Did you know that there is a disease that spreads rapidly from one person to the next, carrying with it anger, frustration, high blood pressure and depression? It’s been linked to a lowered quality of life, and even suicide, and if you have this disease, you often spread it from one person to the next?
This disease doesn’t have a medical cure, and you can’t go to the doctor to get a magic pill to make it go away. The good news is, this disease can be easily cured by a simple change in mindset. The disease is negativity.
Thinking negative thoughts, being a pessimist, actively engaging in gossip and bashing and overall poor attitude lead to all of the symptoms described above, and then some, and as we all know, negativity is extremely contagious. How many times have you been doing your own thing at work or at school and someone comes in, complaining about something (even if it’s a trivial issue) and suddenly you feel a little worse than you did before? You start to grumble and gripe, passing it on to the next person, and suddenly, it’s like a storm of bad juju is circling around your group of coworkers or classmates. Stress and negativity effect your skin, too, leading to premature aging from frown lines and forehead wrinkles and stress breakouts.
Your brain responds to positivity and negativity in very different ways. Let’s use a popular example for the fight-or-flight response. If you were walking along a wooded path, and a cougar suddenly walks across your path, you would experience the negative emotion of fear. Your mind blocks out all the other thoughts you were having before and is now focused only on the cougar, that feeling of fear, and what you can do to get away from the menacing animal in front of you. This might be an extreme example, but the same reaction in your brain occurs in the day to day world when you encounter some situation that triggers a negative reaction, thought, or feeling; your brain focuses only on that thought or feeling, blocking out all the other options around you. Your brain literally shuts down the ability to see or feel other emotions. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to brush off that feeling you get after a fight with a loved one, or feelings of guilt after saying something you can’t take back.
On the flip side, when you experience emotions that illicit the feelings of joy, happiness, contentment or love, your mind opens up to limitless possibilities. (You can read about a ground-breaking study done on the subject here).
So how can you combat negativity around you? First, you can remove yourself from it. If you know someone that is a Negative Nellie, try your best to avoid them. Sometimes that is easier said than done, especially in confined spaces like at your office or in school, but sometimes it’s just easier to turn and walk the other way when you see them coming.
If avoidance isn’t an option, why not question the negative belief that they are sharing? Many times people won’t speak up against negative talk, even if they don’t agree with it, for the sake of avoiding an argument. It only takes one other person to feed the fire of that negative person, and soon you’re caught in the swell yourself. If you counter their negativity, at the very least they will perhaps stop complaining around you!
If you do find yourself stuck in your own negative talk or beliefs, take a moment to go to your happy place. When you’re about to complain about a nasty client on the phone, or the nail that got stuck in your tire, STOP, take a breath and remind yourself that you can’t control others and you can’t control everything in your life, and close your eyes. Envision your favorite vacation spot, laying on the cool grass under a big oak tree with the sun hinting through the leaves, or cuddling with a fuzzy puppy. If you’re in need of some maximum relaxation time, book some time out to get pampered with a positive friend. Get a pedicure or facial and just get away from the day-to-day stress and leave all your worries out side.