I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. You know one of those people that seem to have rays of sunshine follow them wherever they go. I however wouldn’t call myself a pessimist either, but I certainly can feel negative at times.
Sometimes I get stuck in a perpetual cycle of negativity and guilt that is difficult to get out of and maybe you have experienced this too. “I should be positive about my privilege, food on the table, a job, health, family and have no right to feel negative about these trivial things etc. etc.”
To feel positive, you might try different techniques such as thinking positively or surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. However, often this forced focus on trying to develop a positive disposition leads you even further down the negativity path and by trying to push negativity out and force positivity in, you feed the guilt, strengthen the negativity and are left feeling emotionally drained!
Our feelings influence our behaviour and attitudes
How we feel affects our perception of a situation which gives rise to our attitude and behaviour. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge how people, things and situations make you feel in order to express the attitude and behaviour that you feel comfortable with. If this is sounding familiar, then read on for a different approach to filtering out the negative. This is a dynamic process and a constant journey, so this is food for thought from a person who is not a self-proclaimed expert on this but rather a person still navigating the methods of filtering out the negative.
Get rid of emotional pollution
Try this little exercise next time something or someone causes negative feelings, which I like to call emotional pollution. Instead of trying to force positive thinking, keep the negativity at the forefront of your thoughts and ask yourself what is making me feel negative today and what can I do about it? Is it a tarnished relationship, lack of sleep, an insurance claim, government policies? By analysing what it is about the situation that is making you uncomfortable you direct your focus on how and if you can change your situation. So, for example if a tarnished relationship is causing emotional pollution, think about how that can be changed, or weigh up the value of the relationship against the effort of maintaining or rectifying it. Should you find that the effort of maintaining the tarnished relationship far outweighs the benefit of keeping the relationship then it’s time for a change. Either the relationship needs to end or your role within the relationship needs adjusting. By shifting your focus – from being consumed by negativity and avoiding a forced, unnatural positive disposition to driving actionable change towards your negativity you will inadvertently make room for the positive.
Some things you cannot change
I know at this point you are saying ‘easier said than done’ and some things are just impossible to change and I agree, you can’t change or eliminate everything that doesn’t make you feel good.
At this point I remind myself of a very well-known mantra which I feel can be used by anyone, ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Some things are simply not in your control so identify those things that create negativity in your life and ask yourself is this something I can control? If yes, then take actionable steps to eliminate or change the negative aspect or causes of emotional pollution. If the answer is no, then ask yourself what can I control about this situation? The answer is to again focus on you and how you feel.
Aim to find a way to take the negative that you can’t control, change the way you feel about and accept that this is within the boundary of your control. Remember what is meant to be, will be and every day that you wake up and do your best to filter out the negative is a great start to letting the positivity in.
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