How to Shut out Negative Thoughts and Influences from Your Life
How immune to negative influences are you?
Do you let them roll off you like “water off a duck’s back,” or have you been told you are too “sensitive,” or too “thin-skinned? Do you let other people or events bring you down? Do you tend to take things personally? Are you susceptible to negativity? Negative influences can come in many forms and can be either external or internal.
External negativity could be in the form of a negative friend, a co-worker or even a close relative. This person tends to complain loudly and sees the glass as half empty rather than half full. Perhaps this person has a habit of frowning upon you, making scathing remarks or outright put-downs, whether those remarks are about your appearance, your accomplishments, your work ethic, or anything else they choose to find fault with.
These people do not compliment and encourage you; instead, they are hell-bent on finding fault and making you feel small and insignificant. (This is because that is how they feel about themselves, and when they put you down, it is to make themselves feel a bit better. But their “triumph” only lasts for a moment).
They may blame you and make you wrong, even though you are not wrong. All this negativity wears you down. Often, negative influences are subtle, and you may not realize the extent of the impact they are having on you.
But if you are exposed to negative influences from others on a daily basis, they can erode your self-esteem, your confidence and your sense of self-worth. They can even contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness and shame.
Perhaps you are working in a noisy, dirty and uncared-for work environment. This is an example of an external, negative influence. It may seem like you can brush it off and not let it affect you, but over time it can be very demoralizing. Perhaps you live in a noisy, stressful and polluted, overpopulated city. Maybe you have to endure a 2-hour commute in heavy traffic day after day.
Some of these external negative influences have become so “normalized” in our society that again, you may not fully realize the extent of the impact they are having upon you, especially over the long-term. They will be affecting your stress levels and causing them to go up, at the expense of your mental, emotional and physical health. They will contribute to your exhaustion; your endurance capacity and they will test your immunity.
Internal Negative Influences
What about the internal negative influences? What do they look like? Well, according to counseling psychologist Ella Morelle, you may have grown up in a household of negative people, and you may have learned how to be negative yourself. If this is the case, you may not even realize it, because you grew up in what you perceived to be a “normal” environment. If you didn’t know anything different, you would tend to presume it was normal.
You will have learned some negative beliefs that influence the way you view the world. For example, perhaps you believe that “You will never make anything of yourself,” because that is what your parents told you. Perhaps they taught you that, “Life is hard,” and, “Money doesn’t grow on trees;” maybe they told you, “No!” so many times you were taught to believe that, “You can never have what you want.”
These thoughts get replayed inside your head or your subconscious, over and over, and are examples of internal negative influences. Another example of negative internal influence, states Morelle, could be the food you put in your mouth. If you are prone to eating junk food, then you are creating an unhealthy internal environment that contributes to ill-health.
Shutting Out Negative Influences
How can you shut out, overcome, or become immune to these negative influences, so they don’t wreck your health and productivity? Fortunately, as Morelle concurs, there are many things you can do to build resilience against these negative forces and create a stronger environment for yourself, both inside and out. Here are some ideas:
Change your negative beliefs
According to Morelle, this is one of the most profound life changes you can undertake to build up resistance to, and overcome negative influences. When you can “weed out” the negative thoughts, your outer circumstances will, of necessity, change for the better. This concussion is a kind of systems thinking approach that understands the interconnected nature of all things.
Everybody learns certain negative beliefs based on the environment they grew up in and the types of relationships they were exposed to in early life. If a child grows up in a loving, safe, and supportive home with kind parents who adequately provide for and educate the child in a compassionate and heart-centered way, that child is very much more likely to have good solid self-esteem, self-confidence, and inner resilience.
A child who grew up in poverty with alcoholic parents who neglected them emotionally, physically and psychologically, is far more likely to be vulnerable and at risk of taking drugs or becoming addicted or getting involved in crime. There are statistics to back this up.
Whatever kind of upbringing you might have had, the underlying core belief, “I am unworthy,” is pretty well universal. This one belief alone can have major implications for the way you lead your life. Changing just this one belief, and replacing it with a more helpful and healthful belief (such as, “I am worthy, and acceptable just the way I am”), can cause positive change in your circumstances.
