I’m going to start this post with a quote from the author Chuck Palahniuk.
“People don’t want their lives fixed.
Nobody wants their problems solved.
Their stories resolved.
Their messes cleaned up.
Because what would they have left?
Just the big scary unknown.”
That’s right. You know those people who constantly cry about their lives, tell stories of their misfortune and whine about the weather, even if the sun’s shining? You probably know at least some people who are like that; always stuck in negative thinking. Maybe you are like that yourself!
Nah, that’s absurd. You better stop reading now, cause I’m just attacking you, right? No, but honestly, you may either consciously or unconsciously be stuck in a negative thought loop. What do I mean by this? Let me explain.
Are you aware of your negativity?
If you are consciously negative, you’ll probably have no problem relating to, or understanding, what I’ll be writing about in this article. You are aware of the fact that you are often thinking negative thoughts. The problem, though, is that you have no idea of how to change it; you want to be positive, but you see no way of how to. You may feel motivated to get out of the negativity loop, but you lack direction. You don’t know how you should do it. If you can relate to this, keep reading.
The other type of negativity is the unconscious negativity. If you are stuck in unconscious negativity you may look upon this article with great skepticism, thinking that it is just something written by a pretentious woo-woo pseudo-spiritual person. In contrast to someone who is consciously negative, you as an unconsciously negative person do not see any reason why you would start thinking positively. Heck, the word “positivity” maybe does not even register in your mind, except for as a silly concept talked about by “dopey gurus”, or something like that. People who are unconsciously negative are the ones whose attention is the hardest to get focused on self-development. If you don’t understand what I’m saying here, maybe this will at least get to you: You see no reason to change yourself, and you don’t see yourself as “stuck in unconscious negativity”.
Was all this confusing? You may not yet be sure what I mean by it, as well are you maybe don’t know if you are “consciously” or “unconsciously” negative. There is a great chance that you have become more conscious (aware) of your negativity, just by reading this far and hopefully acknowledging it. Even though most people neglect it, negativity exists to some extent in all of us.
Maybe you still neglect that there could exist negativity in you. Let me ask you a question: are you often dissatisfied with things in your life? If your honest answer is no, then you can stop reading and go do what you love. But if you do that, and you notice that you actually are dissatisfied with something, come back here and continue reading.
It is possible that you can identify with dissatisfaction, but you don’t view yourself as a negative person. If that is the case, you must learn than dissatisfaction stems directly from negativity. You are unconsciously thinking negative thoughts. Don’t blame others for what you are not satisfied with in your life. It is all in your mind. Take a step out of your head and become aware of your negativity. Hopefully you won’t ask “why?” now. You already know why; to become free from the dissatisfaction. Personally, I very seldom ask myself “why?”. I say “why not?”.
All right, let’s assume that you are now somewhat aware of your negative thoughts. You know that there is negativity, and you want to change for the better, but you do not know how to do it. You need a direction, and this is what I will do my best to give you.
Most of your “problems” only exist in your mind
In this section I will paraphrase author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, famous mainly for his books The Power of Now and A New Earth - two great books, which everyone should read. Look them up on his website.
One thing you have to realise is that a specific thing or situation can not have a special emotion or label assigned to it. A thing or a situation is as it is.
Let’s imagine you say “this is a horrible day”. How can it be? A day can not be horrible. It may be rainy and cold, but that is not horrible in itself; it simply is as it is. What is horrible is your reaction to the rain and cold temperature, and the emotions you unconsciously create when you think about the rain. Think of it like this; some people actually enjoy rainy and cold weather. By accepting this, the implication that a day can be in a certain way suddenly becomes invalid, and it becomes possible to realize that “a horrible day” really just is a neutral day which you choose to label as “horrible”.
If you didn’t get that, read it again, and reflect on it for a while. Understanding what I just said is critical if you want to change your thinking from negative to positive. Here is a little exercise:
If you ever catch yourself thinking a negative thought about something, or labeling something as negative, try to become aware of it. Take notice of the fact that you are reacting negatively to the situation. If you manage to do this, you can then use your active willpower to choose how you will interpret the situation. You can choose to think positively or even not think at all, not labeling the situation in any way.
I know what you are thinking, and the questions you are having. Am I saying that you should be content with an undesirable situation? The answer to that question is both yes and no. You can have a desire to change the situation. That does not mean that you have to mentally label that situation as negative. There is a saying, which in some ways summarizes what I’m trying to convey: “see not the problem, but rather the solution”. It is all about shifting your focus from the negative to the positive.
This is hard to do for most people. They are so accustomed to thinking negative thoughts that it feels like a part of their identity. To suddenly start thinking positive thoughts would feel like going into “the big scary unknown”, which most people don’t have the courage to do.
The 10 Day Positivity Challenge
Here I present to you the 10 Day Positivity Challenge. I did not initially come up with this concept (Anthony Robbins did in his book Awaken the Giant Within), but I tried it out, and it definitely helps in becoming more conscious about your mood. The rules of the challenge look like this:
Rule 1: For then next 10 days, do not dwell on any unresourceful thought or feeling.
Rule 2: When you catch yourself thinking or feeling something negative, immediately reframe that thought to a positive one to direct yourself to a better state.
Rule 3: For the next 10 days, focus solely on solutions. As soon as a possible challenge pops up, immediately focus on what the solution could be.
Rule 4: If you indulge or dwell in any negative or nonresourceful feeling for any measurable length of time, start all over with the challenge.
It is easy to forget you are doing the challenge, so I suggest writing a smiley on your hand or changing your background image on your phone to regularly remind you of it. Even if you are intimidated by the challenge, just try it. It can only help you.
Stop surrounding yourself with negativity
The headline pretty much says it; avoid negativity. Some people say that you should stop spending time with your friends if they influence you with negativity. I say this is not always necessary. If you become aware of the negativity around you, you can actively choose not to take part of it. Instead, you can actually influence people to become a part of your positive world. Lets say a friend says: “Ugh, I hate people who wear hats. It looks so stupid.” You take notice of the negativity, and instead of responding with “I agree. I hate those people too.”, you could ask “why?”, and maybe discuss the reasons for why some people wear hats, and have a discussion about that instead, for example. Or if you try to focus on the positive things about “people with hats”, you friend will maybe realize that a person is not defined by the clothes he or she wears.
You don’t have to give up on your old friends, but you should try to make friends with new and positive people. There is a saying that goes “you are the average of the people you hang out with the most”. It is actually true to some extent, so take that into consideration.
Take a step back
Get out of your head. Take a step back, and try to look at things objectively. Life is not as serious as it may seem sometimes. It sounds like a cliché feel-good-line, but it is true. Most of your negative thinking is totally unnecessary, and won’t help you in practice, even though it may seem so. They will only stop you from evolving into a bigger person.