Mental Health

6 Ways to Stop Being So Negative

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With so much uncertainty in the air, it can be hard to see the glass as half full. Our experts share easy ways to counter gloomy thoughts and spark joy. Below, experts explain how to break free of old patterns and usher in more hope.

Ask this in the morning.

Listen to what you say to yourself first thing when you get up, since that sets the tone for the day, urges empowerment coach Chizoma Nosiri, Ph.D. If you wake up feeling down, try to find the why behind the feeling by putting it into words, like, “I feel overwhelmed by the news.

This helps you focus on specific solutions, such as scheduling good news FaceTime dates with your sister to share uplifting stories and open the door to positivity.

Go on a treasure hunt.

“Beauty is the most powerful antidote to what’s ugly in the world,” declares psychologist Karen Reivich, Ph.D. Ask yourself, “what’s beautiful right here, right now?” Focus on anything from a small stone nestled in the grass to the plant on your windowsill, and examine it as if you’ve never seen it before.

“Searching for beauty is a way of reclaiming it, giving us control over our environment and the way we see the world.”

Let yourself exhale.

Instead of trying to push stress away, gently breathe it away. “Inhale deeply, then exhale a bit more slowly,” urges positivity researcher Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D.

Picture bleak thoughts as clouds, blowing away from you with every exhalation. This helps lift depression by reminding us that negativity isn’t fixed, but something we can move past. “It calms your threat response, giving you the space to invite joy.”

Sprinkle in surprise.

Pick a short time, say, a half hour, and pinpoint one or two ways to infuse it with more novelty, says Reivich. It could be as simple as drawing the items on your grocery list instead of writing them, or putting your music on random shuffle as you clean — when your brain can’t anticipate the next song, it gets an endorphin rush.

Sprinkling small surprises throughout your day “builds positivity like a muscle,” notes Reivich. “Rather than feel helpless, you’ll be an active agent in designing your life, triggering a ripple effect of positive emotions.”

Collect symbols of joy.

People who reflect on meaningful mementos report greater optimism afterward. Your joy touchstone may be anything from a special necklace your mother gave you to a photo of a beloved pet. Says Reivich, “The more we practice choosing where we put our attention, the easier it is to usher in the confidence that boosts resilience.”

Look to the future.

“Picture your future self and jot down three silver linings you will have found from the obstacles of today,” suggests Simon- Thomas. Life is challenging for all of us right now, but in a few months, you may be able to look back and realize how it helped you reconnect with old friends or find new ways to help your community. Visualizing yourself triumphing over setbacks helps you see how strong you will be tomorrow — and how powerful you are today.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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