Every so often life seems to beat us down. It feels like challenges are coming at a more rapid pace, disappointments appear more overwhelming, and it feels like we are encountering one setback after another.
And that is a perfect time to simply stop…take a deep breath…and get a reality check on life. Are things that bad, or is negativity running away with us?
The Brain and Negative Thinking
Science tells us that the brain tends to hold onto negative thoughts much longer than the positive ones. This truth shouldn’t come as a surprise when we consider that this evolutionary reality has been passed down from one generation to the next. The caveman really did have to worry about finding food, shelter, and being safe from the threats around him; but in today’s world, seldom do we face the same dangers as our ancestors.
While our brains seem to prefer continuing to place the focus on negative stimuli, there is nothing to say we must let this persist. In fact, recent advances in the field of positive psychology have given much time and research to exactly what practices can shift us to a more positive mindset.
Steps Toward More Positive Thinking
Noticing and expressing gratitude for the good in our lives is one way to increase the focus on positivity. For one, we simply become more aware of the goodness in our lives. What others do for us; the good things that simply seem to come our way; the good that people do for those around us. Secondly, we tend to want to “pay forward” the kindnesses that others show us. No only are we more aware of those pro-social actions, but we feel good when we do kind things for others. Whether a person is known to us or is a complete stranger, it makes no difference; the result is the same.
Another way to change from a negative to a more positive mindset is by practicing mindfulness. Paying attention to experiences in the present time, noticing our feelings and thoughts, and accepting, without making a judgment, how those feelings and thoughts are impacting us is a powerful experience. Practiced with consistency, mindfulness can eventually have a profound affect on the person who has taken the time to establish this habit of self-care.
When you realize how certain thoughts and feelings affect you, you are able to reduce the instances when patterns of negative thinking overwhelm you. You lessen the times that you tell yourself that you are not enough. You stop blaming others; it just no longer seems to be worth your time. Rather than considering every setback a catastrophe, you begin to focus on what really matters in your life, the things that are really most important in your world.
No one is doomed to an existence of negativity. We all have a choice in the matter; it’s up to us to decide that it’s time for a change to move in a more positive direction.