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The Harmful Power of Negativity

Updated on February 27, 2018
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a Baby-Boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

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The Darkness Spreads

I’ve been feeling it for the past couple years and maybe you have too. It is an overwhelming oppressive negative national (maybe even global) attitude. It seeps in through social media, regular TV media news, and even in music. Everything seems to be just a little darker. Like the proverbial frog in a boiling pot of water, the temperature is rising and we don’t seem to notice. The dark cloud has spread to where I don’t remember the last time I saw the light.

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Pessimist

Being an artist, I am naturally an overly sensitive person, prone to bouts of depression and negativity. Growing up we just called it pessimistic. The glass never seemed half full for me and I was sure if anything bad could happen, it would. But beyond that I tend to sense the pain and suffering of others and empathetically reach out to comfort my fellows wherever I find them. I guess this makes me a pessimistic encourager. It sounds incongruous but it always seemed to work for me. I don’t have to believe the best for me to believe the best for other people.

“People tend to be generous when sharing their nonsense, fear, and ignorance. And while they seem quite eager to feed you their negativity, please remember that sometimes the diet we need to be on is a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel you into positive action.”

— Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Anger and Negativity

However, this present day gathering storm seems to be more than just my pessimism in overdrive. I can’t help but notice the anger and hate coming through the screen from my formerly positive upbeat friends and family. What is happening? How can we see blue skies again? Will the sun ever shine? I don’t mean to say everyone is negative but when more than 50% of what I see and hear makes me want to give up and crawl back into bed, I know something has to change.

Complaining Rewires Your Brain

I recently read an article about the way complaining and negativity rewires your brain. It actually feeds on the enjoyable feeling we get from complaining and makes new pathways that cause us to lean toward more of the same. Tell me you don’t feel a little charge telling someone about something bad that happened to you, or describing how you think the end of the world is near. The same way too much bacon for breakfast or smoking give a good feeling in the moment but are potentially harmful for you over time, so complaining and negativity is harmful.

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Shrinking The Hippocampus

Like creating well-used ruts in a road, the efficient brain, will continue to travel that same negative pathway once you start making it a habit. When that happens it is harder and harder to stop. Your brain becomes rewired to make future complaining and negativity more likely. However all this negativity is damaging to other parts of the brain, shrinking the hippocampus, the part that governs intelligent thought. You may think this explains a lot of the foolish or thoughtless hate-filled statements that get repeated. Their hippocampus must be minuscule by now. Unfortunately, this is one of the parts that once damaged can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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Alzheimer's

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a family member go the way of Alzheimer’s and that is not a pretty way to go. I remember my mother once said she would rather die of cancer than loose her brain to Alzheimer’s. Although I don’t want to think about either scenario for her, I certainly understand what she means. I think it would be scary to loose all your memories and not even know who your family is like the lady in The Notebook.

What do you do when depression and negativity hits?

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Health Issues

If that’s not all bad enough, the health danger is even worse. Constant complaining apparently releases the stress hormone cortisol. This fight or flight hormone, can increase your blood pressure and blood sugar, making you susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and possible stroke. That’s all I need. I already have high cholesterol and obesity problems as well as high blood pressure.

With all this information, one of my goals for the New Year was to develop an attitude of gratitude. I have to say that is much harder than it sounds. The negativity is all around me, in my face, on my computer, on the faces of people I meet on the street even. The hopelessness increases and my hippocampus is suffering.

“When someone tells me "no," it doesn't mean I can't do it, it simply means I can't do it with them.”

— Karen E. Quinones Miller

Stop The Complaining

My goal is to shift from thinking about all that is wrong to all that is right in my little sphere. I can’t change the world but I can change my attitude toward it and my attitude toward my part in it. One of the suggested solutions in the article was to only complain if you have come up with a solution to help solve the problem instead of just complaining or focusing on the negative with no hope. Actually I can see that a lot of people would continue justifying their complaining by repeating what they think is a solution or using a solution basis that is highly controversial and politically charged. I’m personally staying away from that. I have my opinions but voicing them would simply increase the negativity swamp instead of decreasing it. No my first and foremost goal is to decrease my own habit of focusing on the negative and increase an attitude of gratitude. To do this I created a page in my journal where I write one good thing that happened or that I noticed each day. Some days it is a real struggle but a good exercise.

Heart chart.
Heart chart.

