No doubt you have heard how dangerous negative thinking is. Negative thinking has been blamed for all kinds of illnesses, like depression, anxiety, cancer and diabetes. Bad thoughts are also responsible for many ruined relationships and cases of drug abuse. But if negative thinking is so bad, why do we all practice it? Why are we all so good at it?
Of the approximately 60,000 thoughts we have each day, how many would you consider negative? If you are like most people, negative thinking has become so commonplace in our minds that we hardly notice it.
One advantage of thinking in ‘worst case scenarios,’ such as expecting to fail, to be betrayed, or to be let down, is that you have a built-in emotional insurance policy. I hear many people say, “When I expect the worst, then I won’t be disappointed when things go wrong.”
Another advantage is that you increase your odds of being right. Let’s face it -- it is much easier to predict the worst than it is to predict the best, so chances are you will be correct!
Thinking negatively has another advantage. It gives us the best excuse for not trying or for not working hard at something. Positive outcomes are usually the result of effort and hopeful thinking; if we don’t want to put forth the effort, saying things like, “Why should I try? I am just going to fail anyway,” become a great excuse.
Another form of negative thinking is hoping that good things will not happen to others we know. This keeps you from having to congratulate others on their successes or the good things that happen to them that don’t happen for you. This form of negative thinking is a veiled form of self-comparison. Because we feel bad about ourselves or jealous when good things happen to others and not to us, it is easier to just hope that the good things don’t happen to them.
If these benefits appeal to you, then go on thinking negative thoughts and hoping for the worst. If you would rather rise above the negativity and learn to create positive emotions that can lead to happiness, here are ten suggestions to help you do just that:
1. Focus on shades of grey: Life is rarely all this or all that. Life is rarely all negative or all positive, all right or all wrong. Start to think in shades of grey by acknowledging that your experiences most often have a positive aspect, even though there are negative aspects.
2. Spread honey, not lard: If something bad happens, don’t over-generalize it and let it spread to other areas of your life. If you fail a test, it doesn’t mean you are dumb or that you are a complete failure; it means you need to try harder at that one thing.
3. Setbacks are temporary: Just because you are feeling down, depressed or anxious remember that it will pass. Don’t let one setback make you think your life is in ruins.
4. Stick with the facts: We all have to deal with unknowns, such as why someone has not called us back, or why we didn’t get credit for something we did, or why we didn’t get a job or a promotion. Don’t let not knowing turn into self-blame and self-indictment. Just stick with the facts.
5. Give yourself more credit: Too often we make excuses for good things that happen by saying things like, “It was just luck,” or “They only did that because they had to.” Stop taking the blame and give yourself more credit for the good that happens in your life.
6. Accept what is: We often feel negativity in the form of what we should have done, could have done, or could do. When you are stuck in the ‘should haves,’ you are thinking outside of what really is. Stick with what is, not what should have been, and it can reduce your negative emotions.
7. Consider best-case scenario: Most worst-case scenarios are not 100% certain. That leaves room for a best-case scenario. Balance every worst case scenario with a best case scenario. It may not always happen, but neither one is 100% certain. Give the best-case scenario a chance.
8. Be grateful: It is easy to look around and see what you don’t have. It is just as easy to look around and see all that you do have. Focusing on what you do have helps you counter the feeling that life is not fair and will cancel out negative thinking.
9. Give it away: Believe it or not, when you feel down, depressed or that life has just thrown you a curve, one way to get over it quickly is to do something nice for someone. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive; the smallest and more personal things are often most appreciated and sure to give your feelings a positive lift.
10. Trust in the law of averages: If you are experiencing some hard luck, take confidence in the fact that your luck will change. With a positive attitude you will start to see better possibilities and more positive outcomes.
Kirk Wilkinson is the Founder and President of The Happiness Factor, a best-selling author, two-time cancer survivor, speaker and life coach. The Happiness and Factor and the Fresh Start Women 's Foundation have partnered to bring you a powerful and uplifting on-line coaching program. Click here to learn more.