10 Ways To Stay Positive In A Negative World

Everywhere I turn there’s bad news.

A 22-year-old man in CA goes on a killing spree because he’s upset that he’s still a virgin. More than 200 girls were abducted by militants in Nigeria. The sea level is climbing and the East Coast is going to be underwater.

Then a picture shows up in my Facebook feed of a puppy buried up to its neck with a man leering at the camera fist pulled back ready to punch the poor thing.  It was shared in the hopes of identifying the man, but STILL.

Too.  Much.  Bad.

It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and riddled with worry and dread. I’m not alone. Anxiety disorders have become the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting 40 million people over the age of 18. An estimated 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. is depressed.

Although these conditions develop from a complex set of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events, negative and unhealthy thought patterns are major contributors. It’s estimated that a person has anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day. If your mind tends toward the negative, that’s a lot of dark thoughts.

Negative Thinking Gets Wired Into Your Brain

Pessimistic thinking is usually under the radar of conscious awareness and becomes a persistent habit casting a shadow over the a person’s entire world. Because our brains physically change based on our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, a capability known as neuroplasticity, negative thinking patterns actually get wired into our brains and become the default.

By learning to consciously intercept and change thought patterns, anyone can lower anxiety, ease depression, and train their brain to become more consistently positive and calm.

I used to be on antidepressants for more than a decade and attempted suicide twice. By taking control of my mind and thoughts, I ditched the drugs, turned my life around, and have managed to stay calm, positive, and happy for years.  While I’m certainly not here all the time and it’s unrealistic to expect to be, it has become my baseline that I return to.

Some tips which you can easily incorporate in your life that have worked for me are:

Come into the present moment:

Many times throughout the day, bring your awareness into the here and now and realize that you are alright regardless of anything else going on in the world.

Breathe:

Take several small breaks during the day and inhale long, deep breaths into your abdomen counting to six.  Repeat exhaling.  This slow breathing lowers the heart rate and calms the parasympathetic nervous system. Find calm breathing exercises here.

Notice the good:

No matter what the current circumstances, there’s always good to be found even if it’s something as small as turning the faucet and water coming out. There was good in your past, there’s good in the present, and there will be good in your future. Make it a point to notice it.

Say affirmations:

Counter negative thoughts by repeating positive statements to yourself, such as “I’m smart, competent, and capable.” The affirmative thoughts need to be present tense, positive, personal, and believable to work.

Visualize:

See mental images of how you would like to be, situations you want to create, or how you would like events to play out and really let yourself feel the accompanying positive emotions.  Your body is constantly reacting to your thoughts whether it’s to your benefit or not. Use it for your good.

Meditate:

Practice meditation daily to strengthen your mental health and feeling of connectedness.  Meditation becomes a place to process emotions and for self-inquiry. If you already have a meditation practice, great.  If not, start one.  You can find good pointers here.

Practice mindfulness:

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

Get Outside:

Many studies have linked being in nature with reduced depression and anxiety even faster healing times and greater work productivity.  Go take a walk!

Limit Media and Electronics:

There is no way to avoid all media, and you don’t want to, but there’s no need to focus on negative hype. Find sources that inspire and motivate you. Take a break from electronics.

Hang out with positive people:

You “catch” emotions and attitudes, both negative and positive, from others, just like germs.  When possible, surround yourself with encouraging, optimistic, and creative people.

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

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21 Comments

  1. Debbie, Love, love, love your blog posts. Share them all the time. Daily pen to page journaling helps us stay positive and present. #WriteON!

    • Mari,

      Thanks so much for your support. Writing and posting these things, as you probably know, is very one sided most of the time. It’s nice to hear from “out there.”

  2. art alvarez Reply

    Dear Debbie,
    Just want to thank you for being such a caring person. I have reached the age of 82 and I often wonder how I got here and once in a while I also wonder, what am I doing here. Your blog or whatever it is, is the only one, other than Truthdigg, that I bother to read. Your posts are so authentic and full of useful information. You have earned the right to your power through your suffering and your loving heart.
    My only true interest, at this point in my life is my love of reading and discovering the many interesting aspects of the truth about what really happened in the past and the amazing discoveries being made now, about thing things that we already knew, especially in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. It seems that we just didn’t know we knew. A lot of what is in your latest commentary about meditation and living in the present and breathing is so true, and sometimes I wonder if only practicing Buddhists are aware of this. Well so much for the rantings of an old man struggling everyday not to be a curmudgeon. What a world, Debbie, I think we are under the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

    Art

    • Art,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. They are sure nice to hear at a time when I find myself questioning whether I am really doing any good with all of this and wondering if I am gonna have to go get a job at Starbuck’s. Not yet, anyway.

