We all have those days where we feel like we’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We all have those moments when we’re frustrated and are convinced that the world is out to get us. For some of us, however, this becomes a daily struggle. We wake up dreading work or wishing we could fast-forward to the weekend. We complain about small, trivial upsets. We feel surrounded by drama. When plans get canceled or someone backs out on us we perceive it as a personal attack, and we succumb to feelings of anger and disappointment. Some of us cannot get our minds to stop racing before bed and are unable to sleep soundly. We live with fatigue and lack motivation. We gossip, judge, compare and create a world of separateness, “us” versus “them”, which only serves to strengthen our negative thought patterns.
Trapped in the cage of negativity, our pain becomes too great for us to face directly. We feel hopeless and without purpose. We look for distractions, ways to numb our pain. For some of us we turn to alcohol or other substances, while some spend hours in front of a TV or cell phone, seeking reassurance and attention from others, exercising excessively, counting calories, compulsive eating, etc. Our happiness becomes dependent on external factors, and when the things and people we rely on inevitably change we are immediately faced with anxiety and despair. Often times, we don’t even realize that we are living in a clouded reality.
These destructive thought patterns ultimately ended up coloring our world. When we perceive other people as enemies, we will surely encounter enemies. When we worry about failure, we will experience situations in which we believe we have failed. When we believe we aren’t able to move forward, we invite stagnancy into our lives. Our level of doubt and sense of self-worth influence how we make decisions and how confident we feel in making changes in our lives. Negative thoughts become habits, and we all know habits can be difficult to break.
However, you CAN transcend your negative thought patterns and develop a sense of empowerment and flexibility. Once you break free you will see life in a completely different way. You learn to accept that the present moment is all that truly exists, and therefore is the only thing that truly matters. You will live feeling inspired and grateful. Your physical health will re-balance and begin to reflect your new positive mindset.
Drawing from my own personal experience, I have identified the 10 most effective changes that helped me to break my negative thought patterns and live life more passionately. Read through them, and pick what resonates with you. Start to incorporate them into your daily life.
10 Simple Ways to Transcend Negativity
1. Acceptance & Non-judgment
Accept every situation as if you had chosen it, and begin observe your reactions in every situation. Practice non-judgment by seeing each experience as neither “good” nor “bad”. With practice, this awareness will start to re-shape how you perceive your reality. Catch yourself when you are feeling angry, hurt, or sad and observe how your vocabulary and tone of voice changes. Rather than reacting from these temporary emotions, choose instead to accept and move forward. Awareness alone can be enough to initiate changes in the way we think and behave.
Acceptance also involves letting go of expectations and being adaptable to the ebb and flow of life. If you expected your drive to work to take 20 minutes, but it ends up taking 40 minutes due to traffic, how would you feel? Would you complain and begin to feel anxious, even angry? Remember that you can choose to accept that traffic varies and is something we all will deal with at some time during our commutes. Just as much as you expect it to take you a certain amount of time to get somewhere, you should equally expect the opposite. Plan accordingly, and remind yourself to accept whatever comes your way.
2. Practice Gratitude
Take a few minutes each day to sit or lay quietly with your eyes closed and reflect on the things in life you are grateful for. Rather than focusing on what about yourself or your life you dislike or you’d like to change, this practice shifts your focus towards being content with the way things already are, bringing with it a sense of peace and calm. The more consistently you practice gratitude, the more profound the effects will be and the more easily you will be able to find acceptance when challenging situations present themselves.
3. Get in Touch With Nature
Nature has a way of reminding us of our connection to each other and to other living beings. Taking a minute to appreciate a sunrise or the movement tree branches in the breeze can help us dissolve feelings of separation or isolation. Natural environments have a calming effect on our minds and bodies, so take advantage whenever you can! If you are unable to get outside for a significant amount of time each day, see if you can take a few minutes to sit next to a window or even just watch a video with nature scenes. Connecting with nature in some way each day helps us learn to appreciate the beauty that we often take for granted.
Hydration, in my opinion, should be included in every post related to health and well-being. Too many of us are unaware of the fact that we are chronically dehydrated. We all know the common suggestion of 8 glasses of water per day, but I encourage you to try for even more, especially if you are a coffee or soda drinker. Caffeine is dehydrating; the more we consume the more water we need to take in. I find it easiest to drink two big glasses first thing in the morning. That way, if my day gets hectic I will have at least started my day hydrated!
If we are frequently feeling tired throughout the day, have dry skin, poor digestion, food cravings, headaches or muscle cramps we definitely need to up our water intake. These symptoms can also contribute to negative thoughts about our health and well-being. It is hard to feel vibrant and driven when we are lacking energy due to dehydration. When you are hydrated your mind will feel clear and sharp, and your body will be able to keep itself healthy and balanced. This is the foundation for living a passionate, healthy life.
