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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.

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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].

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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.

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    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.

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    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 Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly 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

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    Published on April 15, 2021

    How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

    How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

    When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

    “I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

    Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

    Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

    Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

    “Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

    Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

    Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

    I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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    “Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

    Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

    What Is Optimism?

    The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

    However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

    What Is Positive Mindset?

    The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

    Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

    Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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    To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

    She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

    She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

    3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

    Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

    1. Use the WOOP Model

    Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

    Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

    1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
    2. Imagining a good outcome.
    3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
    4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

    Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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    Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

    2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

    Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

    I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

    Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

    1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
    2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
    3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
    4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

    3. Recognize Negative Thinking

    When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

    The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

    When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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    Final Thoughts

    As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

    Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

    Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

    “True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

    More Tips on Being More Positive

    Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
    [2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
    [3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
    [4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
    [5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
    [6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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