Negativity is a dark state of mind we all experience from time to time. Characterised by a pessimistic attitude, negativity has the potential to engulf our moods and take over our everyday lives if we don’t act to counter it.
Feeling negative about life’s challenges and things that get you down is normal. Maybe someone made a nasty comment about your appearance when you were feeling vulnerable. You didn’t get that much longed-for promotion at work. You’ve experienced a relationship breakdown, and you’re having trouble moving on. You feel trapped in your current life circumstances and can’t see a way out.
Dwelling on these negative thoughts for too long can affect your mood, and the lives of those around you, too. So how can you move on and let it all go? Here are some evidence-based strategies to help you let go of your negative thoughts when they’re getting you down.
Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. Michael J. Fox
The act of acceptance – that is, accepting what will be, will be – can help you to cope with difficult situations.
Instead of trying to change, or keep thinking about your problem, accept that there are some things you can’t change. When you’ve accepted this, the next step is to try and make the best of what you have – which will empower you to move on.
Research has also linked acceptance to decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms, which can occur as a result of negative thoughts.
The short-term effects of acceptance in very stressful situations were reviewed by a team of researchers writing in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy. The researchers found those who were ‘high acceptors’ experienced lower physical and ‘panic’ symptoms than those who were ‘low acceptors’.
Resilience is your ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. It means you can deal with negative thoughts and challenges effectively – in contrast to others who might be unable to move on.
You can develop coping strategies when dealing with negativity by:
- Adjusting to your challenges – taking small steps to change your thinking, modify your routines and alter your behaviours will help you to adapt and cope
- Learning from your challenges – what steps can you put in place to avoid these from happening again? What will you do differently next time?
- Staying healthy – eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and spending time with loved ones will help you to stay emotionally and physically healthy
- Expressing your emotions in different ways – explore hobbies like writing, drawing, playing music, exercising as ways to let out some of the negativity
Foster positive emotions and optimism
Positive emotions help to counter stress, according to an American research team writing for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The researchers suggested people who used positive coping strategies and infused ordinary events with positive meaning – essentially, those who always looked on the bright side – were able to feel positive emotions for longer.
You can infuse positivity into your everyday life – and challenge negative thoughts that crop up – by:
- Being grateful – appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t have
- Finding a positive way to express a negative emotion – look at the bright side instead of the reason why you’re feeling negative; for example instead of feeling like you failed at a job interview, be proud that you got that far
- Surrounding yourself with the people who matter most to you – spend time with people who will bring out the best in you
- Practising positive affirmations – every morning, recite some positive statements to help you start the day off in the best way
Changing the way you think to become less negative takes time, and it’s not something you can achieve instantly. Be kind to yourself, and allow the shift to happen gradually.
Dealing with negativity involves a conscious effort on your part, and it isn’t easy.
Over time, if you instigate these strategies, you’ll be helping yourself to feel less impacted by negative thoughts and you’ll find it easier to move on.