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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 Focus on Yourself When You’re Surrounded by Negativity How to Clear Your Mind And Be Present Instantly 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful 15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself (Especially When Feeling Down) How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You

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    Last Updated on November 26, 2020

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked, and in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, chronic worrying, and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, so it’s imperative that we take time to learn how to stop worrying and start living.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you create a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    However, keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it, and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver. If you do find later that you’re heading in the wrong direction, there will be type to reconsider what you’re doing. Until then, stop worrying about where your new decision will take you.

    2. Live for Today, Pack Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning, and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments.” Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, and your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present moment.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

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    This is, of course, easier said than done, but if you really want to learn how to stop worrying and start living, learning to compartmentalize in this way is imperative. Find a place for everything, just as you would in a perfectly organized closet.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    Start by writing down your biggest concerns. Then, write down the possible consequences of those events and then at least three ways you could overcome or deal with those consequences. You may find you have more tools at your disposal than you think.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative thoughts and experiences when just walking away from them would serve our mental health far better.

    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief in order to learn how to stop worrying and start living.

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    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    A 2020 study found that forcing a smile can help shift your brain toward more positive thinking[1]. Therefore, try to smile, even when you’re feeling down. You may find that it turns your day in a better direction.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz[2]. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    Stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

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    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are in order to learn how to stop worrying and start living.

    If you struggle to be your most authentic self, check out this article for help getting started.

    8. Haters Will Hate – It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

    The next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Stop worrying about criticism and take it as a compliment! 

    Now, if you keep hearing the same negative criticism from various people, it may be time to take a look at what you’re doing or how you’re acting. Everyone has room for improvement, so don’t be afraid to adjust your attitude when it’s warranted.

    9. Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions, so it’s important to learn how to prevent both fatigue and worry.

    It should be clear, therefore, that when you’re learning how to stop worrying and start living, learn to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

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    Learn to rest in order to stop worrying and start living.

      It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively. Resting can include taking a nap, enjoying a walk through nature, or sitting on the couch with a good book. Find the form of rest that works for your unique body and mind.

      10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

      There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

      But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to develop good working habits and stay organized: a desk full of unanswered emails and memos is sure to breed worries.

      Research has shown that “clutter in one’s living space, negative emotions, and impaired social ability all predicted high procrastination scores”[3]. Clutter will not only stress you out, but it will also make you put off the things you need to be doing, which will only cause more stress.

      The Bottom Line

      When you want to learn how to stop worrying and start living, it’s important to identify which areas of your life are causing you the most worry. When you’re able to tackle specific areas, the job will get a lot easier. Cultivate a mental attitude toward more positive thinking and see how it helps you jump into each day with less worry.

      More Tips for Living a Stress-Free Life

      Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

      Reference

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