Learning how to shift out of negativity is a mind set, and can be changed with the right skills. Whether you tend to see the glass half full or whether you want to limit your exposure to individuals who drain your glass, read on.
First of all, let’s make it clear what we are talking about when we tackle negativity. Most of us must admit that we experience a bad day every now and then. Or, perhaps we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed! So, let’s give ourselves permission to have those whiny days! And, let’s also clarify that we are not talking about expressing our opinions or participating in passionate discussions in a civil and respectful manner. And lastly, we need to acknowledge that many individuals suffer from physical, psychological, and emotional disorders or are navigating through situational stressors/crises which not only affects their outlook on life but also make them susceptible for a myriad of mood disorders, especially depression.
A pervasive pattern of pessimistic thinking characterized by conversation which is critical, corrective, or complaining in nature. The pessimism is typically rooted in a restrictive mindset of “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”.
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Yikes! Not an attractive aura to possess or to be around. And perhaps more importantly, not a healthy one! Why is that? Contrary to what many of us believe to be true, how we feel does not determine how we think! This is important.
How we think determines how we feel.
Thus, when we dwell on the negative aspects of our life or when we continually embrace our surroundings with an attitude of pessimism, we not only zap our positive energy and well-being, but we also set ourselves up to feel a spectrum of toxic emotions. These emotions can range from mild disappointment, anger, resentment to major depression, rage, and extreme bitterness. As these negative emotions take over our being, we then begin to react and to respond to our environment in unhealthy ways.
Our negativity is most reflective of us through our attitudes and most obvious to others in our conversations. In our pessimistic persona, we respond to people and things with criticism and judgment. We find fault in how others are being or in what they are doing, and we tend to want to correct them or show them the right way. And perhaps, one of the most depleting characteristics – for both the negative person and for the listener – is the incessant complaining of how things should be.
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Although negativity certainly doesn’t discriminate from gender or age group, I notice that as I get older there is a tendency for seniors to adopt this zapper! Because of a stream of health issues and of a continuum of losses in their lives, elders often have a hard time focusing on more positive aspects of their lives. However, it is possible to shift out of negativity with practice.
Just a few nights ago, my husband invited a lovely 83 year old man -Giovanni – whom he had met in a tea shop to have dinner with us. Although Giovanni has many senior friends, his close family lives very far away and he does get lonely. Overall his health is quite good except for an increasingly serious decline in his memory. After my husband picked him up, Giovanni entered the house gifting us with a bottle of wine and a small package of macaroons. And, he brought over his favorite CD of Michael Bolton. As we ate our way through the appetizers, dinner, and desert of vanilla ice-cream and macaroons while Michael Bolton serenaded us in the background, Giovanni told us stories of his life, his work, and his family. He asked us questions too, sometimes more than once. And as he apologetically acknowledged his cognitive decline, he never once complained. In fact he said, “I’ve done well. I’ve had a good life. I have no regrets.” While my husband helped our gentle guest downstairs to take him home, Giovanni’s words stayed with me – “I’ve done well …I’ve had a good life… I have no regrets.”
Tips for Staying Recharged
Tip One: An attitude of gratitude.
Remember what we learned – how we think determines how we feel! So, whenever you start to dwell on the negative, stop that thinking and focus on something – anything – that you are grateful for! Say it over and over in your mind, meditate on it, journal about it – be thankful! Every time you return to your pessimism, replace it with gratitude! We cannot be resentful and grateful at the same time. Right now, choose how you want to think, feel and be!
Tip Two: It’s all relative.
It’s so easy to complain about minutia. We all do it – or at least most of do! We want things this way or that way, and we want it now! All we have to do is turn on our TV’s, computers, or radios and…what a reality check!! Most of us are so fortunate – we have nothing to whine about!! And yes, there are horrible injustices all around us, but let’s do something positive and proactive about them. Let’s be part of the solution – not add to the problem with our negativity, depleting ourselves and draining others in the process!
Tip Three: Readjust our restrictive mindset. Release the regret.
We started out by explaining in our definition that negativity is rooted in a restrictive mindset such as “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”. First, readjust your restrictive mindset. Replace your thinking with phrases such as “Although it’s not the way I would want it to be, this works for someone else” or “Although I don’t agree, he/she has a right to his/her opinion”. Secondly, it is my experience that individuals who have navigated from a negative position have alienated or at the very least created a distance between themselves and their friends, loved ones, etc. It’s never too late to take care of business – identify and own any hurt you may have caused; acknowledge your regret and release it. Let it go. Apologize to those who need it and deserve it. Most importantly, re-energize your being by implementing an attitude of gratitude and keeping things relative! Remember who and what is important! Let the rest be.
In closing, I so look forward to having Giovanni over for dinner again soon. I know it will be a pleasurable evening filled with wise words and worthy subjects and Bolton songs. This young 83’s presence not only completes our dinner table, but his aura complements our souls.
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”