A positive attitude has many benefits for health and well-being. And research has shown that people with positive attitudes can be more successful.
“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” — Zig Ziglar
Having a positive attitude is easy when times are good, but what about when the going gets hard?
There are times when negative thoughts just seem to take over your life. You know the importance of keeping a positive outlook. You can understand that people who think positive thoughts are healthier, accomplish more, and lead happier lives. But somehow you can still get caught up in the spiral of negativity.
The human brain is interesting. It makes excuses. It convinces you that because you feel bad about something, then that particular thing must be to blame. If you feel angry at someone your brain convinces you that your anger is caused by the other person. You can tell yourself that your anger is a choice, but your deep-down gut feeling still remains, that the object of your anger is responsible for your anger.
So how can you break free of negative thinking? How can you sort out your emotions and get back on track?
Here are six tips to help you pull yourself out of negative emotions.
Grumpiness or grouchiness is one type of negative emotion, generally short-lived and clearly a deviation from a normal happy attitude. You may feel that people or situations are against you, but if you examine your feelings closely, you will realize that on many other days the same situation doesn’t affect you negatively.
When you find yourself in a grouchy mood, look for physical causes of discomfort. There is a lot of truth to the old adage that everything looks brighter after a good night’s sleep. Many people are cranky when they are tired or otherwise uncomfortable. Try to hold off acting on your anger while you tend to your physical needs.
When your body and mind are comfortable, you will have an easier time maintaining a positive attitude.
One of my favorite responses to get over feelings of stress is to take positive action. For example, I may be stressed out by a pile of bills waiting to be paid.
In this case, my best course of action is to take one bill, preferably one of the most important and stressful ones, and take action on it. It might simply be a matter of writing a check, or paying online. Or it might require other action, like making a phone call to clear up an issue.
Once I have handled one item, I invariably start to feel better, and find the other items easier to deal with.
When your negative thoughts stem from unhappiness about a current situation, it is important to examine your language. If you speak negatively about something, you are training your brain to think about it in a negative light.
For example, a kid calling her little brother a “pest” focuses her thoughts on the negative behavior of her little brother. If she merely drops that word from her vocabulary she will be well on her way to a more constructive relationship with her sibling.
Changing your language from “I don’t like” to “I like” can make a huge difference. Your brain wants to be consistent, so if you say you like something, you will actually begin to like it.
Sometimes current responsibilities have you weighed down, creating stress and negative moods. You may secretly wish that the responsibility would just go away.
Realize that sooner or later, one way or another, that responsibility will be gone. So it is important to enjoy what you can about the responsibility before it is gone forever.
Ask yourself what will you miss when the responsibility is gone. Look for and savor the good parts.
What if you have been betrayed by someone, a close friend or relation? The bad feelings can eat you up inside. If you think about it, you will realize that beyond the simple betrayal, you are allowing your life to be ruined by the negative emotions triggered by that person. That is not what you want. You don’t want to give them that much power.
But how to drop the twisting negative thoughts that get you down, and move beyond it? You can use perspective, by recognizing that that person is only one person in the world. They are not you. You are full and complete without them.
When you feel yourself consumed by anger and bitterness, get out and do something physical. Expose yourself to the light of day. Look at how big the world is, how much possibility lies in your future. Gradually, as you look at the potential in your life, you will feel the anger dissipate. Allow it to go. There is too much in store for you to let one terrible person destroy your life.
When you lose somebody the physical pain of the loss can be devastating. It takes time to get beyond the pain and to start to be able to enjoy life again.
While you wait for the pain to pass, try to observe yourself in a detached manner. Recognize that the pain will fade, and that you should let it fade. You won’t honor the person you lost if you hold on to the grief. You can always remember them, and miss them, but allow the pain to fade.
An attitude of gratitude works wonders for helping people to live a happier life. But when you are full of bottled up anger it is hard to feel grateful. It can feel as if you need to act on the anger, to strike back at the perceived cause of your distress. For some reason we feel an intense need to hold on to our anger, as if somehow it protects us.
To get past the negative emotions, focus on one small thing that you think is good. Put aside the anger or other negative emotions for the moment. Let yourself just file them away for a minute, while you think about something else.
Focus first on one good thing. Your lips might still be clamped with unhappiness, that is okay. Try to focus briefly on each of three good things. You may feel the tightness in your chest ease a little. That is good.
Practice this activity each day. Don’t expect your negative emotions to be released immediately. It takes a little while to train your body to be happy instead of unhappy. But one day you may find that the negative feelings are suddenly gone.
Use the tips above, and seek professional help if necessary, to let go of your negative emotions.
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” — Walt Whitman
It is amazing how unhappiness and anger can just dissolve, when you work on it properly. The black cloud can be lifted, and you can find yourself happy and smiling under sunny skies.
If you find that you are not able to cope with your negative feelings, please seek professional help.