If you’ve been feeling more down than up, and can’t quite seem to shake the feeling, it may be time to look within.
Hard periods in life are a given, and they can lead to habits in terms of negative or positive thinking. And the way you think does play a large role in what you see, and feel, and thereby what your experiences are. It’s been proven that the brain is ‘plastic’, meaning flexible, and capable of learning and unlearning certain habits.
It really is, all about perspective, as Maya Angelou says: ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’
Scientists have proven that negative thoughts lessen your resilience and ability to cope with life’s stressors. “Negative feelings activate a region of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in processing fear and anxiety ..”, says Jane E. Brody of the NY Times. By constantly activating this region, you decrease your ability to recover from threats (stress) and open yourself to a higher risk of health issue.
“.. positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression..”
This doesn’t mean that you have to constantly be happy. But it does mean choosing to be positive and learn positive thought cycles is important for your overall health. Prolonged negative thinking is quite literally, harmful.
So now you know that negative thinking is a bad cycle that can be broken. But how do you go about breaking it? As with any habit, you start slow. It’s time to get out of your slump. Let’s start today, shall we?
COLLECT POSITIVE MOMENTS
Like Crash Bandicoot (the trademark excited and energetic marsupial character of the video games of the same name), think of life as running about your business collecting wumpa fruits. Now think of these fruits as positive moments. Bear with me.
According to Dr Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, “repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression and foster both physical and mental health”. She calls it ‘fostering positive emotion’.
This is a choice. You choose your interactions and circumstances to a certain point- start by choosing to have good interactions and..
put yourself in spaces where positive emotions are likely to foster.
DO IT: When you are down, the last thing you want to do is have a chat with someone. Try it. Make a lunch date with a friend you’ve neglected, who is a good force in your life, and instead of rolling your eyes at their happy-go-lucky attitude, absorb a little of it and carry it on with you for the day, until your next positive experience.
Often in negative periods, we find we neglect the things we are passionate about. Make a concerted effort to go at it, even just for the sake of doing something you love. Start it, or pick it up again.
Sometimes just being open to experiencing something good, is the best way to attract good energy.
Dr. Fredrickson‘s studies showed that “taking time to learn the skills to self-generate positive emotions can help us become healthier, more social, more resilient versions of ourselves.” These skills are called kindness and compassion. When practicing these skills, you are focusing outward, instead of on negative inner dialogue.
This is the most important point. It doesn’t mean that you have been rude intentionally, but when you are in a negative space, it is often a result of internalizing experiences and emotions so that most of your thoughts are self-involved- and that creates a warped reality where your problems can seem insurmountable.
You avoid interaction because you ‘just dont have the energy’. You may think this is being self-sufficient, but actually you are neglecting your interactions, and those close to you. You are closing yourself off to positive connections and experiences.
DO IT: Sometimes simply by reaching out- choosing to ask how someone is and mean it, or making a date with a friend and listening to their shit for a bit- can pull you out of this world where your worries are all that matter.
Negative thinking becomes a habit because it is easy to give in, rather than to fight or question negative logic. The next time you feel stressed or someone is rude to you, decide to wipe it off and remind yourself of the positive moments you’ve collected that day. Or simply just choose to be positive and rise above it.
DO IT: You cant do anything productive from a stressed state, so choose to take a few breaths and centre yourself.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, bring yourself back to the moment, and focus on your breathing, or something near you.
Allow yourself to clear your head and then decide if what you are upset about deserves as much weight as you’re giving it, or if it can be let go or done later.
*Practicing these habits can improve depressive symptoms significantly, but it is not suggested as a lone coping tool.
Words: Zoya Pon
Feature image: Pinterest (Numero Homme China Fall 2013)