How to Maintain Positivity and Deal With Negativity: Tips and Ideas
The Joy of Positivity
Positivity is a wonderful state of mind. By energizing us, it often enables us to be successful. This in turn brings more positivity into our life in a beautiful chain reaction. Positivity colours life with joy, or at the very least weakens unhappiness.
Unfortunately, negativity visits many of us at times and and may stay for longer than we would like. Some unlucky people experience negative feelings, attitudes, or thoughts for a long time. Continual negativity is like a poison, contaminating everything we do and think about and sucking the joy out of life.
Like most people I’ve suffered from negativity at times, but I’ve found some methods that help pull me out of the despondent frame of mind which can potentially spiral downwards into depression. In this article I'll describe steps that have helped me deal with negativity and may be useful for other people.
Please not that I am not a mental health professional and that this article is not aimed at people suffering from clinical or major depression. Anyone who is experiencing frequent, continual, or severe depression should seek counseling or professional medical help.
Negativity in Life
There are two varieties of negativity and many factors that can contribute to each type. There is the negativity that originates within our own minds when we experience feelings or situations such as despondency, envy, resentment, failure to achieve a goal, or lack of confidence. There is also the negativity that reaches us from other people when they are repeatedly critical of us or when they are depressed themselves, which can then trigger negative feelings in us.
Negativity reminds me of a virus and the way it behaves. When we’re around a negative person, if we’re not careful we can “catch” their criticism or their depression, which can then grow within us. If a person frequently criticizes us or offers no support for our efforts, they can make us feel as though our personality or abilities are lacking in some respect. If they are depressed and unhappy, their misery can be contagious.
Of course we need to help others if we can and if it's appropriate, but I want to discuss some possible ways to deal with the negativity within ourselves—the type that we can best control. We may not be able to improve a negative situation or alter the behavior of a negative person—although we should certainly try—but we can change our reaction to the situation or person.
The Importance of Taking Action
To me there seem to be two aspects to dealing with negativity and finding positivity. One is taking appropriate action in an attempt to dispel the negativity. The other is finding support mechanisms to help us enjoy other aspects of our lives while we are experiencing the negative situation.
One of my mother’s favourite sayings was “God helps those who help themselves”. This saying can be valid whether or not we believe in a literal God, since the word “God” can symbolize—or be replaced with—goodness, love, peace, strength, power, or whatever other quality resonates in our minds. The point is that we need to take action to solve the problems that are causing our negativity instead of waiting, hoping that they will disappear due to outside forces.
I find that it's important to deal with negative situations dispassionately. If a potential solution to a problem is tried and isn’t successful, instead of reacting with despair I need to calmly acknowledge the fact that my strategy didn’t work and formulate a new plan. Subduing emotions is easier said than done, but I’ve found that staying relaxed really is helpful to my state of mind. Becoming tense and agitated makes the situation much worse for me. Stayed as relaxed as possible gives me the feeling that I am in control of the situation.
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Some Strategies for Developing or Maintaining Positivity
Writing and walking are my favourite techniques for coming up with potential solutions to problems. Reading about possible ways to solve a problem and talking to someone that I trust completely are also helpful.
Writing to Solve Problems
I find that writing a problem down and then brainstorming possible solutions and writing them down as well is very helpful. Seeing the problem and possible solutions in written form clarifies the situation for me and often stimulates me to think of new solutions.
Walking to Find Solutions
Walking boosts my creativity, calms me down when I'm angry, and improves my mood. Both brisk and energetic walks and slow and meditative ones are useful for me. Sometimes I think about a problem as I walk. I'm often able to come up with a possible solution before I arrive home. On other occasions I use walking to temporarily forget about a problem and provide a respite.
Reading and Talking to Others for Inspiration
Doing some research to discover how other people have dealt with similar problems of negativity or getting advice from others often helps me to think of a successful solution to a problem. Talking to good friends, relatives, and trusted advisers can be a great way to get new ideas or to obtain feedback about my own ideas.
Getting Stuck in the Negatives and How to Get Unstuck
It's important that I don't dwell on a problem to the exclusion of other aspects of my life. I’m not suggesting that a negative situation should be ignored, but thinking about the situation in almost every waking hour increases the mental turmoil and is exhausting. Some sort of balance is necessary. Supportive activities like hobbies are very important. Helping people in need can also help to redirect attention. While helping others should be done for their benefit and not ours, a happy side effect is often a boost in positivity for the helper.
Some negative situations take time to resolve. Activities that calm us and help us to temporarily escape from the turmoil of negativity are very important for our emotional health.
My most effective support mechanisms to calm my mind involve exercising, visiting nature, and interacting with my dog. You may find that different activities give your mind a break from thinking about negative situations.
A brisk walk always improves my mood. Looking at the scenery and people as I travel and taking photographs stops me from thinking about my problems. I love to observe plants and animals on my walks and enter their world for a while.
My pets provide wonderful support when I most need it. Stroking, brushing, and playing with my dog is very comforting. He is always loving and non-judgemental. My cats and birds are great company, too.
Some More Support Strategies
Looking at the sky, especially on a clear night, can be comforting for me. It makes me think about the vast and awesome universe that is our home. It also makes me wonder about the true nature of reality and our role in this reality. Looking at the visible universe and thinking about what lies beyond often makes me think about what is really important in life and helps me to put my problem into perspective.
Reading and music can also take my mind away from stressful situations. Socializing with others or helping them in some way can have the same effect. Friends and relatives help me solve my problems and also forget about them.
Some people may find their religious or spiritual beliefs to be very supportive. These beliefs can be an anchor in troublesome times. Mindful walking (walking while using meditation techniques), some styles of yoga, or simply sitting and entering a meditative state may be useful, too. They may help a person discover a centre of calmness deep within their mind that cannot be touched by external chaos.
It may seem like the best way to deal with negativity is to never experience it, but for most of us this is unrealistic. It may not be possible to avoid a negative person if they are a colleague at work or a close family member, for example. In an extremely destructive relationship it might be necessary to leave a job or no longer see a relative or friend, but this is a last resort. In addition, we are constantly being bombarded with news, events, and observations that may provoke negative feelings. It's often hard to prevent these feelings from entering our minds, although it does get easier with practice. What is important is not that we escape negativity but that we know how to deal with potentially negative situations when they arise.
© 2012 Linda Crampton