My Mother's Mantra

My mother has lived all her 86 years (well, as long as I’ve known her) following the mantra of “if you can’t find anything good to say, say nothing at all.” She lives by that so completely that when she gets quiet my siblings and I get worried that we’ve done something horrific and she hasn’t called us on it yet. That motto is a good life lesson that I for one, haven’t learned to live by yet. I admire my mom for being able to keep her tongue so well when I know I’ve given her many opportunities to rain down criticisms on me.

My Mother
My Mother

Cut Out Negative Influences

Next positive step for me has been to distance myself from the deeply negative influences, including family members. It seems like negativity, like misery, loves company. I just don’t have time or brain space for that pity party anymore. I have had to cut off, block or just “mute” certain people from my social media timelines. It seems harsh especially for family, but I can’t take the complaining and misery and I shouldn’t have to. For now I just have the take care of my own mental health. It has already made a difference. I feel better, lighter, freer, and I’ve lost weight. I wonder if it’s all related.

Source

“7 things negative people will do to you. They will...

1. Demean your value;

2. Destroy your image

3. Drive you crazily!

4. Dispose your dreams!

5. Discredit your imagination!

6. Deframe your abilities and

7. Disbelieve your opinions!

Stay away from negative people!”

— Israelmore Ayivor

Good News Vs Bad News

This may seem drastic, but I have cut off the new media. I’ve always wondered why we never seem to have any GOOD NEWS. The constant barrage of bad news gets me down. Now don’t get me wrong. I still want to know what is going on in the world, but I don’t need to be spoon fed hours of it to get the jest of what’s going on. Instead of TV news on any channel, I subscribe to the local newspaper online. I get the headlines of local and national news in my email and I can choose from the headline to read more or to pass it by. The headlines have the jest of the story anyway and from that I’m informed enough for my peace of mind.

Senior Dancers
Senior Dancers

Comedy Vs. Tragedy

The last change I have made is to be sure to read and watch healthy upbeat books and shows. I’m done with superheroes who need a hero to cheer them up, or gothic tale that are so dark and scary that I can’t sleep at night. I remember a line from an old Bette Davis movie All This And Heaven Too. Charles Boyer said he went to see a comedy at the theater because “it may be a sign of old age, but there is enough sadness in the world. I don’t believe we should pay for our tears.” Well said. I have no need of horror or tragedy stories when I have enough to scare and depress me in real life. I have taken to reading mostly YA books. Young adult stories, especially those written for Middle School ages, have no sex, no violence, no drugs. They do however, have lots of action, drama, emotion, empathy, and excitement. I find them superior to almost any adult books.

The Frog King
The Frog King | Source

Any More Ideas?

What is your method of keeping positive in a world gone dark? Do you have your own strategy or have you given it any thought at all? I’d love to hear about your thoughts.

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 months ago from Fresno CA

      Maleeha Mansoor,

      Thank you so much. I do try to express feeling and sensitivity but I'm not always sure I succeed. Blessings to you and your family.

      Denise

    • Maleeha Mansoor profile image

      Maleeha Mansoor 

      4 months ago from Pakistan

      Best Article, good writer always express feeling very beautifully

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      5 months ago from Fresno CA

      Hi Bede and Happy Easter,

      I figured my Mom wasn't the only one to use that old saying. Thanks for the uplifting words from Philippians. I need to concentrate more on what is lovely and pure and of good report (as do we all) instead of all the bad reports. Your reminder is timely and welcome. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Bede le Venerable profile image

      Bede 

      5 months ago from Minnesota

      Hi Denise, and happy Easter! I’m back from hibernation, as it were, and have some thoughts for my fellow artist on this article…First, I understand fully what you mean; I’ve sometimes wondered if the world is becoming more cruel, etc. The main thing is not to dwell on it-cultivating positive thoughts does so much good for the soul. Like St. Paul says, “whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, put your mind on these things…” So, my Easter exhortation to you is this: get a good plateful of beauty! Artists may have a harder time in life because of both sensitivity and greater critical faculties, BUT, the good news is that we can also, in my opinion, perceive beauty in a deeper way, whether it be in nature, music, art, literature, etc. When I feel down, I go into nature or look at art books…

      It’s funny, my Mom also said that phrase, and she learned it from her mom. She is 86 years old also.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Larry W Fish,

