Do This One Thing Every Day to Defeat Negativity
"The sky is falling… the sky is falling!" exclaimed Chicken Little when an acorn fell from a tree and hit her on the head.
Sound familiar? Do you assume the worst when your boss calls you in for a meeting, or when your partner says, "We need to talk?"
Negativity is a habit. It's a half-glass-empty thinking style that results from a subconscious focus on the doom and gloom. Like most habits, negativity can be a hard one to break. But guess what, doomsters? The good news is that counter-productive habits — including negative thought patterns — can be broken. (See also: The Surprisingly Easy Way to Change Your Habits)
How can you break the cycle of negativity? Start here.
Record Your Negative Thoughts
Recognizing a bad habit is key to breaking it. Perhaps negativity has become so second-nature to you that you don't even recognize it anymore. It's time to take note — literally and figuratively. By tracking the negative thoughts that creep into your mind or downbeat comments that slip out of your mouth, you are one step closer to conquering negativity.
Track in a way that's convenient for you — whether that means jotting them down on paper or using an electronic tool like Evernote that can be accessed on your phone or computer. Whatever method you choose, be consistent and be diligent so you get an accurate "report."
Okay, I can already hear the moaning and complaining… "one more thing to do???" But tracking works. According to MyFitnessPal, studies prove that calorie counting and food tracking is the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Weight Watchers' Points Plus program operates on the same tracking concept.
Let's face it: Like excess pounds, your negativity might be weighing you down. Time to shed those negative thoughts!
Noting your thoughts is an effective habit-busting strategy because it requires action. Rather than letting the negativity float in and out of your head, you're stopping, noticing it, and taking the time to jot it down. It also encourages self-reflection.
What Thoughts Make the List?
If you are used to negative thoughts, it might take a little extra work to identify them. One strategy is to enlist the help of your partner, close friend, or family member. Ask them to shoot you a subtle look or signal to make sure you're catching them all.
Another is to identify key words with negative connotations. Here are just a few:
- "Never" (followed by something positive)
- "Always" (followed by something negative)
- "Can't" (usually preceded by "I")
- "Fat," "stupid," "lame," "incompetent" — or any other self-depreciating adjectives
Your Negative Thoughts List Can Reveal Patterns
At the end of the day, take a look at your negativity list. Just how half-empty is your glass? Knowing how many negative thoughts invade your mind can shed some light on the amount of work that lies ahead. Hey, maybe it's not as bad as you thought! On the other hand, if negativity pervades your thoughts, it's time to roll up your mental sleeves and get to work.
Not only can reviewing your list of negative thoughts help you realize the degree of negativity you're carrying around, but it can also allow you to identify patterns. For example, if you notice that 8 of the 10 negative thoughts on your list pertain to your job, perhaps it's time to start polishing up your resume.
Tally the results at the end of the week. See if you notice any other patterns that you can relate to other factors. Did the negativity appear more prevalent on days that you skipped exercise or were particularly tired? Good news! Maybe you need a new fitness routine instead of a new job.
Use Your List to Turn the Negativity Train Around
Once you feel like you have a good handle on your personal negativity tendencies, it's time to take action. For some, it may take a week; for others, perhaps longer. It doesn't matter. This is not a race — it's a quest for improving the quality of your thoughts, and thereby, your overall wellness. However long it takes to get there is however long it takes to get there. Period. No judgment!
Where to begin? Try a technique, called "thought-flipping." Imagine every negative thought that pops into your mind is a pancake on the griddle and give it a good flip.
Take that negative thought — and flip it into a positive one. I am not encouraging manic, "I-will-conquer-the-world-in-a-single-day-" type notions, but somewhere between negativity and overzealousness lies a healthy dose of balance, a more realistic way of looking at the events that shape your world. Instead of "I'll never get that job; why would they want to hire me?" flip it: "You know, I could be the one that gets this job — why not me?"
Ready… set… let the glass become half-full!
How have you conquered or managed negativity? Please share in comments!