Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Focus on Yourself When You’re Surrounded by Negativity

How to Focus on Yourself When You’re Surrounded by Negativity

These days, negativity snowballs at the drop of a hat. Whether it’s in our work environment, personal relationships, or in society on a global scale, negativity is hard to shake off and even harder to avoid. It’s an unfortunate but necessary part of our life, even when you choose to focus on yourself.

After all, if we never faced negativity, we wouldn’t know to look toward positivity with so much gusto. Even when we keep a sunny outlook on life, external factors affect us greatly. In order to understand how to focus on ourselves more, we also need to understand how negativity impacts our entire being.

Focusing on Mental and Emotional Health

Think back on a stressful situation you’ve had at work recently. How did it affect your thinking? Perhaps it derailed you from staying focused on completing projects or meeting deadlines. It may have also left you frazzled and unable to stay grounded on one train of thinking.

Now think about your emotions. Were you sad? Angry? Overwhelmed? Perhaps all of the above. You can’t always control negativity, even when you choose to focus on yourself and your mental health. We may be in work or family situations where a person we’re dealing with is difficult to be around or work with. Their demeanor brings us down, and their energy acts like a vacuum, sucking us into their negative spirals.

It can be difficult to pull ourselves out of this interaction, but it’s important to notice if it happens. Why? Because when we know better, we can do better. Negativity impacts our mental and emotional health in the blink of an eye. Practicing self-awareness can give us the power back to reclaim our good energy.

Focusing on Physical Health

Our entire being works on an intricately connected level. When our mental and emotional health are compromised due to negativity, our physical health is just as affected. This includes our metabolism, sleep cycle, energy levels, and how well (or poorly) we deal with stress.

According to Marque Medical, “Doctors have found that people with high levels of negativity are more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, and recover from sickness much slower”[1]. This is certainly the case when we have our own negative thoughts, or when we’re exposed to negativity.

Advertising

Tools to Help You Focus on Yourself

First and foremost, self-awareness is key. Self-awareness is our ability to tap into our inner world and identify emotions and thoughts[2] This idea begs the question of how to monitor this world. Luckily for us, a renowned, popular, and simple practice has been around for centuries to address this very question.

1. Meditation

This ancient and sacred practice has been teaching people self-awareness and self-actualization for centuries. Meditation is a practice of stillness, silence, and often solitude. Its main goal is to turn down the volume of the chitta vritti nirodha, which is loosely translated as the “fluctuations of the mind”[3].

In another analogy, this is often referred to as the “monkey mind.” When our thoughts are in overdrive, they can be visualized as restless little monkeys jumping from branch to branch. Meditation resolves to address this, and not by stopping the monkeys, but by acknowledging their behavior in the first place.

This is where self-awareness truly shines. Instead of stopping your train of thought (which is impossible), can you become aware of how frazzled you may be? Can you notice the quality of your thoughts? More importantly, when negativity is lurking nearby, can you notice that you are being affected by it? If so, over time, you can begin to pull away from energy that brings you down.

If you’re not sure how to start meditation, try this simple morning meditation.

2. Boundaries

Setting boundaries is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It allows you to take back your power where you may have willingly distributed it before. We do this all the time because we love our family and friends. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, come off as a burden, or create division in our relationships[4].

Advertising

10 Steps to Setting Boundaries to Focus on Yourself

    However, when we’re lax in our boundary setting, the biggest division we create is within ourselves. Drawing firm lines in the sand is one way to focus on yourself when faced with negativity.

    This may look like honoring your values and leaving a conversation when you don’t feel comfortable or supported anymore. It may look like speaking your truth and expressing your feelings when you otherwise wouldn’t. Think back on that power. We can’t avoid negativity, but we can control how we react in the moment.

    3. Communication

    Negativity doesn’t simply vanish when we’re not paying attention anymore. It grows and festers over time. One powerful tool that we often undervalue is honest and assertive communication. When we’re overwhelmed, it’s good medicine to speak up about it.

    When we’re uncomfortable, it’s liberating to confess that we are. Not only does this keep you honest, but it also brings you back and helps you focus on yourself again.

    How you feel is never wrong. We’re in alignment with ourselves when we’re expressing our truthful emotions and thoughts. In the face of negativity, this is a wise weapon.

    4. Detachment

    When we’re surrounded by negative people, it is important to remember that we’re not a part of their story. It is kind and compassionate to hold space for a dear friend who is going through a tough time, but it’s not so kind to ourselves to invest into their struggle until it becomes our own.

    Often, when we’re in negative situations, we absorb the energy subconsciously. If you know you’re going to be in such situations or around such people, imagine you’re cloaking yourself in a white light or a transparent bubble of protection.

    Advertising

    Whether you subscribe to the idea of auras or not, we all have energy fields[5]. This is most apparent when you meet someone for the first time, and you get a good vibe or poor impression of them. You’re actually picking up on their aura. Likewise, it is important to care for your own so that you’re not attracting or taking on someone’s negativity.

