Be positive – an oft quoted and forever repeated phrase.
While it is good advice, how many of us actually know how to do that? Can one just throw away the negative thought like a stale apple in a basket and replace it with a brand new one?
Wish it were that easy.
Turning positive is a journey. And here are some pointers where we can all work together to help each other with it. More so, now. As the lockdown is not an easy time, and the mind tends to go a bit negative, what with no maids, no office and the constant company of your family within the four walls.
Let us first clear some misnomer on negative thinking – when something happens, thinking that it may go worse, is not always negative thinking. We need to prepare ourselves to accept the worst also, right? To me, thinking of negative events is not necessarily negative thinking, but thinking of events negatively most definitely is. For example, let us say you had a fight with a loved one (a negative event). Thinking about it is perfectly OK, how else would you resolve it? But thinking about it negatively, about how that person could do this to you, he/she must have done it intentionally, etc. is something we should avoid, to keep our minds positive.
Easier said than done! Sometimes, circumstances simply do not allow us to do that. We need to work towards making our minds positive. One of the most important ways to do that is to spend time with ourselves and analyse what happened. Unless we do that, it is hard to get enough objectivity to view the incident in the right spirit. We should do it simply to keep ourselves happy and positive, not for fixing blame or any other reason.
As they say, happiness comes from within. It does not mean we will always be surrounded by people who keep us happy, but that we will love ourselves enough to keep ourselves happy regardless of what other people/things try to do.
Usually, we tend to do one of the following three things when we encounter a negative event:
- Blame others – This happens because when we are emotionally charged, it is not very easy for us to see what we did wrong. In fact, from our point of view, we are always right. So we jump to an immediate conclusion that someone else must be the cause of the whole fiasco. This can escalate the unpleasantness to a much higher level, causing unhappiness.
- Think the worst – We usually tend to go to the worst end of the spectrum when a negative event happens. For example, if someone hits my car, my first reaction is not going to be – ‘Oh poor thing. They must have done it by mistake. They must be in trouble or in a hurry.’ My first reaction would be – ‘What the hell? What if something had happened to me or my car? They deliberately did it.’ As a result, even if there is no damage done to me or my car, I can get as angry as if it had actually happened.
- Take it personally – This happens when our self esteem is low. It is majorly tied to how emotionally attached we are to someone. If it has to do with a family member, whose love has sort of blinded us, we tend to think – ‘It is my fault, it is all my fault and I deserve it. I should go away somewhere.’
All the above three thought processes are common but unwarranted. So how do we get out of these?
Simple answer – SELF ANALYSIS.
Analysing anything is important for understanding it. But self is better than others, since we know all the background, events and other details of what is happening, and deep down we know the right perspective for it as well. It is just a matter of digging it out.
Here is the best way in which you can help yourself to get rid of all that negativity you may have inside of you – allow your emotions in.
All emotions are necessary for a human being. We cannot discard any emotion as bad or worthless. So allow yourself to feel – anger, disappointment, jealousy, sadness, whatever it is. Unless you allow it, you will be suppressing it. Which, in turn, leads to long term negativity. That is why you must have noticed, people who get angry easily, are easier to cool down. The anger of introverts is much deadlier. That is because it keeps simmering inside. So spit it out. Don’t judge yourself for your emotions. Get it over with.
However if you feel that the negativity is still not getting out, use the following methods to address it:
- Write your feelings – you do not have to be a professional writer to do this. When you are angry, agitated or disappointed, write down on an easy-to-trash piece of paper, what you are feeling at that moment. It does not even have to be in full sentences. Just write for yourself. This will help you see it in the right perspective. Sometimes, when you read it back to yourself, it will sound petty, or even irrelevant. You can save that piece of paper till you are feeling a bit better. Once you are back to your practical self, revisit it and write down your own solution beside it. Read it to yourself a couple of times and burn that paper. Doing this repeatedly, a few times, will give you clarity of thought and solution both.
- Sort out your thoughts – sit with yourself, preferably in the balcony, or in your favourite chair or corner in the house. We will take it outside once the lockdown is over! Let the thoughts come to you, without any judgment whatsoever. Then start sorting out these thoughts just like you do your closet. When we are cleaning our closet, we usually have three piles – keep, throw and not sure. Do the same with your thoughts. For example – I am quite short-tempered. When I get angry, my first thought is usually to kill the person who caused my agony. But when I sort out my thoughts, I am pretty sure it should go in the ‘throw’ pile, because (a) I am not very criminal-minded, not even violence-minded, and (b) I have visited prison during my law college days and am sure I don’t even want a short stay there. So I throw that thought and tackle the next, which is probably – I should talk to the person and find out why they did that. This is useful, so I keep it carefully in my closet. In this process you may have some thoughts for the ‘not sure’ pile. Save this for further introspection and deal with them one by one objectively.
The exercises above are not something you can successfully do the first time. It takes practice, effort and patience on your part. But when you manage to do it, I promise you it will be well worth it. It will not only allow you to forgive where necessary, it will help you to take action and protect yourself when required!