      My friend, I certainly understand what you are saying. I'm feeling it too. I try not to hate anyone and that hasn't been easy. That's why I have to keep my distance or suffer from the downward spiral. Keep the faith. It has to get better sooner or later. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Dianna Mendez,

      I'm with you, dear. I don't know what I'd do without my faith and even that hasn't kept me from feeling the negative drain on my attention lately. So I have to keep my distance from things that bring me down. I appreciate you and your comment.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 

      6 months ago from Raleigh

      Thanks for the article, Denise. I have always been an optimist. However, I will admit that ever since Trump was elected president my feelings have been on a downward spiral. That man has done more damage to this country than I have seen in my nearly 70 years on this earth. His connections with Russia, his being called out by many women of this sexual actions, and he is shown that it is ok by the republican party. I have never hated an president in my life, I do not like to hate, but in this case I have made an exception. I know it has put me in a dark place.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 months ago

      Listening to the good in life takes practice but does benefit overall health and the mind as you learn to focus on what brings peace. I've made it a practice to breathe in only what makes life better and share what will help others to live peaceably. My faith seals all this within me.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon,

      Excellent ideas. Crafts and arts have always been my go-to method of getting out of the dumps. I'm glad you mentioned it. And a blessed Happy Mothering day to you too.

      Blessings.

      Denise

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      6 months ago from United Kingdom

      I checked the 'ride it out' option. My negativity is part and parcel of having bipolar disorder. I know it will pass eventually. To help be rid of it sooner, I've also stopped watching the news. I catch up with events once or twice a month just to see what's going on, but I don't dwell on it. I write and do crafting. It gives me pleasure and makes me feel accomplished. Both tried and true ways of battling the negativity.

      It's Mothering Sunday today in the UK, so I wish you a lovely Mother's Day.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Denise W Anderson,

      Well said. It is up to us. Just complaining about the situation today doesn't help. Limit that stuff and go on with your positive self. Great comment. Thanks.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have found that gratitude is an anecdote for both negativity and too much positive. There are times that I have so many people giving me compliments that I have to check myself by humbly kneeling, in my mind, and giving thanks to God to keep it from going to my head! When I experience the negative, gratitude gives me a reality check that the world is not all bad. I want to find the good, build on it, and spread it. Like you, I am selective in what I listen to and read, and that keeps a lid on the barrage of negative that comes over the air waves and Internet. It is up to us to decide what we want to see and hear in the world we live in!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Demas W Jasper,

      Thanks for sharing your hints and helps. I think I would rather turn back the clock and watch old "Father Knows Best" episodes that we have on DVD than to watch current programing or current events. I know. It sounds like I have my head in the sand, but I have my sanity and that's somehow more important than news. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lori Colbo,

      Thanks for the advice. My faith is strong and I read my Bible every day. I read through the whole book once every year and have been doing that for several decades now. It is helpful to keep a higher perfect plan in mind... but even so I sometimes find the chapters on the many failings in Judges where people forgot Who and What was important get me down as well. I also pray and I think it helps for the most part. My Mom is the best. She has great faith and is a blessing for me. I do wish I could see her more often but count my blessings at being able to call her and talk to her. Many people don't have their moms anymore. I appreciate your kind words and suggestions.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      6 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      I am enjoying Echo Dot (mine was new for $24.99 at Smith Food & Drug.) I especially enjoy having Alexa play Teddy Wilson's musical selections as background. I am also enjoying DishOne and the choices it gives me for positive, uplifting, educational daily input, which doesn't mean I skip Frontline's take on Iran versus Saudi Arabia and their struggle for the Middle East. Journalism and the Dark Media still seem to treasure the slogan that says "If it bleeds, it leads!" If the bad state of affairs they portray, gets me down, I sound off with a does of sound advice given to my representative and senators. The rest of the time I sleep and spend hours helping those less fortunate than I am. (It helps me count my own blessings.) My approach may not be the answer for everyone, but it works for me.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      6 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      This is great. I love how you shared about the physiological changes to the brain when complaining. I am appalled at the hate and negativity too. We all are, unless we're a participant. These are practical tools and I think good ones, some I have already employed in my life. I would add for those who are people of strong faith, or perhaps waning faith due to the oppressive world we live in to feed your soul with God's word and prayer. It has helped me greatly to pray for people of power, whether politicians or hollywood ranters who shall be nameless. I tell God I have no control over so many things and people. I pray for them to find peace with God. I also pray for where I can make a difference. But I can complain and I'm working on that. God bless. Your mama looks like a sweetie.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Yoleen Lucas,

      That seems like it would work wonders. I heard someone say you should write what you liked most about your day each night in a journal, but I just don't write at night and haven't the desire to change my bedtime habits. However reciting the best parts of the day would do it! Thanks for the suggestion.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      6 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      In the book, "The Magic", there's an exercise where every morning you hold your magic rock and tell yourself what you will do to make today totally awesome. At night, you hold your magic rock again and go over the best parts of the day.