    5. Observation

    When a problem occurs, are you the first person to step in and help? Are you often the martyr or savior when people need something done? How often does this deplete you or take you away from your own self-care?

    For many of us, stepping in to help in a negative situation is almost a reflex. Our good nature and kindness shine through! This comes at a cost, however. Investing our energy into fixing negativity often leaves us spent, frustrated, and resentful.

    The hard truth is that we’re not meant to save the world. Every negative situation does not need our quick fix or invested effort. Likewise, every negative person does not need us to save them.

    If you get the urge to do this, pause and observe. Negativity does have its benefit. It forces people and situations to change, shift, and evolve.

    6. Release

    Imagine a row of matchsticks. The first one is lit and carries the flame down the line until one matchstick moves out of the formation, saving the rest. The same is true when we’re around negativity and take it on; our chances of passing it along to others are high.

    All it takes is for one person to stop the negativity in its tracks before it “infects” more people. We can always be that person. Through the practice of self-awareness and detachment, we can remove ourselves from the story and re-focus and realign.

    Advertising

    7. Create Space

    We don’t always know the backstory of a negative situation or person. We don’t know what that person may be dealing with, or the details of the circumstances that are now affecting us. Creating space and patiently listening to someone or learning more about what is happening may give us the pause we need to de-escalate our own negative spiral.

    The practice of empathy is astoundingly effective in bringing us back to ourselves; oddly enough, it does this because we deeply connect to our world and to others[6]. There is always space for understanding.

    Final Thoughts

    Negativity is a natural part of life, albeit uncomfortable. It teaches us the importance and the preciousness of positivity! As such, it is vital that we understand how we react to negativity in our life.

    Through emotional, mental, and physical interaction, we pick up negativity quickly and subconsciously. It becomes a part of our self-care regimen, then, to practice self-awareness and notice where negativity has hidden in our being. Working to extricate this energy is both a gift to yourself and to those around you, as you become a part of the solution by choosing to focus on yourself with love and care.

    More on Self-Care

    Featured photo credit: Roberto Nickson via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Aleksandra Slijepcevic

    Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

    How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains Why You Need To Stop Seeking Validation And Start Thriving Can You Stop Depression from Damaging Your Brain?

    Trending in Positive Thinking

    1 How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough) 2 Surviving and Thriving Amid the Pandemic: Personal Responsibility 3 Surviving and Thriving Amid the Pandemic: Cultivating a Positive Mindset 4 How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind 5 Surviving and Thriving Amid the Pandemic: Death to Doom Scrolling

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on February 22, 2021

    How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

    How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

    Scott Peck’s first sentence in his book, The Road Less Traveled, is, “Life is difficult.” He then goes on to say that if you accept this, you are going to be okay. There is a lot of adversity in life, and none of us are exempt. That’s why we need to focus on the good things in life for us to move forward.

    Here are 4 ways you can focus on the good things in life, especially during tough times.

    1. “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do”

    “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

    The above quote is the title of Dr. Robert Schuller’s outstanding book. The title tells you all you need to know about the book.

    We have been through a tough 2020, and 2021 could very well be just as tough. The hope is that vaccines and proper protocols will get us through these difficult times. Americans in the 20th century suffered through two World Wars and the devastating Great Depression. To get through these times, they had to be tough—and they were. Now, it is our turn to show our toughness.

    I can think of three examples where people showed their toughness in recent years.

    The first has to do with the Catholic Church and the awful pedophilia scandal. I believe it was one of the worst times in the history of the Church. What happened to the children was unconscionable. Another side of the issue was the clergy who were falsely accused. Two of them in the Chicago area knew they were innocent and showed their toughness in different ways.

    The first got through it with prayer—praying especially for his accuser. Prayer can be a great way to get through tough times. The second was able to retain his optimism. He said he kept repeating a sentence from John and Bobby Kennedy’s mother, Rose: “After the storm, the birds always sing.”

    Both men were exonerated after a most difficult and humiliating time. Their accusers ultimately admitted they had lied.

    Another way of getting through times is by calling on the best of people. Winston Churchill, during the worst bombing of London in World War II, told the British people, “Never, never give in!” The British people did just that.

    Advertising

    Another way of getting through times is through determination and work. We were looking to build a gymnasium at Providence High School when I worked there. We drafted a paper giving the rationale as to why we needed the gym and presented it to people of means in our community.

    The vote was 16-0 that we should not try to build during such tough economic times. Providence has a gym today because of the work ethic and the determination of one man—Father (then Bishop) Roger Kaffer.

    Finally, teams go through tough times in athletics. We started one season 3-6. We decided to go back to the fundamentals. We finished 9-2 and played for the conference championship because we returned to the fundamentals. All organizations can return to their core values during tough times.

    Prayer, optimism, calling on our best selves, determination, work, and our core values can get us through tough times.

    2. Keep a Good Thought

    “Keep a good thought” is an Irish maxim encouraging people to stay positive. We can find the good through tough times by our thinking.

    Dale Carnegie wrote, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy. It’s what you think about.”

