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Stepping away from negativity

There’s nothing worse for our mindset and mood than other people’s negativity. Pessimism is an unproductive attitude. Its continued focus on complaints and perceived slights creates animosity in relationships and kills fun. Negativity, in other people or yourself, can also be a huge time drain, as you’re addressing the same gripes over and over, but nothing ever gets resolved. Here are a few thoughts about stepping away from negativity in your life.

Negativity in others:
You can’t always choose your company, but there are many ways to limit your exposure to bitter and dissatisfied coworkers and acquaintances.  Negative people love being in their drama and need you as their audience. They are convinced that the world is out to get them and that everything is deeply unfair. As a listener, your role is to validate this world view. Those conversations are frequently quite one-sided, since a negative person is rarely interested in finding constructive solutions or in the world around them. These lopsided arrangements can turn friendships with negative people into an exhausting waste of time. The first helpful step to creating some distance is spending more time with people who would rather have a two-way conversation and are at least interested enough to ask you a few questions. Change your routines to discover new activities that are enjoyable and uplifting. Don’t be afraid to cut repetitive conversations short: “Yeah, you told me about that. I’m sorry to hear the situation hasn’t changed for you.” Then stop being the helpful and kind listener, as this is not a situation you can fix.

Negativity in yourself:
If you’ve experienced a few setbacks in life or don’t love your job, it’s quite easy to slip into the role of the complainer yourself. In that case, negativity goes with you wherever you are. You begin to expect the worst possible outcome of every situation and may even convince yourself that trying hard isn’t worth it: “What’s the point, I won’t do well at it anyway.” Before long, your critical attitude and dissatisfaction will not only drive others away, but you will also, almost willfully, overlook any happy and positive aspects of your life, which further adds to the misery.  As a first step, pay attention to your language and interactions with others. Are you actually taking other perspectives into account or resorting to “Yeah, but” as a go-to reaction? Are you truly in a situation where “there’s nothing you can do?” If you find yourself spending more time alone, while other people are “having all the fun,” take a hard, honest look at your recent interactions and make the necessary changes if the negative vibe has been coming from you.

Negativity as an unhealthy time sink:
“Negativity is like second-hand smoke. It not only permeates the room but has dire health consequences for those unfortunate enough to be in its path,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell wrote a few years ago. What will you want to remember when you look back five or ten years from now? Most likely you will want to think about the the trips you took, the events you attended, or the people you spent time with. Although no one can control what happens in life, we can always choose to maintain an open, positive attitude. Shawn Achor has argued that 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted by the way our brain perceives the world. Negativity closes your mind so much that even enjoyable occasions begin to seem like a bothersome waste of time.

Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean having a beatific life or being exuberantly happy all the time. As Carlos Davidovich has explained, being positive means “to focus on solutions rather than problems.”  The best way to break out of a negative outlook is to dare yourself – to try new things, find uplifting experiences, and to live your life to the fullest.

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