Several years ago a friend said that to me, and I remember his words sending me into a spiral of self doubt. Why is everyone else so much more positive than me? Little did I realise, at the time, that my ‘friend’ was just as negative as me but he was really good at making himself feel better by finding fault in other people!
So many of us beat ourselves up for having negative thoughts. Despite what some people suggest we are all negative because the human brain is naturally pessimistic. Our mind’s default inclination is to be problem or pain focused.
But why would my mind do that I hear you ask? Well, our negativity bias developed as a survival mechanism a long time ago. As cavemen we had to constantly look out for danger, watching for all things that could kill us. If we didn’t mentally prepare for the worst case we could easily die! Our brain has been conditioned to look for the downside in every situation and, unfortunately, this negativity bias is still an active component of the human mind today.
Most of us would like to be solution-oriented and optimistic, but our brain is designed to help us look for potential dangers and fixate on worst-case scenarios. For many this phenomena is at it’s worst around 2am when we lie awake thinking about the mistakes we made earlier or the problems we might face tomorrow, and we can’t get back to sleep.
Positivity is not a natural activity – we have to train our mind to be positive. Those positive emotions like joy, gratitude, appreciation or happiness don’t occur naturally that often, especially during tough times. However these positive emotions can be very useful in helping us face our hardships.
So what’s the solution, how do we get ourselves to be more positive?
We can’t just wait for positivity to come and find us we have to actively create it and there are a couple of simple and easy things you can do that will help.
1. Identify something you can appreciate or be grateful for.
If you look carefully, you will always find something or someone that can make you feel happy or grateful right now. Even if it’s a lovely view or the taste of your coffee, there is always something positive nearby.
It’s really important that you identify this and then speak it out loud or write it down so as to mentally commit to this positivity.
- “What a beautiful view.”
- “This coffee is wonderful”.
- “I’m so grateful to have that person in my life.”
- “I really appreciate this wonderful place I live.”
Forcing positive thoughts like these is a simple way to balance negative emotions and when we speak them or write them down, they are reinforced in our minds. Thinking positive thoughts is immediately soothing for the nervous system, plus it activates the brain to look for more positive things to focus on.
A definition of meditation that beginners can find useful:
Meditation is paying attention to your senses, without analysis or judgement.
Try this now. Ask yourself; what can I see, hear or feel right now? It is best to focus on just one sense at a time. When you receive the information from that sense don’t analyse it, justify it or discuss it in your mind, just be aware of it, notice it, observe it.
If we spend as little as 5 or 10 seconds observing the information we receive, we’ll automatically trigger our bodys natural relaxation response and we also quieten our negative mind. Many people describe this relaxation as ‘peace’ or ‘calm’. The quietening of the mind feels good too and it provides a gap in our mental activity which allows us to recover from stress.
Now let’s be clear, 10 seconds of meditation isn’t going to change your world and it won’t turn off those negative thoughts completely. However, with regular practice, it will teach you how to quieten your mind when you need to reduce the negative thoughts or when you need to go back to sleep.
These two activities are easy, simple and very powerful and they will really help calm your mind and reduce the negativity which is surrounding us all at the moment. Please let me know how you get on practicing them.