For example, perhaps, once you have changed this belief, you now speak up for yourself and tell people to stop when they are saying unkind things or being critical of you. Perhaps you are more able to create healthy boundaries for yourself as a result of changing this core belief.
Avoid negative people
If your friends say mean and hurtful things to you, you have to wonder if they are worthy of your friendship! Are they “fair weather” friends? Do they disappear when the going gets tough? You deserve better than that! Negative friends will only serve to dampen your spirits, drain you of energy and pull you down to their level.
Seek out friends who support you, embrace you for who you are, and who are for you, not against you.
Surround yourself with positive people who will build you up, not knock you down. Find friends who want to be there for you when you are down, and who will celebrate your successes along with you. Find friends who say good, kind, positive and supportive things to you. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging. Connect with people who share similar values to you.
Mindfulness is the art of staying in the present moment. It is not obsessing about the past, nor is it worrying about the future. When you can train the mind to stay focused on what is happening in this moment, a few things happen: Your body starts to relax; you let go of negative or unhelpful thoughts; you create a certain distance between you and your thoughts.
This detachment can help you avoid getting emotionally invested in your thoughts (identifying too strongly with your negative beliefs can contribute to your stress levels, thus lowering your immunity and resilience).
Through mindfulness, you become able to witness your thoughts, knowing that they are just thoughts; you no longer buy into them as wholeheartedly as you once might have done. You don’t get sucked into them, or caught up in the drama of them.
This mindfulness practice helps you to experience more calm and more equilibrium, as you realize your thoughts are not the absolute truth. Studies show that mindfulness can be beneficial for your mental and physical health. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and to increase feelings of well-being, inner peace and contentment.
A simple way to start practicing mindfulness is to be present to what you are eating. Firstly, become aware of the food on the plate in front of you. Notice all the different colors, textures and aromas. Perhaps take a deep breath in and draw the wonderful scents deeply into your body, relishing them as you do so. Then, when you take a mouthful of food, maybe close your eyes.
Experience the explosion of tastes on your palette and feel the textures as you chew and savor the flavors. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the experience and pleasure of eating. Chew slowly. Enjoy and appreciate your food, one bite at a time. Observe what is different as you eat in this way, rather than in your habitual way, when perhaps your mind wanders off to thinking about work or shopping or appointments and so on.
Affirmations are simple, positive statements that you can use to help train your mind to think more positively. When you use them in conjunction with changing your negative thoughts, they are powerful indeed. Affirmations usually start with the word, “I,” and they are in the present tense. A good affirmation to help counter negative influences could be, “I am productive and healthy, no matter what is going on around me.” Another example could be, “I am strong, resilient and able to overcome any obstacle.” (Source) When you repeat these affirmations over and over, you train yourself in the new habit of thinking positively.
You even encourage your brain to grow new neural pathways that take you along these new positive trains of thought! A good way to remind yourself to repeat your affirmations is to write them on cards or post-its and stick them up around the house: On the mirror, the fridge and so on.
Try affirmations every day for at least a month before you pass judgement on whether they work or not. Think of it as a fun experiment! The great master of affirmations was Louise Hay who wrote the book, “You Can Heal Your Life.” Although she has passed on, her legacy lives on in her books about affirmations.
There are plenty of studies which show that visualizations really do work. Athletes use them to hone their technique and skill, and renowned business people use them to achieve greater levels of success. Visualization is when you picture in detail, an outcome you wish to achieve. It is a good idea to involve all your senses as much as possible as you do your visualization. Let’s say that you want to be more productive in your work.
You can imagine yourself beating your previous limits. See yourself in the work environment. Notice the colors and visual details of the surroundings. What sounds can you hear? Smells, or scents? What textures are you aware of as you see yourself doing your task more efficiently, more effortlessly and more brilliantly than before.
See yourself smiling and radiant as you easily complete your tasks and win the approval and admiration of your colleagues and managers.