      I am 51 and I too wonder how I got to where I am, what I am doing here, and what it all means. I don’t think were ever supposed to figure it out. That’s part of the journey. And that’s OK. At my “ripe old age” I find that I much prefer the company of books too. I’ll never be lonely, for sure!

      I have suffered, much of my own doing, but no more than anyone else and thankfully, I have learned from it. I have learned that all of these which I used to find painful are just part of life. The peace and happiness are in my head. I can always find it there these days.

      Congrats on reaching 82! That in itself is an accomplishment (and using the computer and leaving comments even! You are doing great. Give yourself a pat on the back for me!) Boy, I bet you have seen some changes, huh? Interesting times, indeed. That’s one way to say it.

      They are actually studying Buddhist monks and learning a lot about brain waves, higher states of consciousness, and empathy from them. I think they knew something long before the rest of us.

      Keep on keeping on. All the best to you.

      PS: Let yourself be a curmudgeon sometimes! 🙂

  3. Julie Nowlan Reply

    Debbie, thanks for the list of reminders for staying positive. I’ve found myself in some interesting states of mind in these past few months. Some days everything seems completely out of control and I struggle to find my way to a sense of calm and peace. I know the strategies, but they often “fly out the window” in the difficult days and sometimes, panic ensues. Continuing to press on, breathing in and out, and practicing positivity! Thank you for your always informative, always helpful kindness. You are a gifted writer and a blessing to many!

    • Julie,

      Nice to hear from you. Please know that mood fluctuations are a regular part of it and to be expected in “normal” life (whatever that is). And, OMG, with what you have gone through as of late, even more so. You’re doing great girl to just function most days! I think too many of us get distraught and frustrated because we think happy and calm is a state to be achieved and then we are never supposed to move from the position. It’s a place to come home to after life’s swerves and curves throw us off. The real challenge is in finding your way back home every time. I’m glad you are getting there. Blessings to you!

  4. Debbie – excellent post and timely advice all the time. I’m traveling at the moment and two things have helped me stay more positive on this extended trip. One is the long walks I take every day and spend time in nature. And two, not reading too many newspapers or watching the daily news. It’s amazing – letting go of all the negative news in the world allows me to stay more upbeat and happier. I’ll have to try this more when I get back to the states. News is no longer news but entertainment designed to keep us watching. I’ve also given up my phone during this trip and finding in pleasantly positive not having it around:)

    • Vishnu,

      Sounds heavenly! I used to think that not worrying and staying up with all the negative news was like sticking my head in the sand. Now, I know it’s a self preservation tactic. Like you said, mainstream news is mostly sensationalized, slanted hype. There is positive stuff out there, if you look. Like our blogs, right?! 🙂 Happy and safe travels.

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  6. Debbie, I try to be positive as much as possible, too. One of the best things I did years ago was to give up watching the news. I also practice all your other tips as well. Great post!

    • Me too, Betsy. I haven’t watched the new in probably 5 years. Some people are shocked, but it works for me. Anything important enough I eventually hear about on the web, and I’m blissfully ignorant about all the rest.

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  9. cpilgrim584 Reply

    Another key thing: accept. Especially things that are out of our control (like someone else’s killing spree). Of course we’d like to change it, but all we can do in this life is change ourselves. Learning to accept is the cornerstone of living an anxiety free life.

  10. Hey Debbie, I really liked the read and you are spot on with reference to the bad (negative news) you read – I actually stopped watching the news ages ago because of the negativity like yourself and just listen to the radio like LBC which is more entertaining.

    I also would recommend yoga breathing exercises which is the natural way to get rid of negativity and depression and any other illnesses that destroys the mindset.

    I need to go back to positive thinking as I’ve endured a horrible 1.5 years which felt really strange.

  11. What triggers your emotional reaction to an event is the way that you perceive the event, or what you say to yourself about yourself in relation to it, rather than the event itself. A simple shift in your perspective about the importance or meaning of a particular event, or a shift in your belief about your capacity to cope with it positively, can change your focus and your emotional reality. Nothing changes except the way that you perceive yourself, interpret the event, or view your capacity to cope with it, yet that simple positive change in focus can give you inner strength and confidence, release you from stress, and free you to live, perform, and contribute more joyfully. You can choose the perspective that you carry into your daily life and your performances.

    • Well said, Lisa. Changing your perception and focus will change the activity in your brain. That’s what it’s all about. Intentionally guiding your focus and brain activity.

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