Mailbag #1

Anonymous asks:

I’m negative. How do I fix it?

Hello! Thanks for your question. As you didn’t provide any other details here are a few things to consider for the next few minutes:

  • Are you otherwise coping with life ok? Negative thinking can be a symptom of depression, among other illnesses. I’m not a doctor (and couldn’t diagnose you over the Internet even if I was one!) but this may be something to discuss with your health care provider.
  • How do the people you spend the most time with respond to the stresses of life? A handful of extremely pessimistic or optimistic people can change the “feel” of even a large group.
  • Are you in a really tough situation? Does venting help? Shit happens, sometimes over and over again to the same people. Admitting that isn’t being negative, it’s being honest.

Ok, time’s up.

So what do you do with negative thought patterns once you’ve figured out why they’re happening?

  1. Acknowledge them. It’s ok to have a bad day or to admit that experience X was really difficult. Even saying or thinking, “well, that was a negative thought!” can help you realize what’s going on.
  2. Stay in the moment. Just because X happened before does not mean it will happen again. Trying to predict the future will only encourage a pessimistic view of it.
  3. Make a plan. Is there anything you can do to (realistically) avoid X in the future? If not, is there anything that will make it less harmful?
  4. Help someone else. Wallowing in negativity is much more difficult when you’re, say, shovelling a neighbour’s sidewalk or volunteering at your favourite charity.
  5. Flip your assumptions. When a negative thought pops up counter it with the best alternative you can think of. Maybe your relative’s health will snap back after that surgery. Maybe your boss was calling to offer you a promotion! As Pollyanna-ish as this sounds it works well with practice.

The bottom line: negative thinking is a habit and like any habit it can be replaced with a more useful one.

I’d be lying if I said this was easy.  It isn’t. But it can be done!

Do you have a question to Ask Lydia? Submit it through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 


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