I still remember the day when I first noticed it.
Cursing the abhorrent weather, I stumbled through the front door off the storm-swept streets of Vienna. I shivered and sneezed, feeling sorry for my dripping wet self. It would be just my luck to catch a cold so close to my birthday!
I opened my mailbox with a feeling of dread. It only ever spat out bills, problems and evil tidings. I expected the worst, and wasn’t disappointed when a hefty supplementary electricity payment dropped in my hand.
This was outrageous! They were taking advantage of little people like me!
Disgusted by the world’s corruption, I stomped up the stairs to my flat. My mind racing with worst case scenarios of nasty conversations involving arrogant call centre employees defending a money-grubbing corporation. I loathed conflict!
Lost in gloomy thoughts, I caught my foot on an umbrella some idiot had left outside their door to dry. I tumbled down, my knee hitting the hard stone floor. I screamed in pain and frustration.
Why always me?! Why did the Universe hate me?
As I finally collapsed on my sofa, despair overwhelmed me. My life was a relentless string of disasters, catastrophes and anxieties.
What was wrong with me? Why did nothing good ever happen in my life?
I felt like a pathetic failure. I wasn’t good enough! My own incompetence and the cruelty of this backstabbing world doomed me to a miserable existence…
And right there, as my mind wallowed in hopelessness, it hit me.
Every thought I created was toxic, every word I spoke despondent. I had become a powerless victim of my own negativity which sabotaged my life, destroyed my happiness and ramped up my anxiety.
And I knew it had to change.
The next day, I started to investigate the reasons for my unrelenting pessimism. And soon discovered that humans are pre-programmed by nature towards negative thinking.
This negativity bias evolved to safeguard our ancestors’ survival. It ensured they focussed on bad experiences over good ones. So they would remember, recognize and avoid hazards they encountered before.
Negativity, as a way to learn from horrible experiences, is as active today as it was in the Stone Age. In fact, research has shown that our brain responds with more vigorous activity to negative stimuli than to positive ones.
But nowadays, we are far less likely to be devoured by a wild beast, tumble down a steep cliff or succumb to poisonous berries than our early ancestors. And while our surroundings and circumstances have changed dramatically, our mind hasn’t.
So, instead of preventing physical dangers, it obsesses about intangible threats to our wellbeing and our ego. It occupies itself with other people’s opinions about us. Dwells on every tiny mistake and shortcoming, zooms into every tiny criticism, clings to any sign of disapproval.
And it frets about distant, improbable menaces we witness on the news. Gorging on horrific tales of catastrophe, disaster and tragedy. All the while fuelling our anxiety and destroying our relationship with ourselves.
But the disastrous effects of negativity on my life went much deeper than I could have ever imagined.
When I was a child, whether she swept the floors, cooked lunch or watered her vegetable garden, my Grandma would stop for a couple of seconds, sigh, and recite her favourite mantra.
“Life is suffering.”
So, not only was I hardwired by evolution to focus on the negatives, I also grew up with the belief that having a negative attitude towards life (and myself) was normal.
But as I investigated further, I realised that my negativity didn’t only damage my outlook and attitude. It actually, physically ruined my life.
I was always the one who bought a brand new appliance, computer or phone only to discover it was faulty. The one who got splashed by a car walking to work on a rainy day. The one who consistently came last, was rejected or criticised.
And I often agonised why bad things kept happening to me. I was a good person after all!
The problem was though that I stuffed my life with negativity. And demanded positive outcomes. But that’s not how it works.
How could I ever hope to find gold in a rotten dumpster? How could I expect a life of happiness, abundance, love and fulfilment if I only ever invested dread, resentment, worry and dismay?
So, if I craved a happier life filled with positive experiences, I simply couldn’t continue cramming my environment with toxic waste. I had to find ways to combat my negativity.
But, if negativity was in my nature, what could I do about it?
I knew that negativity was a survival mechanism that inclined my mind to focus on the negatives.
But, to make matters worse, negativity had become a devastating habit. One that dampened my spirits, sabotaged my happiness and corrupted my circumstances.
But still I had a choice!
I could accept the negativity as part of my personality and nature. Resign to a life of doom, gloom and self-flagellation. Or I could counteract my negativity instincts, reclaim power over my life, fight for my happiness.
And that’s what I did.
For years I sought powerful ways to eradicate all negativity from my life. Every day I worked on transforming my thoughts. And my circumstances.
Negativity and toxic self-talk are mere memories from a distant past now. My life flows smoothly and abundantly, liberated from anxiety, worry and self-condemnation.
I am free.
And today I want to share my favourite techniques. So you can avoid the trial and error and overcome your negativity in a fraction of the time it took me.
On my quest to transform my life, I realized that we have to eliminate negativity from 3 main areas:
If you can accomplish all that, the harmful habit will be broken. Your obsolete “Stone Age” nature transcended. The negativity defeated, for good.
And there are quick and easy ways to achieve it.
Negativity is our brain’s pre-programmed response to any new, challenging or unpleasant situation.
But when it becomes a permanent habit, the expectation that everything will always go wrong for us poisons our life. Creating undesirable circumstances as adverse effects of our mind’s distorted beliefs.