Take care of your physical self
Whether you cycle, walk, swim, lift weights, do yoga, or go to the gym, taking care of your physical condition will not only help to reduce your stress levels by burning off excess cortisol that has built up in your system, but it will build your resilience by boosting your cardiovascular system and your immune system, as studies have shown. Being in good physical shape is one way to boost your self-esteem and your self-confidence, thus helping to “ward off” the impacts of other people’s negative comments and criticisms.
The important thing is to get yourself moving. Even just ten minutes a day can be a good place to start. Gradually build up over time. And remember to reward yourself for your efforts: Perhaps a relaxing bath in Epsom salts to melt away the soreness in your muscles, or even a relaxation massage occasionally.
Fuel your body the right way
You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat,” and that is the truth. If you fill your body with sugars and simple carbohydrates, along with greasy, deep-fried foods, lots of dairy, alcohol, and lots of red meat (which takes ages to digest and hangs out in your intestinal tract forever, putrefying and contributing to cancer (and yes, there are studies to back this up), you are going to be less healthy and less resilient.
If you eat a diet which is predominantly rich in fresh, mostly raw and organic, fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and legumes, fish, lean white meat, and plenty of fresh water you will be healthier. An easy way to remember how to eat a healthy diet is to build your plate with 50% vegetables, 25% starches, 25% lean protein.
What happens when you practice gratitude on a consistent basis? When you make the art of gratitude part of your daily routine, and especially when you experience the feelings of gratitude, your world will gradually start to change for the better. You will feel better, first of all: You will become more appreciative for all the many wonderful things that you have in your life.
Focusing on the good instead of the bad will leave you feeling more content. You will feel happier. This, in turn, will send signals to your body that it is okay to turn off the stress response. You will start to slow down and relax more.
Your mind will be more aligned with higher emotions such as happiness, joy, contentment, and peace. This starts you on an upward spiral towards ever more positive emotions, as psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has theorized.
Practice loving kindness
Loving-kindness meditation is a certain form of Buddhist meditation. It helps you gain detachment from your thoughts by witnessing them from a perspective of loving kindness. When you can turn loving kindness towards yourself as well as towards others, then you are really winning at the game of life. You start to experience inner tranquility and a greater sense of well-being. It is important to direct loving kindness towards yourself. Without self-love, it is very difficult to love another.
- Start by sitting in a comfortable pose.
- Imagine a sensation of loving kindness permeating your heart and surrounding it.
- Send love to yourself as you say these words: “May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well with me.”
- Next, direct your attention to someone you respect, like a teacher or mentor. Say, “May you be well, may you be happy, may all things go well with you.”
- Then say the same words whilst picturing someone you feel neutral about.
- Next, say the words as you think of someone who triggers in you feelings of anger, hostility or dislike.
- Then, say, “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all things go well with them.” As you say the words, envisage all sentient beings on the planet.
Don’t take anything personally
In the book, The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of the basic tenets of ancient Toltec wisdom is, “Don’t take anything personally.” The way Ruiz rationalizes this is that everybody has their own individual and unique perspective on life. The way they view life is unlike anyone else’s view. Since we can never know what truly goes on in another person’s mind and thought processes, we can’t really take anything personally.
Oher people have their own worldview based on their experiences, thoughts and beliefs. Whatever they think of us, is more to do with themselves and their own perceptions about the world and everything in it, than it is to do with us. Once you can fully understand this concept, you can take a massive leap towards freedom from what others think and say about you.
Negative influences arise, whether on your inner or outer landscape. There is much you can do to overcome these influences and to build up resilience and strength within yourself, so you don’t get dragged down into despair and self-doubt.
Learn how to change your limiting core beliefs and use affirmations to help you replace the unhelpful beliefs with helpful ones. Visualizing your own strength, success or radiant positivity is an evidence-based way to become more productive and more resilient.
Avoid negative people and surround yourself with loving, positive friends who celebrate your successes and support you when you need it. Practice mindfulness; train yourself to stay present, each moment of each day.
Learning to be grateful will transform your relationship to life. You will feel much happier when you are grateful for all the many blessings in your life.
Making loving kindness a priority, starting with yourself, is another way to build up your strength and productivity. You will be more relaxed and your relations with others can only improve. And lastly, remember that there is simply no point in taking anything personally because it is never about you!
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