“See, it was worth it!” says the notice on the way out of my gym. Today, for me, it was bang on. Dark mornings and evenings, cold weather and endless “how’s your New Year’s resolution going?” irritations can encourage less than positive thoughts. A gym, or exercise session first thing in the morning isn’t feasible for everyone either, so what can you do to drive away those negative gremlins?
Recognise what’s going on
Acknowledge the negativity, because that means you’ve got more chance of controlling it, and what you do with it. Some people find it helpful to give the negative self-talk a name: the more ridiculous, the better. (I quite like Mrs Glum.) Acknowledge your Mrs Glum as you would someone you really don’t have time to stop and chat to today: “Oh, hi, there you are! Ever so busy today, must dash!”
Confuse your brain
Now find something to change the focus of your amazing brain . Try changing elements of your routine. If what you do is habitual, you may be doing it without thinking. Doing something “mindlessly” allows your brain to focus on the less desirable stuff, including negativity. Try a small change: just enough to take over your focus for a while.
- Try using your non-dominant hand to do some minor tasks: hold a phone, write a note, clean your teeth, carry a drink (carefully!).
- If you usually listen to the same radio station every day, choose a different one.
- If you do have a minute (literally 60 seconds) and it’s dry outside, walk briskly in the fresh air, on the spot if necessary: yes, it’s ridiculous, you’re confusing your brain don’t forget!
- If you always go to the same place/seat on the bus/train, choose a different one.
- Change the picture on your screen saver.
Whatever you decide to do may make you feel vaguely out of sorts to begin with, as your brain works to create itself some extra neural pathways for your bizarre behaviour. This is a good thing. The aim is to break the pattern of negativity, however you choose to do that.
Get involved and absorbed
Find a task that requires concentration. It doesn’t have to be anything intellectual, although it’s your choice. Your aim is distraction. It needn’t be complicated and difficult, just enough to command your attention.
Choose your company
Where possible, connect with people you know will boost your positivity. Seek them out, either face to face, on the phone, by text, email, social media, whatever your preference. Who could you contact right now, that you just know will put a smile on your face?
Choose not to spend time with Mrs Glum. You could even tell her to get lost: your choice of vocabulary. Challenge her: “Is that all you’ve got to say? That same old song again?” You can make it up. Who could you contact right now, that you just know will put a smile on your face?
Seek out a “wow”
Even looking for one is a distraction. What can you see from a nearby window? What can you pick up on the radio/tv/internet that’s worthy of a “wow”? Good news only, remember. Maybe there’s a piece of music that always puts a smile on your face? Let me know.
Negative stuff happens. Dwelling on it does not serve you usefully. Choose to break the cycle. It will be worth it.