Fighting Off The Negative “Noise” In Our Head
By: Diane Lang
All humans have the ability to be on the negative side of things and to focus on the bad experiences. This ability can play a role in our happiness levels, add to our stress and damage our health. Some people are naturally more negative than others depending on our genetics and our childhood experiences. The unfortunate part is women are more likely to focus on the negativity then men and as a woman, I hated hearing this.
The good news is everyone can be happier than they are today and we can relearn new ways of thinking which means we can be more positive.
Here are a few steps to stop the negative noise and become more positive.
1. Stop trying to avoid the negative thoughts. Stop trying to not feel the negative emotions. Don’t tell yourself: I need to stop thinking of this or avoid it completely. Instead let’s feel the negativity, be aware of your negativity and acknowledge it. When you notice the negative thought(s) stay there for a few seconds notice the thought and make a conscious effort to feel the emotions that come with it and how that affects you physically. The first step to stopping it is to be aware, accept and own it. The key here is to be non-judgmental about your negativity noise. So feel it, accept it and embrace it but don’t judge it. When we judge, we get more upset and stressed. We blame ourselves and start the whole vicious cycle of blame and criticizing ourselves.
2. After you accept and own your negativity, let’s challenge it! (My favorite part). When a negative experience happens and we hear the negative noise saying: I can’t do anything, I’m such a failure, everything bad happens to me, etc. Challenge it.
Ask yourself: Does one failure or mistake make everything bad? Does it make my whole life bad? Why would one setback mean I’m a complete failure? Is this thought useful to me? These questions can challenge the negative voice to make you realize one bad experience doesn’t mean everything is bad. We tend to over-exaggerate.
3. Take action – after you accept, embrace and challenge then take action. Look at the negative situation that just happened and ask what can I do that will make me feel better? That will lead me in the right direction? Give me hope?
Example: If your relationship just ended or you’re going through a divorce and feeling unloved then spend time with people who make you feel loved. Call a friend, make plans to spend time with loved ones.
If your feeling like you’re not doing well in school or work – write down a list of all your accomplishments. Remind yourself of the good. I have my clients at the end of each day end it with saying to themselves 2-3 things that they did well today.
4. Meditate and/or deep breathe to calm yourself and your anxiety. When we ruminate over negative experiences we become frustrated, angry and stressed out. To help reduce the anxiety we can take a 5 minute mindfulness break. We can do some deep breathing where we get comfortable in our chairs, close our eyes and deep breathe. We inhale through our nose, hold for a few counts and exhale through our mouths. We do this deep breathing for a few minutes and you will feel the anxiety slowly leave your body.
Remember: When you are having these ruminating negative thoughts ask yourself: Are these thoughts helping me? Or are these thoughts tearing me down? What are the consequences of holding on to the negative thoughts? Is it worth it? Will this experience matter to me in a few days? Weeks? What changes can I make to not repeat this experience again? What lesson can I learn? Is this an old thought/belief that is no longer serving me? When we refuse to allow the thought to have power, we have gotten off autopilot and we are now back in the driver’s seat.