Negative by Default
Being overly negative is something I have suffered with for years. Let’s rewind to when I was in University. My five housemates and I did a fun quiz towards the end of our third year. One of the questions was ‘Who gets the miserable c*nt award?’ I genuinely thought it was going to be lovingly gifted to one of the other guys but the results came in and it was unanimous…everyone labelled me as Mr. Miserable. What hurt the most was that I had no idea I came across that way. Ironically, I then sat for the next ten minutes being a miserable c*nt.
Being negative is second nature for a lot of us. We are hard wired to be risk averse, so a lot of us automatically query all the things that could go wrong before we focus on the positives. This is fine in many situations because it stops us from making stupid decisions. However, the issue is that being negative can become a really bad habit. What’s worse is if that negativity creeps into someone else’s life. You may find yourself regularly spilling the beans on how shit you feel to your partner or keep going over the same negative feelings to a friend. While it’s ok to open up and share how you feel, it’s not ok to make someone else feel shit in the process by burdening them repeatedly with every issue in your life.
I fully appreciate that negativity can come from long feelings of depression, anxiety or perhaps loss of a loved one. I’m not going to delve into this because it’s a Beast on its own, but what I am going to focus on is superficial negativity which masquerades as something deeper.
Being negative is a trigger for me. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term Mentalhelp.net defines 'triggers' as:
“External events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms.”
So, one small moment in time can have a knock on effect and cause worse feelings.
A really good example is if I’m trying to style my shit, unstylable hair (I’m probably going to have to write a whole blog post on the issues I have with my hair!). If it doesn’t quite go the way I had hoped, I start to feel crap about my appearance. This feeling of negativity leads me to evaluate every ounce of my life. I uncover things that I’m not happy about or I go over the same stuff I’ve moaned about before. In the past, I have been very guilty of then turning to my partner at the time and offloading. In fact, I still battle with this.
The thing here is to stop the negative thoughts in their track. Or, if you find you can’t, you must realise that rather than everything in your life being shit, it might just be that you feel negative for that moment in time and it’s hazing your inner view.
If you’re a big talker like me, you might find that you can’t help blabbering on about all the things you’re feeling. The issue for me is that this can lead me down a path of negativity where I can quite easily spend the next 3-4 hours droning on about all the intricate reasons for why I’m pissed off with where I am in life. I go around in circles repeating myself and a lot of the times I’ll end up back tracking and explaining to the poor person on the other end that I don’t actually feel as bad as I have described. It’s a bloody mess!
I needed a solution…
So what I learned was quite simple. It was to just take a moment…..
If a negative thought starts to come to mind, rather than blurt it out I ask myself the following questions…
“Is this something I have already talked about?”
“Is the information I am about to talk about any different than before?”
“Have the circumstances changed since we last spoke?”
“Have I done anything to help myself?”
If the answer is No, I keep my lips sealed. That’s not because I am suppressing my feelings, it’s because I am trying to be conscientious to others and their own thoughts and feelings. I have done my venting and I have received support in the past so, if I continue to go on, the support I receive may become weaker or dwindle altogether because, and this is the important bit to remember, it’s not a tap I can turn on and off as and when I see fit.
And that’s how all relationships should work. However, what I find is that a lot of people who are in a crap place completely forget about others and their feelings; the friend or family member becomes a punch bag. It’s all the more common these days to be able to find someone in your contact list that only ever speaks to you when they have something to moan about but…who wants a friend like that? Really ask yourself if that could be you. If it is, you need to improve.
If the circumstances change and you're saying to yourself “Woah! This has really started to get the better of me now” it’s time to evaluate whether it’s worth turning on the tap of support for a bit and bathing in it until you feel ready to tackle the issue in your life.
But let’s not forget to top the tank back up after. If you’ve been draining someone for some time, it’s really important to give something back in the way of love, support or even a card that says ‘Thank you!’.
“Don’t make decisions when you’re sad and don’t buy anything when you’re happy!”
I’m not sure where I read this but it really resonated with me. Going back to the mention of small triggers - in the past what I noticed was that if I was feeling down I was prone to making impulsive decisions. Just a simple trigger like my hair not going the way I wanted could have ended up having a catastrophic effect with me doing or saying something stupid because I was feeling low. Equally, when I found myself on a high (as part of my ever volatile emotional graph) I may have found myself clicking the 'Buy it now' button on Amazon far too many times. In these moments it's important to measure the situation and come to terms with how you're feeling before moving forward. Or agree to not make any changes until you are back to what you deem normal.
The good news is that there are some easy ways to avoid unneeded negativity in your life. For example, realising who the bad influences are; the ones who drain you of your energy because they only show you negativity. If they’re prepared to be careless with your friendship, don’t be afraid to cut ties with this person. Other people and their bad habits can rub off on you, which is why you often see couples behaving very similarly, sometimes in a bad way and to the detriment of a friend (or probably an ex-friend by now). Removing these individuals can free you of unneeded gloom.
I try not to adopt the ‘There are people worse off than you’ attitude. I believe you have the right to feel low because your experiences are only relative to you and what you have been through, but an alternative way to see it is that things could be a lot worse for you. For example, you’re reading this which tells me you’re probably not currently homeless. Great news! Or, I’d hope that you’re not suffering from a terminal illness which means you’ve only got so many days to live. This shouldn’t discount your need to feel down sometimes but may help reevaluate where you stand on the grand scheme of things.
Another thing I find particularly useful is to make the effort to do something good for someone else. It can feel great to make someone happy, especially if they weren't expecting it and it can be something super simple. However, the knock on effect isn’t just a small moment of joy, it physically effects your body and the chemicals in your brain. Plus, it strengthens your relationship and can lead to further positive moments.
Be aware of the words you're using and the way you're using them. For example, if someone describes a new business idea you've had that you believe to be risky or simply the worst business concept you've ever heard in your life, maybe take a moment to consider what it means to them. How long have they spent on this? Are you really the almighty know-it-all where whatever you believe is correct? No. Not at all. In fact, one of the best things I learned was to always say to myself "I might be wrong". It allows you step outside of your single minded view and question yourself. Or, at least it allows you to appreciate that some things in life are subjective, i.e. I like to listen to Death metal. My partner fucking hates it.
Lastly, I tell you what makes a huge difference for me - Diet. I used to be able to rely on the fact that if I had a greasy Chinese the night before, I’d wake up feeling fucking lousy. So don’t expect your mind to work in the way you want it to if you’re filling your face full of junk.
Unfortunately, with Social Media and the way in which News channels are broadcasting what only seems like ‘Bad News’, we are suckers for negativity. Criticism and negativity simply have a greater impact. We remember terrible moments from our past more than positive. We can recall an insult or a dirty look we received more than the smile from a stranger who walked past.
This again all stems back to how we are built as humans. We are constantly trying to figure out where we belong in society and we must measure the threats around us to survive for as long as possible. But guess what? We’re not cave people anymore. We’re an educated, advanced species living in close-knit communities. We carry with us a selection of emotions and these must be considered, both within ourself and others. By understanding our weaknesses, we can create a strength.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility alone to take action to fix any problems in your life that may be causing you discomfort. The job of your friend or family member is it to support you and, even then, that’s their right to make that decision not yours. If your default setting is Negative, you're not only making life difficult for yourself, you're going to be harder to work/live/play with.
So, if you find yourself being negative, perhaps you need to take the time to figure out what’s causing it? Is it just a bad habit? Or is the problem a much deeper issue that needs resolving? Either way, the time to act is now. Otherwise, you risk making yourself and everyone around you feel worse.