How To Find The Positive In The Negative and Turn Negatives Into Positives
What Are The Positives About Being Negative?
So, you're happily ambling along, feeling rather pleased or quite joyful actually and then something puts a spanner in the works; a frown from a stranger, a snide remark from a boss, a misunderstanding from a loved one, a threat to your financial circumstances or health, your other half being in a grump, PMT... all of these can fuel spirals of negativity and are obstacles to flourishing.
However, negativity isn't all bad. You can turn negatives into positive. For example:
A threat to your circumstances might force you to do something differently, to think outside the box and take positive action to make a beneficial change.
If a criticism forces you to focus on your weaknesses, you can do something about them, like learning to perfect a skill or trying harder at something. If you're ignoring those weaknesses, you can't. Nobody's perfect. There's always room for improvement and growth is a positive step.
Adversity helps you to appreciate the good stuff when it happens. You need the rain to fall to see the rainbow.
Sometimes having a proper rant or a good old sob makes you feel better afterwards. Better out than in and all that.
That said, constant negativity and low expectations can be disabling, leading to depression, enhancing anxiety and fuelling self-doubt. And that's no good to anyone. (If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, please talk to someone about it).
If you're not a constantly shiny happy person and have bouts of negative thinking and the occasional grumpy day, you needn't beat yourself up about it though. The first step towards positivity is to gain a better understanding of how our minds work; to be mindful that our brains are wired to home in on the negative stuff, emphasise anxiety and overestimate threats. It is also wired to tune out good news and focus on the one rubbish thing out of a multitude of good or neutral things. It's human nature. Knowing this can be empowering as it helps us to step back and gain perspective.
Neuropsychologists have long held that humans have a 'negativity bias' and, as such, tend to spiral towards the worst case scenario. As Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain says, "the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones". That's not our fault. It's Mother Nature's for wiring us that way. Consequently pessimism is more prevalent than optimism. Realising this is half the battle. The other half is actively practising positivity to combat that negativity bias.
That negativity bias used to serve us well, enabling our cave-based ancestors to survive genuine threats. Nowadays, fixating on the negative is less helfpul. But we can rewire our brain circuitry to remain calm in the face of adversity and stay positive in the face of negativity.
How? By checking the facts about the threats to gain a better perspective and dilute our worries and by creating a toolbox of postivity switches to bolster our resilience and positivity reserves.
Five Ways To Turn Negatives Into Positives
- Fact check. Consider the validity of your concerns. Is your brain naturally exaggerating as it is wired to do? Are you ignoring solutions? Stop the what-ifs and assuming the worst. Step back and gain perspective. How might you reassure a friend who had the same concerns? Remind yourself what the facts are or how you've previously dealt with worse situations and have the resources to cope.
- Count your blessings. Regularly write down and speak about all that you are grateful for. No matter how bad things get, there's always something to be thankful for. Focusing on what you have rather than what you lack is one of the best ways to bring you out of a negative spiral and boost your well-being.
- Seek the silver linings. List bad events over which you had little control . How could you reframe elements of those experiences as an opportunity or silver lining? What did that hardship teach you? This exercise will help you to see that silver linings exist and enable you to find them in every cloud.
- Forgive, accept and learn. Negativity often involves beating yourself up about something. We all do this; whether it's giving ourselves a hard time about how we responded or didn't respond to a text message, wishing we hadn't or had said this or that; not being a good enough friend, mum, wife, daughter, employee, and so on. We can learn from this process of having a word with ourselves. Ask yourself, what can I learn from that past event that I'm b*llocking myself about? What mistake did I make which can be avoided next time? What do I have a tendency to do and how might I change that? DoI need to change that? We can then forgive ourselves, accept what's done is done and learn how to react/behave next time.
- Be nice to yourself. When you have a bad day, cheer yourself up with a treat. Book a mini-break or spa day, roll down a grassy hill, fly a kite, do something engaging.
There are plenty more quick positivity levers and negativity squishers in The 90 Day Flourish Challenge to help make positivity your natural response. LIFE LABS READERS can claim £20 DISCOUNT with the coupon code LIFELABS.
You can follow Cheryl on Twitter @theflourishers
Cheryl Rickman is author of The Flourish Handbook