5. Take a Break from TV & Mass Media
It may not seem like TV and the media have that big of an impact, but if you are someone who leaves the news on while you are eating or doing things around the house I encourage you to experiment with leaving it off. Much of the information being broadcast is inherently negative and violent. Gossip and political slander are prevalent. Commercials are designed to make you feel a sense of lack and therefore, a sense of need. Be conscious of what you are listening to on the TV, radio and elsewhere. Likewise, be aware of what you are reading and seeing through social media. When what you see and hear on a daily basis is negative, angry and violent the overall tone of your thoughts and feelings will be influenced.
Try a short media “detox” by choosing to keep the TV off for a week and limiting your time on social media. Take note of how you feel afterwards. Having canceled my TV service over two years ago, I can say for me personally that I feel I have much more control over what I choose to see and listen to. Even if you aren’t ready to give up TV altogether, at least start to develop awareness around the overall message of the material you spend the most time watching or listening to.
6. Ditch the Phone Before Bed
This is especially important for those who have trouble falling and staying asleep. A good rule of thumb is to put the phone away at least one hour before bed. The light from our screens stimulates the brain and can affect normal sleep patterns. I also recommend installing an app that filters out the blue light from the phone, as the blue light is what is most harmful. Turn the blue light filter on early in the evening, and keep it on until you put your phone away for the night. It may take some time to get used to, but sleeping without your phone (and preferably having it in a separate room) can help you begin to feel less anxious, stressed and restless. Give it a try!
7. Create a Morning Ritual
Set your alarm for the same time every morning as often as possible, and leave yourself some extra time for self-care before heading off to work. A ritual can be anything you want it to be and could be anywhere from five minutes up to an hour. Rather than waking up as late as possible and rushing off to work, take some time to yourself to do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a hot shower, yoga, a workout, sippin’ some coffee, reading or focusing on gratitude, having a morning routine is a great way to center yourself and set an intention for the day. It can also help you to feel a sense of accomplishment if your routine involves exercising or working on self-development in the morning.
8. Uplift your Home Environment
Fostering a more positive approach to life involves creating an inviting and comfortable atmosphere at home. For me, the biggest factor at home that was affecting my stress levels was clutter. I really do believe that a tidy home helps to calm the mind. Take a walk around your house and see if there are items that can be thrown out, donated or simply stored away. Creating space in your living environment can help you feel more at ease.
I also like to have plants around the house to cleanse the air and to bring a little bit of nature indoors. My favorite plant is the heart leaf Philodendron because it doesn’t require a lot of light or water, it easily adapts to most indoor settings and it grows quickly. The best part is, you only need to buy one of them because clipping off any of the stems and placing them in fresh water will sprout roots for a new plant! How cool is that?
Some other ways you can uplift your home environment include Himalayan salt lamps, photos of loved ones and artwork. You could even create an altar or other space where you can keep special items and sit near to reflect or pray.
9. Evaluate Personal Relationships & Interactions
We have all people in our lives who drain our energy or who create stress in our lives. Begin to identify who these people are, and be kind enough to yourself to respectfully create some distance. If we associate with people who constantly complain, gossip or who are generally pessimistic we too will start to take on those mental patterns. When we get to the point where day-to-day life seems like a chore, and we no longer enjoy what we are doing or just simply feel stuck it could be time for to step back and evaluate who we are spending time with. If you are looking to develop a healthier relationship with yourself and cultivate more joy and inspiration in your life, you must surround yourself with others who share those same values.
10. Begin a Meditation Practice
If none of the other tips resonated with you, I hope this one will. Meditation is your most valuable tool. Not only does it help steady and calm the mind, it also affects the body on the physical level. With consistent practice you will notice that my first tip (acceptance & non-judgment) come about naturally. Over time, you will develop a better understanding of and control over your emotions. Spending time to reflect and focus inward reminds you that your happiness exists within. When you can find contentment right now, under your current circumstances you will notice a sense ease and effortlessness infusing themselves into your life.
Meditation can be done most simply in one of two ways, guided or silent. There are several apps that provide audio recorded meditations ranging anywhere from two minutes, up to an hour. These can be useful if you are new to meditation and are having trouble focusing. However, you should eventually move away from guided meditations and practice sitting in silence with a soft focus on the breath or a mantra. Again, be kind with yourself. The mind will NOT be quiet and still at first, and you may only ever experience complete stillness for a few brief moments. You will struggle with keeping a steady focus, which is exactly why it is called a practice. Start with a few minutes each day (morning ritual?) and then increase over time as you become more comfortable. You will notice the most change if you dedicate yourself to a consistent, daily practice, even if it is short!
Negative thoughts, words and behaviors create physiological reactions in the body. Our immune systems become compromised, our digestion slows, and we may experience other symptoms such as inflammation, cravings, headaches and fatigue. Over time, high levels of stress cause the body to become unbalanced, opening the door for disease. It is easy to fall into the cycle of negative thinking, where worries, stress and the incessant need for more reign supreme. These steps have become a part of my every day routine, and I am a completely different and much healthier person because of the changes I have made. I hope that these tips can help you in a similar way.