I’ve always been amazed by the way my mind works.
I never understood how one minute I can think to myself: “things are going great!” and the next: “oh.. wait a minute, no, they’re not, everything sucks“.
I wish it was as easy as “changing your thoughts”.
Sometimes, when you already find yourself in a difficult place, the smallest of thoughts can lead to stress and obsessive worrying.
1. WHERE ARE MY FEELINGS COMING FROM?
This is the first thing you should be asking yourself; where are my feelings of negativity coming from?
Am I going through something?
Are there any changes happening in my life?
Am I staying healthy?
Am I taking care of myself?
It’s important to understand why you’re feeling the way you do. Sometimes, it does seem like these waves of negative emotions come out of nowhere, but there’s almost always a reason. It’s not always something that’s obvious; you might have to dig a little to find out what it really is.
More often than not, that uninvited negativity comes from a place of fear. Ask yourself: am I bringing my past fears into the present and future?
Fear can manifest itself in many different ways.
2. TAKE A SHOWER
The thing about being in a negative, bad, or difficult place, is that it affects pretty much every single aspect of your life. You don’t feel like doing anything, your productivity levels drop, you sometimes take your frustration out on others- and then feel guilty about it.
Here’s something that always makes me feel better when I’m in a slump; I take a long shower. As warm water hits your muscles and helps them relax, lowers your tension; it can feel like you’re literally washing the stress away; the sound of running water is soothing, and, for a lot of us, taking a shower is the only time we get to have a bit of privacy during the day. So, if I need to sob because I feel frustrated, I do that in the shower. I get out, put on clean clothes, eat something healthy and drink a ton of water or peppermint tea.
In reality, all I want to do when feeling down is sleep or sit on the couch and eat ice cream. I literally force myself to do the complete opposite, because the alternative will leave me feeling even worse. Making green smoothies or washing my hair is the last thing I want to do when I’m in a negative mindset. BUT, I do it anyway. It’s kind of a “fake til you make it” thing.
3. AVOID PEOPLE WHO DUMP
People who constantly nag, people who refuse your help but continue to complain, people who only talk about their problems over and over again and show no interest in your life- those are mostly people who love dumping their negativity on others.
We all have ups and downs, we all have problems and we all know how good it feels to vent to a friend sometimes. BUT when that venting becomes toxic, it’s time to stop listening. When everything becomes about the other person, when venting is self-centered and the relationship turns into a one-sided friendship where you feel almost as if you’re being held captive, it’s time to let go.
Is it always easy to do?
I was just having this conversation with one of my friends, who is very close to someone who constantly complains about their relationship. She’s been through their countless breakups and get-back-togethers for over 10 years and it sometimes feels like she’s in that relationship, too. One day, she wakes up to a phone call or a text message saying how sick her friend is of their partner, the next she sees them profess their love for each other on social media. Every single fight is “the last straw” and every other week she hears from her friend that the relationship is over. My friend would get phone calls in the middle of the night, just so she can hear her friend vent about their partner. There’s no denying that there was some serious emotional dumping going on.
But what do you do? End a decade-long friendship? It’s not always that easy.
So, my friend sat down with her friend, told them she loves them and cares about them, but that the whole relationship negativity dumping needs to stop. While the *dumping* didn’t stop entirely, things have improved a lot and the two actually enjoy hanging out together a lot more.
Not everyone is as understanding though, and it’s even worse when the person who dumps their problems on you… isn’t even your friend (a co-worker, for instance). It can become tiring and emotionally draining which is the last thing you need when you’re going through a difficult time.
4. DON’T SIT AROUND DOING NOTHING
Let’s face it; sitting around and doing nothing, is pretty much all you probably want to do when you feel down. It’s also one of the worst things you can do. Why?
Because that’s when all your attention dives right into that negative place you found yourself in, and you dwell. You think to yourself “why do I have to feel like this? this sucks! I hate this! why do I have such bad luck?” and you start to ruminate. Your feelings of fear and anxiety come out, and you end up feeling worse.
The first thing I notice when I have those days of a negative mindset taking over is that my productivity drops. So, I’m feeling upset because of those negative emotions, and then I feel even more upset because I’m not getting anything done. I’m sure you know the feeling; you “try” to do something (like check emails, browse the web) but in reality, you aren’t really getting anything done. That gets you nowhere, and it won’t make you feel better. Instead, try to really get something done. It doesn’t have to be anything involved; maybe get in one load of laundry, organize your desk, clean out the fridge.
If you really can’t bring yourself to do anything productive, try meditating.
5. WATCH THE WAY YOU TALK TO YOURSELF
One of the patterns that often comes up when you find yourself in a negative mindset, is constant self-criticism. You start beating yourself up over and over. Guard your speech and talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend, who isn’t feeling their best. Remember that staying mindful of your self-talk, is especially important during those difficult moments.
To be mindful of your self-talk means observing your thoughts and feelings, without judgment. It means to step “out” of your thinking process and direct your attention to the present moment. That’s where you acknowledge that those self-criticizing thoughts are just that: thoughts.
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
Even after you learn to recognize those negative self-talk patterns, it might be difficult to change them. This is where mindfulness comes to play. When you notice and acknowledge those habitual patterns- be mindful of them. Simply observe them. Don’t try to forcefully change them. When you think “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this, I give up“, recognize that it’s just a thought: “I am having a thought that I am not good enough“, “I am having a thought that I can’t do this, I am having a thought that I want to give up.”
It’s just a thought, not your truth.
6. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
This is something we often refuse to do. It’s very easy to say: “I can’t be happy because I had a messed up childhood“, “I can’t be successful because I don’t deserve it“, “why should I put all this effort into this if no one will notice anyway“, “I won’t help, if no one appreciates my help“. “I can’t move on from this“, “I can’t handle this“, “I’m too old“, “I can’t do this, it’s too late for me“.
It’s easier to say “I can’t”. Finding excuses is easy. It’s easy to fall a victim to your negative feelings and emotions. Sometimes, it actually feels good to feel bad for yourself for a little while.
Taking some responsibility- that, on the other hand, doesn’t always come easy. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your current situation is, or where you’re planning on getting. Don’t let where you are today stop you from going where you want to be. Put your excuses aside, let go of those limiting thoughts and go after what you want, even if you have to make very small steps.
Here’s something important to remember:
Those negative thoughts have their purpose, too.
They help you survive, for one.
If we didn’t have negative thoughts, we’d have no idea how good it feels to have good, happy thoughts. When you feel yourself getting upset over something, it’s important to not try to stop those negative thoughts from flowing. Recognize them for what they are, and come up with a system or a routine that will help you deal with them.
I know from my own experience that over-thinking and worrying can lead to feelings of anxiety. I’m not trying to tell you that life is a fairy tale where only good things happen, as long as you have a smile on your face. I’m saying that in most of those “negative” situations, you have a choice, and the way you handle and approach them, is all up to you.
Remember, that it’s okay to not be okay, all the time.