Negativity does more than just put you in a bad mood. It can also have a profound effect on your stress level and your overall health.
Negative thinking can take several forms, often at the same time. Maybe you blow up the negative aspects of any given situation, while downplaying or ignoring the positive ones. Or, you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong, or automatically wait for disaster to strike at any moment.
The problem is, the pattern of negative or positive self-talk is often set when you’re a child. Negativity can be a hard habit to break — especially if it’s been a lifelong habit.
But fear not: there are ways you can change the way you talk to yourself, and you can even learn to talk yourself down in a stressful situation.
Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened
That quote from Dr. Seuss may sound a bit trite, but it illustrates beautifully the difference between negative and positive thinking. And you’d do well to try to do more of the latter: Positivity delivers a host of benefits, including:
- Lower stress levels
- Better ability to cope with stressful situations
- Lower incidence of depression
- Longer life
- Better resistance to illness
While experts don’t know the exact reasons why positive people seem healthier, it’s likely a combination of factors such as an overall healthier lifestyle. Positive people may, on average, get more exercise, eat better, and avoid harmful habits like smoking.
(^^ The ultimate positive thinker?)
See, There’s Two Sides to Every Schwartz
See that? Bonus Spaceballs reference. That’s how I roll, yo.
Want to reduce your negative self-talk and learn how to be a little more positive? Here’s a short action plan that will help:
- Keep a journal. Try to listen to your self-talk for a day or two, making a note of every time you say something negative about yourself or about the day’s events. You might be surprised just how ingrained negativity can be.
- Wear a rubber band. This works well in addition to, or instead of, the journal. Wear a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you realize you’re thinking something negative, snap the rubber band. The mild sting will help snap (ha!) you out of the thought pattern, and the action will make you more aware of how you’re thinking.
- Stop and redirect. When you catch yourself being negative, stop yourself. A good way to be more mindful of your negative self-talk is to actually say or think the word, “Stop!” Derail the negative thought and ask yourself if the situation is really as bad as you think it is. Sometimes, just exploring the possibilities can show you that you’re making a fuss about nothing.
- Change your words. Now that you’ve identified negative thoughts, and stopped them in their tracks, try replacing them with something positive — or at least neutral. For example, instead of “This isn’t going to work!” try saying “What can I try that will improve the chances that this will work?”
Are you a negative thinker or a positive thinker? Did you take one look at the action plan above and think, “That will never work!” Hm…
Tell me about it in the comments!