Most of us talk to ourselves; thoughts, reminders, criticisms, and commentaries are just a few ways we converse with ourselves every day. We weigh out the pros and cons with ourselves when we make decisions, we talk ourselves into or out of different predicaments, and we encourage and discourage ourselves daily. Negativity, as well as positivity, is a consequence of our internal discussion. As the saying goes, we are our best advocates as well as our worst adversaries.
In our lifetime, the person we spend most of our time with is none other than our self. The influence our peers, partners, and family have over us is substantial, but minimal compared to the influence we have over ourselves. When we think to ourselves we create an effect on our mental state: thinking about the past will create anguish, and thus produce negativity; thinking about the future will create anxiety, and thus produces negativity. Overthinking situations, or ruminating about a past and future situation, produces secretion of different chemicals that creates negativity in our bodies.
As we grow older our inner voices becomes louder. We become more comfortable in our thoughts, so we start talking to ourselves more; our self criticisms become more apparent, due to media and norms, and thus destructive; our criticisms of others becomes internal, due to norms and etiquette, and thus destructive. For example, we start telling ourselves we are fat; this may be due to models in a magazine or what the doctor says, but with this thought structural changes happen in the brain, thereby secreting different chemicals that affect us negatively. Similar is the process when we criticize others. We meet someone and immediately make a judgment; “She’s so ugly;” what is a judgment but a criticism? Whether we disapprovingly criticize ourselves or others, the result is the same: a negative effect on our own minds and bodies.
I will not hesitate to state that 85% of our internal monologue is negative; as we grow we stray further and further from purity and are conditioned to keep our negative thoughts to ourselves. The propensity for negative thinking is increased when we become increasingly exposed to the media, depressive states and disorders, and when we are unable to meet our responsibilities. Once one negative comment is made, due to the afore mentioned reasons, we are pulled into a vicious cycle that propagates negativity. Recently I had some personal belongings taken from me which were misplaced. This made me upset and I started calling the person names. From names, my negativity had me conceptualizing different situations in which my stuff was stolen and misused. After thinking about the negative situations, I started calling other people names and blaming them. Thus began my sinking into unending whirlpool of spitefulness and hate.
Thinking negatively impacts our behaviors, interpretations, and body functionality; it limits our prospects and perspectives. It makes intuitive sense; our mind set does exactly that -it sets a boundary for our mind; if we are bent on a certain outcome our minds will refuse to see any possibility beyond that outcome. An example that stretches outside of negativity, but still goes to the point of how the state of mind can limit thinking of possibilities is when I was working. My coworker said she could not complete a certain task because she couldn’t get a certain document from Google printed. She complained that she had tried saving the document, directly printing it, and cut and copying it into Word, but it COULD NOT be done; I asked her if she tried the ‘print screen’ button.
When I think negatively, I can feel it physically. Getting up from the couch, doing exercises such as bridging, or climbing into the car, activities I can do myself everyday become unusually hard when my mind is negative. My balance or strength will lack somewhere, and performing these mundane tasks will leave me with a scratch or a bruise, on these days. Thinking positively is slightly inconvenient. Our minds are naturally inclined to the negative, whether we are talking gossip, news, food, movies etc., our mind tends to focus in on the criticisms: the bad rather than the good. Whether our minds are conditioned to this or there is an inherent tendency I don’t know, but focusing on the positive rather than the negative has proven to be healthier.
To change our interpretations of the world, we first have to change the interpretation of ourselves. We cannot change the media, our friends, or family who criticize us, but we can change ourselves. By taking the time to appreciate our attributes and strengths, we can be more well equipped to combat criticisms. If we take that 85%, and turn even 30% into positivity, we will make so much of a difference in our attitude that people will wonder. Meditation, putting a conscious effort not to ruminate on the ’bad’, and simple affirmations are some of the countless ways to stay positive.
Thoughts are mostly destructive as they entail rumination and tend to focus on the past or future. Staying in the present (is hard!!) is a sure way to block some negativity. Past and future analysis will cause anxiety. Simple and daily affirmations, to appreciate the self are calming and reassuring ways to positivity. When’s the last time you rolled out of bed without a negative thought such as ‘I’m late for work, I wish I didn’t have to work today, I shouldn’t have seen the movie last night, I have to prepare lunch’, or something of the sort? Can’t remember? Try saying ’good morning’ to yourself; we like when others say it to us, but if we say it to ourselves the effects are far more reaching. Why wait for the compliment, let’s compliment ourselves; why think about how others will judge us when the most important judgment comes from us. So stop negating and start affirming yourself.