I have had many long days recently…twice last week I didn’t leave work until after 9:00pm, and overall, I was pretty beat. Unfortunately, these days weren’t great days on the job, either – some situations were really frustrating me, and many of the adults around me were behaving badly, so….it wasn’t my very finest week. After I drove home one night last week, crawled into bed to watch my daily two episodes of “Seinfeld” (you should try it, it’s good for the soul), I stopped to think back on all of the events that had transpired, how frustrated I felt, when a question dropped from the heavens and landed in my lap:
Where do I go from here?
The answer was to sleep, because I was draggin’ arse like you would not believe…but the question replayed in my head while I slept. Thankfully, I didn’t get up and write about it like I did a couple of weeks ago (I’m Slim Shady, remember?), but I certainly thought about it a fair bit while I attempted to rest. The reason I was so bothered was because I didn’t enjoy most of last week, and I did not want to have a repeat of it – so where was I going to go, and what was I going to do to make sure that I did not have my own version of “Groundhog Day”? It reminds me of this song from “Evita”:
So what happens now?
Isn’t it great? As an aside, I totally think Madonna was shafted and should have received way more accolades for playing Eva Peron than she did – she was SO good in that movie. Anyway, back to me and my whining – where do I go from here? How do I ensure that I don’t keep making the same mistakes and react the wrong way day after day, repeating this cycle of negativity? How do I break a habit?
According to what the experts say about habit breaking, you have to make a seriously conscious effort to change your behavior (no half-assing allowed), you need to put it in writing/share it with those who can support you, and you need to exercise the bait and switch technique (swap out something negative and replace it for something positive); it’ll also help to get rid of as many triggers as you can, surround yourself with people who are doing the things that you want to do and living the life that you want to live, overcome your negative self-talk, and give yourself a break when you slip up. All great strategies that could help you quit smoking or chewing your nails, but….what about larger life changes? Can these strategies work? How do you break the habit of getting sucked into the negativity that seems to be everywhere these days? Let’s read this article together:
Have you ever met Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy or Pessimistic Patty? These people can be so entrenched in the bad things that there isn’t any room for good things to grow. They inhabit our families and social circles. It can be emotionally draining just being around them, and you must be careful because their attitudes are contagious. Negativity perpetuates itself, breeds dissatisfaction and clutters the mind. And when the mind is cluttered with negativity, happiness is much harder to come by.
Here are 10 ways to defend yourself against negativity:
Don’t take other people’s negativity personally. Most negative people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. What they say and do is a projection of their own reality – their own attitude. Even when a situation seems personal – even if someone insults you directly – it oftentimes has nothing to do with you. Remember, what others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.
Spend more time with positive people. You are the average of the people you spend the most time with. In other words, who you spend your time with has a great impact on the person you eventually become. If you are around cynical and negative people all the time, you will become cynical and negative. Does who you are and who you want to be reflect in the company you keep? Start spending time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded. Relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you, people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.
Be the positivity you want to see in the world. Lead by example. You can’t always save the world, but you can make the world a better place by practicing what you preach – by becoming self-aware, tapping into your compassion, and protecting your positive space. Doing simple things like talking about positive daily events, common friends, hobbies, happy news, make for light conversations with negative people. Keep the conversations focused on optimistic areas the person can relate to. You can disarm their negativity, even if it’s just for a little while.
Change the way you think. The one thing nobody can take away from you is the way you choose to respond to what others say and do. The problem isn’t the events that are negative. The problem is the way you react to those events. The last of your freedoms is to choose your attitude in any given circumstance. Complaining, blaming and criticizing aren’t going to change the situation. It is not always easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it is always impossible to find it elsewhere. Regardless of the situation you face, your attitude is your choice. Remember, you can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude. When negativity controls your thoughts, it limits your behavior, actions, and opportunities. If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, you would never think another negative thought again.
Focus on solutions. Negative people have an endless supply of pity party invitations. Don’t RSVP. Oftentimes people use negativity as a barrier to protect themselves from the world, which in turn blocks them from solutions that could improve their life. Instead, identify solutions. Don’t dwell too much on what went wrong. Instead, focus on the next positive step. Spend your energy on moving forward toward a positive resolution. Remember, when you focus on solutions, by thinking and acting positively, sound becomes music, movement becomes dance, a smile becomes laughter, and life becomes a celebration.
