Our perceptions of our experiences as negative can affect our lives on every level. Labeling our experiences as negative has the power to ruin relationships, decrease work performance, and increase stress levels. The good news is that you can balance your negativity bias by shifting your mindset!
Not sure where to start? Check out these smart, effective ways to shift your perception of your experiences as negative:
#1: Don't Take It Personally A fantastic book that I always recommend to clients is Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”. He lists not taking things personally as a necessary agreement to make with yourSELF. This idea is rooted in the understanding that most people act in a certain way based on their previous experiences and current circumstances. For example, perhaps someone took credit for your colleague’s work in the past, so now he doesn’t trust his team anymore. That doesn’t mean he has something against you, he simply doesn't trust people in general. We’re all operating based on what we’ve learned from experiences, which means that how someone interacts with you is dependent on a great many factors, including their past experiences.
So, stop taking things personally. If someone is misjudging you, prove to them through your word and deed that they are wrong. Always try to be kind and authentic rather than stressing over it.
#2: Set Boundaries No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to please everyone, if only because what pleases us is so subjective. Couple that with demands on time and energy – friends, family, etc will always come up with new demands, and if you feel you’re unable to meet those demands it can undermine your self-esteem and keep you from focusing on your priorities.
To balance this feeling of pressure on your time and energy, you must learn to say no and set clear boundaries. If someone reacts negatively or tries to hurt you, see step 1, and go a step further by extending compassion to those pushing at your boundaries. There are reasons why we do what we do, and them feeling their needs must be met is completely human and natural.
You have the power to say no, use it.
#3: Adopt a Positive Mindset Sometimes it can be hard to be grateful for what we have when we’re dealing with an experience that’s causing us stress. However, research shows that cultivating gratitude can deepen and expand our experiences, serving as a buffer against negative thoughts.
Start with a gratitude journal and write a few things everyday that you’re grateful for. It can be as big and grand as having a child or as small as your morning cup of coffee or tea being just right. Practicing gratitude in this way reinforces positive thinking patterns and reduces negativity.
As a bonus, your positive attitude will also inspire others and strengthen your professional and personal relationships. The UnIverse has a funny way of giving us more of what we focus on, so the more you focus on being grateful for the good in your life, the more you will see opportunities arise.
#4: Find Solutions, Not Problems Our negativity bias means that we tend to focus on the problems we’re are facing at any given moment instead of actively seeking solutions. And if we’re being one hundred percent honest, sometimes it feels good to “wallow in our sorrows”; to be sad if we’re sad or angry if we’re angry, deflecting any suggestions as to how we change or “solve” our problem. Unfortunately, this can compound already existing feelings of guilt, frustration and dissatisfaction.
The solution is that whenever you have a problem, take the steps needed to solve it. Don’t wait or hide, thinking it will go away. It might, but then again, depending on the size of the problem, it very well may not. To do this, shift and reframe your perspective of the problem from a “problem” to a lesson, and ask yourSELF what the situation is trying to teach you. This can change it from a “problem” to a challenge, and you overcome challenges every day, now don’t you?
In conclusion, a good rule of thumb is to check your energy and see how you feel in specific circumstances or around certain people. Some people energize you while others drain you, choose to surround yourSELF as much as you can with positivity, i.e. the people, places, things and experiences that make you feel good. Build relationships with people who encourage you, support you, and cheer for you.
*Disclaimer: This article in no way acts as a substitute for clinically diagnosed depression or anxiety.