What negative thinking does to our brain, body and life:
We move, we talk, we think. These are all activities affecting our brain, body and life.
According to scientists, most humans have a tendency to ponder more bad experiences than positive ones. It is because of an evolutionary adaptation that helps us avoid danger and quickly react to a crisis. It is a known fact and numerous media benefit from that knowledge selling us news about natural disasters, scandals of any sorts, dramatic events, deaths, accidents etc.
When we focus on such news, day after day, we train our brain to develop negative thinking – and consequently add to our stress and worry level, ultimately damaging our health and chance for happiness and success in life.
Research shows that most people can easily develop an “addiction” to negative thinking which in turns damages the neural structures that regulate emotions and memory. We usually don’t realize that cortisol, a stress hormone made in the cortex of our adrenal glands damages the hippocampus – the part of our brain that helps form new memories.
Furthermore, cortisol travels in our blood and reaches EVERY cell in our body, affecting our blood sugar levels, metabolism, controlling salt and water balance, influencing blood pressure – among other things.
What does it mean?
It means that by focusing on negativity, complaining, worrying and stressing about things we not only lower our ability to learn anything new, to acquire new skills and to succeed in life – but also ruin our happiness and health. We don’t get what we want in life, we get bitter, and we get sick.
According to medical scientists, even when our stress and worry is completely hypothetical, that is – even if we just focus on the media news and not on any situation taking place in our own life – the amygdala and the thalamus in our brain (which help communicate sensory and motor signals) aren’t able to make the difference between what is real to us, and what is not.
Our brain reacts to hypothetical stress in the same way as it does to an actual threat.
Focusing on negative news and perpetuating negativity does not help us to survive. Our own or somebody else’s negativity can ruin our health and our chance to have a happy and fulfilled life.
If we want to improve our life situation, our health, our ability to learn and achieve – the first thing we need to do is to eliminate from our life unnecessary stress caused by our addiction to complaining, worrying and criticizing.
Some of us are more prone to negative thinking than others. It can depend on our genetics, or it can be a result of childhood experiences. Studies show that children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased, criticized, fed negative messages, bullied, or experienced trauma or abuse.
How to deal with negativity:
The good news is that we can change our fate by re-training our brain and altering our thought pattern. In neuroscience, it is described as “experience-dependent neuroplasticity” – which essentially means that our brains are shaped by our thoughts and experiences. Just as we can train our muscles, we can train our brains.
There are effective methods that can help us to change our negative thought patterns – and we can help our emotional and physical health.
We can change our life situation and achieve what we want. Of course, we need to put some effort in it – nothing will resolve itself without our willingness to truly help ourselves. Not only talk about it.
We need to remember that reading self-help books, articles, attending motivational courses and “intending” – won’t give us the desired results if we actually don’t do what is required.
If we only learn what to do but don’t practice what we have learned – it is like going to a doctor, getting a prescription and buying the medicine – but not taking it, as prescribed. And then wondering why “it doesn’t work.”
If you really want to change what stops you from having the life you want, enjoying your healthy body or having a happy relationship – no amount of self-taught methods will help you unless you actually practice what’s needed.
Start with small steps, one day at a time.
When a negative thought comes to mind, tell it “Stop!” – as many times as you need. Then say to yourself: “This is only a thought, and thoughts can be changed. I can think any thoughts I choose. I choose to think thoughts free of fear and negativity.” Then think of something really nice. Slowly, you will learn to replace negative thoughts with pleasant ones.
Studies show that different therapeutic techniques like deep relaxation and techniques to reprogram our subconscious can re-balance our brain. This change doesn’t happen instantly and at least 30 days of practicing a particular technique are required to experience significant changes. (Even better – 6 weeks, as this is the time required to alter neural pathways in our brain.)
How to deal with negative people in our life:
All right, now that we know what we can do about our negative thinking habits – we also need to know what to do about negative people who can drain our energy and spoil our joy of life.
Some people advise to simply avoid them – but it’s not always possible because sometimes such persons are our own relatives or coworkers.
Here are some tips how you can deal with them:
When you first converse with them provide a listening ear and let them know they are not alone – but draw a line somewhere. However, if they continue to dwell on problems after a few conversations, it is time to disengage. Switch topics, don’t engage in their negativity. Nod or give simple reply such as “Hmm” or “I see”. Each time they say something positive – reply enthusiastically – when you do it often, they will soon be more positive in their communication.
Whenever they criticize anything or anybody – remember that they probably mean no harm, but they are simply caught in their negativity.
Don’t let it get to you: simply take it as their point of view and respond as above.
When they dwell on topics that trigger their negativity – switch to lighter topics, such as new songs, movies, hobbies – anything that they may feel more positive about.
Important: be mindful how much time you spend with them.
Their negativity will have an effect on your own well-being and, unfortunately, that’s the truth. Limit the frequency, duration of phone calls or conversations as much as you can, even if they are your own family. You need to stay positive in life, to live a happy life.
Set a limit to how long your interaction with them will be and don’t go over that time.
Things to remember:
Negative people usually are that way because they feel they lack warmth and love. Often, they protect themselves from the world with their negativity. If you want to help them, think about what’s bothering them and decide if there is anything you can do. Kindness, acceptance and showing them that you care and/or love them – will make miracles over time.
We can never react to the negativity of our family, spouse, or a friend with our own negativity – that will not solve the problem. What you need, is to be diplomatic, compassionate and very patient. It sounds hard to do, but it can be done, if you really, really want to improve your relationship with a negative person that you care about.