2. Break The Grip Of Rumination
When something terrible happens, it is easy to go over it again and again in our mind, which is known as rumination. Rumination occurs when we go over and over negative thoughts or feelings examining them from every angle. This thinking fans the flames of negativity. You can’t seem to think straight or see the bigger picture.
Continually ruminating can send your positivity ratio into a tailspin and multiples negative emotions exponentially.
One way to counter negative thinking is to learn to recognize when thought is going nowhere and creating a stable of activities to turn too. Healthy distractions could be going for a jog, lifting weights, doing yoga or meditation, and calling a good friend. Unhealthy distractions are those that bring us down such as drinking, overeating, listening to sad songs, watching negative media, or spending time in a confrontational relationship.
3. Become More Mindful
Habitual thoughts are the riverbed and your emotions the river. Negative thoughts will arise, but sometimes they not only appear but they gush creating an uncontrollable chain of associations populating the mind with unwanted negative emotions. Although tempting to try to block out negative thoughts and emotions research shows that when we try to do this, we end up more miserable, mentally, physically and emotionally.
When we become more mindful, we attend to our own inner experience with full awareness and without judgment. It is about taking a step back from thoughts and sensations, to gain a broader perspective on your thinking. With practice, you can begin to observe the contents of your thoughts in a calm and non-reactive way. The power of being mindful is that it severs the link between negative thoughts and emotions. Because when you come to think of a thought as just a thought, you have disarmed it. Science has documented that mindfulness training leaves a lasting mark on the brain. It alters the basic metabolism in brain circuits know to underlie emotional responding, reducing the channels tied to negativity.
4. Defuse Negative Landmines
This method allows you to spot landmines by reflecting on your typical daily routine and asking yourself which circumstances usher in the most negativity.
Science shows that we do our best self-assessments when we are in a neutral or positive state. So if you are still feeling negative about an event, you might take a breather before your self-assessment.
One question to ask about a negative experience is whether it is gratuitous or necessary. Necessary negativity faces the facts and moves you forward. Gratuitous negativity doesn’t lead anywhere good. It is excessive, redundant, ugly and blown up all out of proportion. It becomes negativity for negativity’s sake.
When spotting gratuitous negativity take a look further. Is it event-causing negativity likely to reoccur? Can you avoid it? For instance, if you know that violent movies cause you to move into a downward spiral, you might choose to forgo the latest violent movie for something more up-lifting.
Of course, not all situations can be avoided. If not how can you reframe it by either modifying the situation, attending to different aspects of the situation or changing the meaning?
An example would be modifying long anxiety provoking commute by listening to an enjoyable audiobook or finding someone with whom to share the ride.
Attending to different aspects of a situation you might focus on a more positive aspect of the situation. For instance, if meeting with your boss is typically a negative situation, you might try to see the meeting as a way to find out where you stand at work and how you are doing so that you can focus on what is needed to reach your career goals.
You can also change the meaning of the activity or event causing negativity. Reinterpretation gives you a chance to change a gratuitous negative event into a more positive one by casting a new meaning to the situation. I have used this method to recast dental visits after having a root canal without numbing in an emergent situation. Yes, it was horrific, and I had anxiety for years afterward. Now I think of a dental visit as a way to practice my new mindfulness training to see if I can stay calm and relaxed for the duration.
5. Dealing With Negative People
When considering a negative influencer in your life, it is helpful to ask your self earnestly the following questions: Is there any way I am inadvertently fueling this person’s negativity? Am I baiting them with my reactions or words? Am I closed down in any degree when we communicate? What are my assumptions about this person? Push your self to understand what you already “know” about this person locating any hidden assumptions and exploring how they might be affecting your behavior toward the other person.
i. Modify the situation
Experiment on how you act when around a toxic person. Choose joint activities that inspire you both. Consider reserving task that “inflames” you both to a time that this person is not around.
ii. Attend differently
Consider focusing on less negative aspects of the person. Attempting to be more mindful and present in the presence of this person and considering this person as a teacher. You might also work on your reactions mindfully.
iii. Change Meanings
Attempting to be more mindful and present in the presence of this person and considering this person as a teacher. You could choose to work on your reactions mindfully as another approach.
6. Assess Your Media Diet
Media seems to be getting more and more about shock value and less about anything uplifting. Whether it is the nightly news or the latest movie release, the audience is pushed to the edge.
Science shows the more we are exposed to violence the more likely we are to be violent in both large and small ways. Media violence quails our kindness and empathy.
There are often implicit messages about race, weight, sexuality, and beauty that leave viewers, particularly young ones feeling as though they don’t measure up. Toxicity affects all of our being. We are concerned about our diet and environment and keeping the toxins out, but don’t always consider the toxic effects of media.
7. Find Substitutes for Gossip and Sarcasm
Assess where you are on this and consider talking about others only in a positive light, highlighting positive qualities and good fortunes, not weaknesses and mishaps. Avoid hidden forms of verbal aggression. Remember that negativity in your daily banter needlessly cripples your positivity ratio and crushes your odds of flourishing.
Start by implementing one of these 6 ways to counteract negativity and then another gaining momentum as you begin your upward spiral into a positive focused life!
I would love to hear how you are doing. You can connect with me on my website and if you haven’t already please sign-up while you are there to be notified of future journal posts, videos, events and more all geared toward healthy living information and finding your best life!