It’s therefore crucial to retrain your mind. And you can do this by watching your thoughts. Becoming mindful of the automatic response.
So, every time you feel, think or talk negatively about a situation, remind yourself that this is a habitual reaction, based on evolution trying to protect you. Nothing more.
Remember that you have a choice. That you are the only power in your life. And counteract the negativity with a positive affirmation.
“Everything always works out for me.”
Ignore the mind’s resistance. It considers any change (even one for the better) as a potential threat and wants to keep you safe. It will complain, worry, fuss.
Just stubbornly repeat: “Thank you mind, for voicing your concerns. But I now choose to believe that everything always works out for me.”
And you will soon see the benefits of your persistence.
Many of us hold the conviction that the world is a horrible, dangerous place, full of evil people. It’s us against them. And everybody wants to harm us, scam us, oppress us.
And who could blame us! We encounter news stories of heart-breaking tragedies, mind-blowing abuse and brutality, unstoppable terrorism and rampant crime whenever we switch on our computer, TV or radio. It’s shocking, terrifying and disillusioning.
But the thing is that the news are biased. Offering a mutilated view of the world designed to serve the innate human tendency towards negativity and sensationalism.
When, in fact, uncountable good is done every day on this planet. Billions of gestures of love, support and selflessness. A myriad of comforting words, heroic deeds and charitable acts.
But all we see on the news are the catastrophes. The shootings, stabbings, bombings and suffering.
Providing our eager mind with confirmation that the world and everybody in it is evil. Causing unbearable anxiety, agonising worries and crippling doubt. Further ramping up our negativity and that of everybody around us.
And all our conversations and interactions become toxic. Causing us to lose sight of the positives. Making us blind to the outstanding beauty and kindness of this world and the majority of its inhabitants.
So, it’s imperative to avoid these negative influences. Because, even with the best intentions, it’s tough to be upbeat about life if you are trapped in a poisonous swamp.
And here are my 3 top techniques:
Yes, it would be great if we could just steer clear of constant complainers, apocalyptic prophets and conspiracy theorists. However, it’s not always possible to remove yourself from the proximity of negative people. But you can protect yourself using a force field (yes, like in Star Trek!).
Just imagine an invisible energy field that envelops your whole body and only allows positive energy to permeate while blocking all negativity. I agree this sounds geeky, but it really works. So, full power to the shields!
All of them! Unsubscribe from the unrelenting stream of doom, switch off the scare-mongering prognoses of dread. You might be less informed. But you will be happier for it.
When we succumb to the damaging habit of negative thinking, the negativity will usually extend to our self.
We beat ourselves up for our mistakes, failures and shortcomings. Blame ourselves for our unhappiness and miserable circumstances. Hate ourselves for our imperfections, incompetence and inadequacy.
Our relationship with ourselves is as toxic and dysfunctional as our view of the world. And it’s all rooted in low self-worth.
Our society believes that we, as individuals, are doomed to be worthless. Unless we fulfil certain criteria to earn worth such as extraordinary achievements, successes, qualifications and popularity.
Low self-worth is the fuel that perpetuates your self-criticism, self-loathing and toxic self-talk. And our negativity about ourselves is the main cause of our current, unhappy circumstances.
Because, the truth is that we never get what we deserve. But we always get what we believe we deserve. If we believe that we are undeserving of happiness, love and abundance, they will never show up in our life.
And who could blame us for feeling worthless? Many requirements society imposes on worth seem unattainable. We will never be famous, wealthy, influential, charismatic, perfect.
Without worth, we believe we can never overcome the negativity about who we are. We can never feel good enough. It feels hopeless.
When all it takes is one simple mind shift.
Your toxic self-talk and disastrous opinion about yourself are based on the, maybe subconscious, belief that you are worthless. Based on society’s definition of worth.
But society is wrong. It’s worth criteria arbitrary, random, fictitious.
Because worth is the essence of your being. An unchangeable part of who you are. You are worth, personified.
Nothing you do, or fail to do, will ever diminish your unconditional, infinite worth. It is who you are. You cannot gain worth by achieving, accomplishing or doing.
You are worth. Simply by being. And as soon as you shed the limiting belief of your unworthiness, your negativity about yourself will fade. Your life will improve.
So repeat after me: “I AM worth”.
Because that’s the truth.
Not overnight, but gradually, step by step, shovel by shovel, I dug myself out of the toxic swamp I had created with my long lasting negativity about life, the world and myself.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t always easy. But I persisted. Committed myself to a better life.
I am now free from the anxiety, dread and despair that result from the belief that everything will always go wrong. I liberated myself from the terror, distrust and worry that come from the misconception that the world and everybody in it are evil. And I conquered the self-condemnation, self-criticism and self-loathing that are rooted in low self-worth.
I am happy. And you can be too.
So, next time you feel negativity overpowering you, be mindful. Remember that you have the tools to respond differently. You have power over your thoughts, your actions and reactions.
You have a choice!
Choose positivity! Choose a happy life! Because you deserve it!
You ARE worth.
Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a health scientist, energy healer and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what. Download her free guide Instant self-worth: an easy 4-step solution to heal your self-worth in under 5 minutes a day” and start to boost your confidence today.