Love whoever is around to be loved. Practice acts of kindness. It’s a lot harder to be negative when you’re in the presence of love and kindness. Be that presence whenever possible. Let your guard down. Talk to someone you don’t know straight from your heart. Compliment them. Don’t anticipate awkwardness. Just be you in that beautiful way only you know, and give them the chance to smile and connect with you. Sometimes a kind word and some attention from a friend is all that’s needed to turn a negative attitude around.
Provide support when it makes sense. Some people complain as a way of crying for help. They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as negative complaints rather than requests. Show some concern. Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders. Resist the urge to judge or assume. It’s hard to offer compassion when you assume you have them figured out. Let them know they are not alone. People overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, when the counter-forces of love and support are in full effect.
Realize that life is a series of ups and downs. Acknowledge the negativity, accept it, and let it pass through your consciousness, thereby teaching you a lesson but not ruining your day. Life is full of highs and lows, but you don’t have to go up and down with them. We develop from the negatives when we accept them and learn from them. This cycle is all part of the human experience. Relax, let go a little, and enjoy the ride.
Concentrate on today. Too often, we carry around things from our past that hurt us – regrets, shame, anger, pain, etc. Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t let these negative points from the past rob your present happiness. You had to live though these things in the past, and although unfortunate, they can’t be changed. But if the only place they live today is in your mind, then let go, move on, and be happy. You can decide right now that negative experiences from your past will not predict your future.
Let go and move on when you must. If all else fails, remove yourself from the wrong situations and relationships. Some people are like dark clouds; when they disappear, it’s a brighter day. Know when it’s time to let go. Letting go of negative people doesn’t mean you hate them, it just means that you care about your own wellbeing. Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive.
It isn’t easy to remain positive when negativity surrounds you, but remember that you have full control of your attitude. Think of it this way: An entire body of water the size of the Pacific Ocean can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, all the negativity in the world can’t bring you down unless you allow it to get inside your head. People who are able to discern the positive points in negative situations are the ones who prosper in the long run. So defend yourself against the ‘negative way’ and make room for a positive day.
Not bad, eh? All very common sense, but, as you and I already know….common sense? Not so common. I really like the last one – remember that you have full control of your attitude. This is something that I have really been working on lately, and I am hopeful that it will start to help. I’ve had a whole bunch of things going on lately that have caused me stress – you’d never know it, though, as I don’t say a whole lot about it, and the people around me certainly never stop talking about themselves long enough to ask. (SIDEBAR: When did that start happening? And who the hell decided that this kind of behavior was going to be socially okay? I will go through entire days of my life where not one person ever asks the simplest of questions: “How are you?” – even when I ask them first. I just don’t get it. Example – this weekend, I texted someone that I thought I was pretty close to and asked “How’s your weekend been?” The response I got was overwhelmingly negative, bitching about everything that is wrong with life and the stupid people that lurk everywhere, the upcoming holidays and what a pain in the arse they are, etc etc etc. There was nothing positive in the message exchange, nothing but misery and griping – and not one single “How are you doing? Are things going okay for you?”. Nothing. It was one of the most meaningless conversations I’ve ever had – yet, when I think about it, it spoke volumes about what this person really thinks of me,….and I’m done.)
I think that’s getting to be the theme with me these days – I am done. I’m really sick of a whole bunch of things – people, situations, everything…I just feel done. I’m finding myself drawn to spending more and more time doing only the things that I enjoy – and not going through the motions with the rest of it. I’ve quit calling some people on the phone – those devices ring both ways, and I’m waiting a bunch of people out, waiting for them to initiate phone calls with me. It appears that I may be waiting for a very long time, but…that’s fine, I’m highly stubborn and have tremendous willpower when it comes to being spiteful. If only that willpower transferred to food. Oh well.
I’ve got many, MANY bad habits – and I need to break some of them. I’m not getting any younger, and life is way too short to keep repeating some of these stupid, crappy days over and over again… I need to replace the shitty things that happen with great stuff. I’m tired of the same suitcases in my halls. It’s time for some new luggage.