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Published on March 16, 2020

How to Stop Being Negative About Everything in Life

How to Stop Being Negative About Everything in Life

For many people, being negative is just a part of life. Maybe they’ve been negative their whole life or some recent event knocked them sideways, and now they’ve just come to accept that way of thinking, but this article will show you how to stop being negative.

Not only do you have news and social media working hard to flood you with sensationalized stories each day, but you also have your own mindset working against you. We each have our own inherent negativity bias[1] where the bad stuff tends to stay around much longer in our mind than anything positive. This was a survival mechanism back in hunter-gatherer times, but no longer serves us.

Always being negative is something that you can train yourself out of with a little bit of practice and perseverance. You can attract more positivity into your life.

1. Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can take many forms. You can simply take a look around you and make a mental note of everything you are grateful for. Soon, you will start to realize how good you’ve got it.

Generally speaking, the more creative and big-thinking you can get with your gratitude practice, the better. If you’re in your room, you can be grateful that you have a bed, a roof over your head, soft sheets and a nice pillow. If you’re in a coffee shop, you can be grateful for the pleasant atmosphere, the taste of coffee on your tongue, and so on.

Your gratitude and happiness are only limited by your imagination.

2. Realize What You Can and Can’t Control

A big reason for getting upset is you may not realize what you can and can’t control. Letting go of the things that you can’t control, and doing your best with what you can, are some of the keys to living a more positive life.

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You may see an awful event happen on the news. It’s tragic, but is there anything you can do about it? No, but you are still left with a lingering sense of negativity when you turn the TV off.

Whether it be events in the past or in the future, the answer is always the same: if you can control it, why worry? If you can’t control it, why worry?

3. Cut Off the Negative Sources That Feed You

As briefly mentioned earlier, negative sources in your life are likely feeding you a large amount of negativity. The longer and more frequently you get your fixes from them, the longer you’re going to be negative about everything.

Some of the most common sources of negative energy are the news, social media, toxic friends and toxic relationships. As a general rule of thumb, if someone complains more often than they are enthusiastic, they are adding a net-negative influence on your life. You should re-evaluate what they are doing to your mental health.

4. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

It would be quite naive to think that negativity is something that can be permanently banished. Nobody can be 100% positive all the time, nor should they be expected to be. Negativity, while it can be reduced significantly, isn’t something that you should want to completely eliminate from your life.

That is where mindfulness meditation comes in. This form of practice is all about not engaging with or becoming identified with thoughts. Instead, you watch thoughts come and go, as if from someplace further back. It may sound a bit woo-woo at first, but mindfulness meditation has plenty of scientific evidence[2] to back up the benefits.

When you’re able to take a step back from your thoughts and feelings, you can watch them without judgement, and without getting caught up in a net of strong emotions. The same is true for negativity, which is just a series of thoughts like any other. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to feel a negative emotion come on. You can then say hello and watch it drift by, only to be replaced by another thought. How good does that sound?

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Negativity and negative thoughts only stick around for as long as you hold onto them.

5. Try Journaling Your Thoughts

If you are negative about everything, your head may be a bit of a mess. You might even be skilled enough to watch your negative emotions arise, but then try to fight them or reason with them. Words, thoughts, and the like all swill around in your brain until you feel overwhelmed.

Breathe.

One of the secrets to becoming a less negative person is to journal your thoughts on a piece of paper. Rather than thinking through everything in your head, see if thinking through writing makes any difference. More often than not, people who are clouded by negativity have the biggest breakthroughs when journaling.

Maybe you write down one thing that is troubling you. You may find more clarity seeing problems and other negative influences written down in front of you.

More often than not, you realize that you were making a much bigger deal of them in your mind than they actually are.

6. Smile (Even if you Have to Force it)

It may sound simple, but forcing yourself to smile is one of the fastest ways to improve your mood and quash negativity within yourself.

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According to an article in Forbes[3] as well as many other scientific papers, simply smiling for a few seconds is enough to change your whole brain chemistry, which of course affects the rest of your body.

A smiling expression triggers the release of the “happiness chemicals” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine into your brain. They then begin to improve your mood.

If you constantly feel like negative thoughts are weighing you down, give smiling a try.

7. Eat Healthy

It may not come as a surprise that what you put into your body as fuel impacts your mood.  You rarely find an extremely healthy but negative person. If your diet isn’t up to scratch, you can fix that.

According to an article from Harvard Health,[4] the vagus nerve connects the brain and the gut. Because of this, you want to eat more nourishing foods and cut out packaged, processed foods whenever possible.

One recent study[5] suggests that eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding inflammation-producing foods may be protective against depression. Another study[6] lists foods like oysters, watercress and spinach as foods containing the most antidepressant nutrients.

8. Exercise

Just like eating the right foods, exercise is another cheap and reliable way to turn your negative self-image into a more positive one. You don’t even need access to fancy weights or a flashy indoor bike to get the benefits, all you need is your running shoes and a little bit of willingness to change.

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There is no shortage of scientific articles linking exercise to a better mood and a more positive outlook on the world. According to Better Health,[7] exercise has a whole host of connections with mood including:

1. Exercise helps chronic depression by increasing serotonin (which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which helps neurons to grow).

2. Exercise reduces immune system chemicals that can make depression worse.

3. Exercise increases your level of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters

4. Exercise helps by getting your sleep patterns back to normal. We know getting enough sleep can protect the brain from damage.

Whenever you feel yourself becoming more negative than you would like to be, get your sweat on and see how you feel once you resume normal life!

You Can Beat Negativity!

Of course, none of these pointers will do you much good if you don’t believe. You now know how to stop being negative, but in order to change, you must believe you can.

With these eight effective tools at your disposal, you now know how to stop being negative and start becoming the more positive person you want to be.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daniel Riley

Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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