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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

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

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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

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

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    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

    When someone says, “I can’t do it” . . . I say to myself, “What do you mean you can’t do it?” Maybe you don’t want to do it, but saying you “can’t” do it is a completely different story.

    With the right mindset, positive attitude, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, the only thing that is holding you back is yourself.

    Can’t is a terrible word and it has to be taken out of your vocabulary.

    By saying you can’t do something, you’re already doubting yourself, submitting to defeat, and you’re making that barrier around your life tighter.

    So today, right now, we are going to remove this word for good.

    From now on there is nothing we can’t do.

    “Attitude is Tattoo”

    Your attitude is everything; it’s your reason, your why and how, your facial expression, emotions, body language, and potentially the end result. How you approach an opportunity, and the result of it, is solely based on you — not your boss or your co-worker or friend.

    If you enter a business meeting with a sour attitude, that negative energy can spread like wildfire. People can also feel it — maybe even taste it. This is not an impression you want to leave.

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    Now imagine you enter a business meeting with a positive attitude, that whatever happens in here is going to be your result, in your control, not someone else’s. Of course, we can’t always win, but even if the outcome is negative, your attitude and perception can turn it into a positive. The question is: can you do it?

    Of course you can, because there is nothing in this world you can’t do.

    It’s much better to be known for your positive attitude — your poise, your energy, the reason why things go so well because you are able to maintain such character. A negative attitude is easy. It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to be mad, and it’s even easier to do nothing to change it.

    When I say your “attitude is tattoo”, it sounds permanent. Tattoos can be removed, but that’s not the point. Your attitude is like a tattoo because you wear it. People can see it and sometimes, they will judge you on it. If you maintain a negative attitude, then it is permanent until you change it.

    Change your attitude and I guarantee the results change as well.

    Believe You Can Do It

    Do you know why most people say “can’t” and doubt themselves before trying anything?

    It’s our lack of self-confidence and fear on many different levels. The one thing we have to purge from ourselves is fear — fear of bad results, fear of change, fear of denial, fear of loss, the fear that makes us worry and lose sleep. Worrying is the same as going outside with an umbrella, waiting for rain to hit it. Stop worrying and move on.

    Confidence is fragile: It builds up slowly, but can shatter like glass. Project your confidence and energy into believing in yourself. This is a very important and groundbreaking step — one that is usually the hardest to take. Start telling yourself you can do something, anything, and you will do it the best to your ability. Remove doubt, remove fear, and stick with positive energy.

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    Learn how to boost your confidence: How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

    Embrace Failure

    Do not fear failure. Do not run away from it. Face it, learn from it, grow, and take action. Just remember: You will never know success if you have never failed.

    Your confidence will bolster after embracing these facts. You will be immune to demoralizing results, and instead you will find ways to fix it, improve upon it, and make it better than before. You will learn to never say “can’t,” and will realize how many more opportunities you can create by removing that one word.

    Don’t let one simple and ugly word plague your confidence. You’re better and stronger than that.

    Start Making the Change

    But to actually start the process of change is very challenging.

    Why is that?

    Fear? Time? Don’t know how — or where — to start?

    It’s hard because what we’re doing is unlearning what we know. We are used to doing things a certain way, and chances are we’ve been doing them for years.

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    So here are some ways that I avoid using the word “can’t”, and actually take the steps to put forth the change that I wish to see. I hope you can incorporate these methods into your life.

    Write down What You Want to Change

    Write it on post-its, notecards, whatever makes you comfortable — something you will always see. I usually write mine on post-its and put them all over the wall behind my monitor so I always see them.

    Tell a Friend and Talk About It

    Discussing your goals, what you want to change, is very effective when you say it out loud and tell another person other than yourself. It’s almost like saying, hey, I bet I can do it — watch me.

    When you fulfill that goal and tell your friend, it feels rewarding and will motivate you to do it again in a different aspect. Who knows? Maybe your friend adopts the same mindset as you.

    Stop Yourself from Saying the Forbidden Word

    Sometimes,I can’t control myself in public when I’m with friends, so I have to be careful with the words I use so I don’t embarrass or insult anyone.

    Treat the word “can’t” as the worst word you can possibly use. Stop yourself from saying it, mid-sentence if you must, and turn your whole perspective around — you can do it, you will do it, and nothing is impossible!

    Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

    You think this change will be overnight? No way. This is a practice. Something you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life from now until forever.

    As I said earlier, you are unlearning what you know. You know how easy it is to say you can’t do something, so by unlearning this easy practice, you’re self-disciplining yourself to live without boundaries.

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    Practice this everyday, a little at a time, and before you know it, the word can’t will not be part of your language.

    Do Anything That Can Relieve Your Uncertainty

    When I catch myself saying I can’t do something or I don’t know something, looking up information on that action or subject, doing research, educating yourself, relieves that uncertainty.

    Sometimes, we think we can’t do something because the whole idea of it seems too large. We skip the small steps in our head and only focus on the end.

    Before you say you can’t do something, rewind and slow down a little bit. Focus on what the first step is, then the next. Take it a step at a time, and before you know it you will have done something you previously thought you couldn’t do.

    Final Thoughts

    You know what you must do. The first step is right now. Once you begin this habit, and really start noticing some change, you’ll realize the door to opportunity is everywhere.

    The funny thing is: Those doors have always been there. The evil word that we no longer use put a veil over our eyes because that’s how powerful that word is.

    More Tips for Strengthening Your Resilience

    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

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