      I think that will do much to dispel the blues.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Dora Weithers,

      Thank you. I like that quote too. It's a good reminder. Thanks for commenting and following me.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing from your experience. In the process, you give very helpful, practical counsel. I like the Steve Maraboli quote.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      McKenna Meyers,

      Thank you. I believe you are right. I didn't mention it but I've cut out all meat and eggs too. I still like my cheese so I'm not totally vegan yet but leaning that way. It's true that current events have caused us to change what is important and to seek what is better and more fulfilling. Maybe that is the silver lining after all. See you found the good in a bad situation. I love it. Thanks for commenting. Keep up the good work.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Readmikenow,

      What an awesome fatherly advice. To try to find the fun or happy place each day is a great goal. I remember when I used to teach painting to the senior citizens in the community, I used to ask questions like "how are you today." One man always said, "another day above ground... it's a good day!" Now that's finding the good in any day. We should all live like that I think. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Mary Wickison,

      Good advice. I know what you mean about not being able to cut just everyone with a negative influence from my life, but gratefully, I live far enough away from most of those that I don't have to hear it but once or twice a year. Still, the turkeys sometimes do get me down. I'm working on it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 

      6 months ago from Bend, OR

      Denise, I'm on a similar journey and so are so many of us across the nation. I cut out social media. I cut out watching the news. I cut out (or greatly reduced) negative folks, and I've even cut out meat and sugar! I've added meditation, coloring, exercising, playing board games, listening to music, and an attitude of gratitude. It's pretty amazing, actually, that current events have forced us all to change our lives dramatically--the silver lining! I wish you the best in all the big changes in your life. You're definitely heading in the right direction. Take care!

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 

      6 months ago

      This is good. I really enjoyed reading it. There are times I feel bad for myself. I become negative. Than I think of my father who lived to be 90 years old. An orphan at a young age, struggled to learn English and still kept a smile on his face. He was a soldier in World War II and Korea, had 3 Purple hearts. Enough tragedy to fill volumes. He laughed every day and when I was young I yelled at him asking how he could be so happy. He shrugged his shoulders and said "I could've been dead so many times, yet here I am. Many people I know did not make it. Today is a gift. I have food, a place to sleep and shelter. I'm not facing any enemy. It is time to have fun." He said it in Ukrainian so I'm not sure the translation is perfect, but this is pretty much what he meant. So, to him, every day was a day to try and find a way to have fun. I guess when you see the things he saw all other problems are pretty small. So, I try to find something fun every day, I'm not always successful.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      6 months ago from Brazil

      I agree with your mother's advice, I wish more people used her philosophy. I don't listen to the news, as you say, it is too depressing. I think it also gives us a sense of powerlessness.

      Some times it's not so easy to get negative people out of your life, so I have had to mentally build a wall around myself.

      I don't think people realize how deeply their remarks cut.

      I like the idea of reading YA books. Just last night I stood in front of our bookcase and it was full of murder, war, and detective stories. Maybe it is time to read my cookbooks. LOL

      I find watching comedy routines on YouTube, helps lift me.

      Hang in there and as we used to say, "Don't let the turkeys get you down".

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Me too, Bill. Life IS too short for that nonsense. I need to keep smiling for my own health and well-being. Thanks for the encouragement, my friend.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      6 months ago from Fresno CA

      Mary,

      That's one of my remedies too. Stay close to the positive and happy people and keep distance from those who just want to bring you down. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I have had to stop engaging on social media because of the negativity there. Life is too short and I want to spend it smiling.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for sharing. I hope healing comes soon and we'll be out of this pervading negativity. We all have the capacity to get out of it and no matter how small the desire is, just hold on to it and keep on. Being around happy and peaceful people helps me.

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