Negativity is something we all have to deal with on occasion. We must remember though, that feelings are temporary, and we must not allow them to turn into negative thoughts, lest we want it to define us.
A healthy support system, accepting a thought as it is and validating it if necessary, as well as practicing mindfulness are just some of the ways we can combat negativity from having a looming presence in our lives.
This article will give you actionable tips on how to deal with negativity!
- How negativity can affect your life
- Studies related to negativity
- 5 Actionable tips on how to deal with negativity
- Closing words
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
How negativity can affect your life
Allowing negativity to overpower us will obviously have a great impact on our happiness.
- Negativity makes us unable to experience happiness to the fullest.
- Negativity makes us think we do not deserve to be happy.
- Negativity makes us suspicious.
I know all of this because that is how negativity prevents me from having positive experiences that would normally make me over the moon.
For example, I was getting really stressed out at my previous job that it seeped through my personal life. I was irritable, mostly sarcastic, and resentful. I was at a point in my life when I had everything I wished for: a loving partner (at the time), breakthroughs with my patients as a volunteer counselor, and healthy loved ones.
I was supposed to exercise gratitude, but while I was at the highest point of my life so far, there was always this toxic voice in my head telling me I didn’t deserve any of it.
Yes, negativity can have a serious impact on your happiness in life!
Besides anecdotal evidence, multiple studies have shown how effective a positive social support system can be. According to this study, personality traits and social support have direct influences on the way we think, which, in turn, influences how we interact and perceive interactions with others.
Lack of a positive support system has been positively linked to depression. Humans are social creatures. And even though being confident and self-reliant is important, we do need affirmation from the people whose opinions matter to us the most.
Knowing one’s personality traits is also key to finding the perfect balance between providing the right social support, according to every individual. These serve as initial guides on how we respond to interactions.
For example, a mainly neurotic individual tends to respond differently than a mainly extroverted individual. Neurotics tend to be more anxious and ruminate more than others, and will thus need a support system that can provide them affirmations that will ground their thoughts into reality.
In other words: try to be aroud people who have a positive influence on you! Happiness spreads, but so does negativity!
5 Actionable tips on how to deal with negativity
How our social support system behaves is beyond our control. We can only choose who to allow in that circle.
Instead, we will focus on what we can control: our thoughts.
We encounter 3 forms of negativity in our daily lives: Negative thoughts, negative people, and the negative state of the world.
But these 5 tips can be applied to handle all of it:
- Greet (“Hello, negativity”)
- Ask (“Is it within my control?”)
- Validate (“Is there evidence for this?”)
- Verify (“Write it down!”))
- Practice Mindfulness (“Om”)
1. Greet negativity with a (gritted) smile
It sounds counterproductive, but in order to foster a more positive state of mind, we need to accept negativity sometimes.
After all, how can you block something that is inevitable? The more you avoid it, the more forceful it will try to poison your mind. You never hear of a hero running away from their enemy, right?
Allow negativity to enter your mind. Note that you don’t have to accept it as a fact. You just allow it to enter your realm of consciousness. Depending on how much it affects you, you do not have to do anything about it.
Think of it this way: you’re walking in the woods, and some leaves happen to pass you by as they are being blown through the wind. You don’t run away from it or go through great lengths to avoid it; you allow it to pass by, merely observing it.
Once you accept negativity, it dilutes its effects on you.
2. Ask yourself if the negativity is worth dealing with
The way we process thoughts comes from past experiences. Negativity will naturally be processed as something unpleasant. But if we don’t stop to ask ourselves if it is actually negative, then it will continue to affect us negatively.
Is something that seems negative to you really a negative thing?
After accepting it, we need to ask ourselves if it is in fact, true or not. Most of the time, it is conjecture. If not, it is beyond our control.
For example, that nasty look on our co-worker’s face upon seeing us enter the room? Who is to say that your colleague just got our of a crappy meeting and happened to look towards your direction?
On the other hand, if you know for a fact that they do not like you, and you know you did not intentionally do anything to cause them pain, then there really is nothing you can do about it.
We cannot really control the way people react to us. The best we can do is to continue striving to be good people.
3. Validate the context of the negativity
Some people become satisfied at tip #2. Others, like me, still tend to go above and beyond and have to process some of it, especially when it is something that concerns us personally.
For example, in a conflict, someone tells you how terrible you are, and how much of a waste of space you are. That you are [insert accusatory adjectives here].
But is there any evidence to what that person was saying about you?
Are you really a waste of space? No matter who you are, or what you did or did not do, there is a big chance that you are not.
You need to think about the other person’s state of mind while they are saying those hurtful words. Likely, they are saying it out of anger. How many times have we said hurtful words we did not really mean because we were blinded by rage? Is there evidence that you are what the person says you are?
4. Verify evidence of the negativity
Writing down how we feel, or even just talking about it, can be helpful because once we allow our senses to have access to them, through reading it or hearing it, it allows our prefrontal cortex, the rational part of our brain, to process it.
This is part of the reason why journaling is such a great tool to increase one’s self-awareness.
This is done hand in hand with #3 because you could not do #3 properly without making use of our senses. Once we allow our rational brain to take over, we are able to make more logical, sound conclusions.
This is when we become in control of our reactions to negativity!
5. Practice mindfulness
This one is a preventive measure that allows us to deal with negativity in a healthy way. Allowing ourselves to have a positive mindset will significantly impact how we deal with negativity.
Now that we know how powerful the mind is in dictating how we feel and think, we can harness this power to our benefit. The best thing about it is, anyone can do it!
Mindfulness, as I am sure you are familiar with, comes in different forms, such as meditation, but it is basically a form of self-reflection that makes us accept and know who we are. By accepting and knowing who we are and what we are capable of, our mindset shifts to something more positive.
A positive mindset gives us the motivation to continue improving ourselves. When we improve ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, we are less inclined to let negativity define us. Instead, we accept it, and we either refute it, or we use it as an opportunity to improve ourselves.
By being aware of our personality traits, having the right social support system, and helping ourselves process our thoughts, we are able to build stronger a defense against the effects of negativity on us. Shifting to a healthier mindset attracts more positive relationships, which yield to more positive interactions, adding people that are good for our mental health in our support system.
And who wouldn’t want that in their lives?
Did I miss any tips for dealing with negativity? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Nicole AlbertoMental health researcher
Mental health nurse researcher, budding forensic psychologist/alienist, history junkie, and mindfulness enthusiast! Infinite jester in constant pursuit of clarity, being, and the best burger in town.