“Anger only makes a bad situation worse.”
I heard this quote on a podcast recently (The Happiness Lab w/ Dr. Laurie Santos) and thought it was so powerful. For this article I’m going to rephrase it and say, “Negativity only makes a bad situation worse.”
If you can really start to recognize this and appreciate that reacting negatively (especially overreacting) only hurts you or add more bad energy to a situation — you are on your way to making a very impactful change. I think this is the first thought to really grasp when going about adopting a more positive mindset.
During quarantine I’ve been asked how I stay “so” positive and while I’m not even close to an expert on this topic, I thought I’d share a process that has worked pretty well for me:
1 ) Awareness / Observation
Don’t consciously start making changes right away. First, just notice what negative thoughts seem to pop into your head. Observe how you respond to “setbacks” when they happen. Is there a pattern? Do you have a token reaction to adversity? Try to notice if you respond the same way to both big and small setbacks (you may notice you overreact to small setbacks, but under-react to larger ones).
2 ) Look for Patterns
You don’t need to stay in the awareness phase for weeks, just a few days. Then start to write out what your pattern looks like. Do you always pick a fight with your partner after they leave one dish on the counter? Do you snap at someone at home after being stuck in traffic? Learn your triggers and take them with you to the next step!
3 ) Reframe
Before even changing what you say, change your tone. This can make a big impact! Try raising your tone a little bit when complaining out loud.
To reframe what you think/say, try to make what you say “one notch” less negative. For example, if you get cut off in traffic instead of huffing and calling that person a “f***ing idiot” — pause, exhale and say “sir, you are a royal idiot” or call them a nincompoop. It might sound silly, but just starting to downplay little negative occurrences that pop up in your day can impact how much patience you have for others. (Bonus points for comical insults that lighten the mood.)
4 ) Actively Look for Positives / Silver Linings
Now that you’ve started reframing the negatives, the next step is to actively look for the positives! This takes practice and is a skill that you will get better at with time. Having a reminder go off every morning or a sign on your bathroom mirror can help ensure that you actually remember to do this.
The book the Power of Bad, talks about how biologically we notice negative things more because back in the day it was a survival instinct. So in order to notice positive things more frequently, we have to actively train ourselves to do so. Give yourself time and keep working at it every day.
5 ) Get Comfortable with Negative Things Existing, But Affecting You Less
Negative things, setbacks, people telling you that “you look tired” isn’t going to stop. However, we can limit the effect it has on us. Letting things just roll right off us is hard, but again it’s something we can train ourselves to do. Someone lets a door slam in your face? Oh well, I am perfectly capable of opening my own door! Someone cancels on you last minute? Oh well, extra time for yoga. Don’t expect perfection overnight or for progress to be linear, but overtime aim for things to bug you less.
6 ) Use Reminders (optional)
When changing behavior I can’t stress enough how hard it is to simply remember not to do something or to do something. We all have way too much going on for that. Instead, use reminders on your phone or in your environment.
7 ) Start a Gratitude Routine (optional)
I can’t say I do this every single day, however I do try to think of a few things I’m grateful for each night and occasionally do write them down. Whatever type of gratitude routine works for you, go for it! This is a great way to help you with step four in a really tangible way.
How This Relates to Health/Fitness
If you’re someone who previous has let an innocent setback like forgetting your lunch throw your whole mood and actions off for the rest of the day — adjusting your mindset is CRUCIAL. Logically, you know forgetting your lunch is not the end of the world. However, sometimes you might have responded like it is. What if you identified that this was a setback/challenge? Then took 30 seconds to find the humor in the situation or to think about how “future you” wants to tell the story. Does future you want to say that she skipped the meal completely or got a Big Mac? Or does future you want to be able to say that she went to chipotle and got a burrito bowl?
I got a lot of inspiration for this post by reading The Power of Bad and would highly recommend giving it a read!