    I enjoyed the basketball coach who had an interesting take on thinking. He asked the referee if he could give him a technical foul for what he was thinking. The ref said of course not; the coach then responded, “I think you stink!”

    Willie Nelson, in one of his many songs, stressed to be careful of negative thinking. Paraphrasing, the refrain was, “Think of the good times because the bad times weigh like lead on your mind.”

    Our students at the University of St. Francis would annually go to Bolivia to help the people build and repair homes. When I asked them what they learned from the trip, they said two things—they could not believe the poverty the people lived in nor could they believe the positive attitude with which the people lived. Their kindness, humor, and compassion were incredible. Somehow, they consistently kept a good thought, despite their tough circumstances.

    Mother Teresa summed up keeping a good thought when she wrote, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

    Advertising

    You can focus on the good things in life when you are determined to “Keep a Good Thought” through hardships.

    3. Be in the Moment

    We focus on the good things when we are happy. Roy T. Bennett wrote, “If you want to be happy do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”

    Two emotions that can deprive us of our happiness are guilt and worry. Jeffrey Nevid called them the “useless emotions.”

    Guilt refers to the past. We can elect to carry guilt for something we did in the past. That is our prerogative, but the bottom line is we cannot change it. It’s over! What we can do, however, is learn from it, then move on. Learning from it is the easy part; moving on, the only realistic thing to do, admittedly is the hard part.

    Mark Twain had a great insight into guilt’s partner, worry, when he wrote, “I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which happened.”

    Too often, we worry about things that never materialize. If guilt and worry are tied to our past and future and if they are “useless emotions,” then the only alternative is to live in the present.

    In my first 25 years of coaching basketball at the University of St. Francis, we had no bus to take us to road games. We, the coaches, drove the vans. There were 21 NAIA teams in Illinois and only 6 made the playoffs. We finally had the chance to be one of the 6 but we had to win one more game. The team we played was about 5 hours away. We were down 12 with 4 minutes to go in the game. We rallied to make 2 free throws with 2 seconds left to go and we were up by 1 point.

    They inbounded the ball to our free-throw line, some 79 feet away from their basket. Their player threw a “Hail Mary” ball toward their basket—it went right in and knocked us out of the playoffs! I had the option of dwelling on that incredulous ending and living in the past or living in the present and driving our players back to campus safely! Fortunately, we made it home.

    We can focus on the good by making ourselves happy. Many people have validated that we can make ourselves happy.

    Aristotle kept it simple, “Happiness depends on ourselves.”

    Advertising

    The Dalai Lama wrote, “Happiness is not something that is readymade. It comes from your own actions.”

    The actress Aubrey Hepburn had this insight, “The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.”

    Mahatma Gandhi saw it this way, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

    When we will ourselves into a state of happiness by staying in the present moment, we can focus on the good things in life.

    4. Help Others

    Mark Twain wrote, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up.”

    A former high school classmate, Pat Warren, was constantly cheering up our friends when they were experiencing tough times. I would hear about the person suffering and tell myself I must get to see him. Inevitably, by the time I finally got to see him, Pat had already been there. He constantly focused on the good things he could do for others, especially during their difficult times.

    Joe Madden, the former Chicago Cubs manager, used to tell his players, “Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” I saw one of his players execute the pleasure.

    One of my grandchildren was playing in a Little League game on Chicago’s north side. He was playing on one field and there was another game on an adjacent field. When I looked to the other field, the game had stopped and all the players and fans had surrounded someone.

    Ben Zobrist lived near the park where the kids were playing. He had been the Most Valuable Player of the previous year’s World Series. So, there was a lot of pressure on him to perform well this next year, but he did not let the pressure exceed his giving pleasure.

    The Cubs had a game that day and he lived close enough to Wrigley Field, their home park, so he would often ride his bike to games in his uniform. However, before riding to his game this day, he rode over to the park where we were.

    Advertising

    The players and the adults were excited to see and meet the 2016 World Series MVP. He stayed in the park until he signed every autograph for every person on both fields! It was an act of random kindness as he gave the kids great pleasure. He focused on the good despite the pressure he was about to face in his game.

    Numerous pundits have great insights into the many facets of helping others.

    Catherine Pulsifer said, “People appreciate and never forget that helping hand, especially when times are tough.”

    Martin Luther King wrote, ”Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.”

    Charles Dickens spoke about the two kinds of people who help. “There were two kinds of charitable people: one, the people who did little and made a great deal of noise; the other the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

    Finally, Jim Rohn wrote about the relationship between giving and receiving, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”

    Helping others, especially during tough times, enables you to focus on the good things in life.

    Final Thoughts

    We can focus on the good things in life during difficult times in four ways:

    • By being tough and not fearing the tough times
    • By keeping a good thought
    • By staying in the moment
    • By being there for others

    Remember that tough times are inevitable, but they will also inevitably end. The key is to focus on the good, and you’ll get there eventually.

    More Tips on How to Focus on the Good

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

    Read Next