When starting on the road to self improvement and at various places along the way, we must pay some serious attention to turning off the negativity in ourselves and coming from others. How do we do that?
Donít interact with your negative thoughts
First, there are our own thoughts. These are negative thoughts that just seem to come up in our minds like pop-ups. These can be self critical or they can be about other people or situations. It is our job to refrain from interacting with these thoughts. In other words, donít follow a negative thought with another thought as if in conversation with the first. Do everything to not enlarge or enhance the negative thought. That way you will avoid rumination and reinforcing your own negative beliefs.
Ask others the end their verbal negativity
There are negative comments we hear from others in the form of gossip and sarcasm. Right along with these is the continuous flow of negative comments that others make. They might be about other people, maybe their own victim type stories, or about situations that evoke their criticism. We can choose to not listen to these. We can attempt to have the other person change by encouraging him to speak more positively or to not share gossip with us.
Deal with othersí negativity by changing something in oneself
More importantly we can change the situation by changing something in ourselves.
Distance oneself or end relationships with negative people
Our last resort might be to choose to end the relationship with negative people or to reduce our involvement. It is very important to rid ourselves of negative influences if we cannot deal with negative people and situations.
Reduce or end other negative influences
It is easier to be positive if we reduce or eliminate as much negativity as possible from our lives. We could stop much of the violent television we watch. Turn off the negative news. Stop the newspaper. End the negative music, movies and video games. What might life be like if we didnít feed our minds and souls with such negativity? There would be so much room for positivity. I suspect it would be a mental muscle weíd all have to get used to exercising!
Dispute negative thoughts
When you experience your own or othersí negative thoughts, you will want to work hard at disputing them. Examine the facts and prove the positive is true. Argue with yourself as if you are the best attorney. Prove the thoughts to be incorrect.
One of the most important skills to control your negativity is mindfulness. Mindfulness means to pay attention to your thoughts and responses in an aware, objective and detached manner. You eventually learn to detach or create distance in watching your reactions and responses to things that happen. You are trying to not have an emotional action or reaction. This allows you to create neutrality or more positive emotions while you simply allow the negative thoughts and emotions to pass through you. Itís like watching them but not building on them. You want to build on the positive but not the negative. Mindfulness reduces stress, pain, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive experiences, and self-injury, improves immune functioning, and changes metabolism in brain circuits known to underlie emotional responding. It even increases a certain part of the brain. You can learn to meditate by taking a workshop, reading a book, or just sitting and relaxing
Take a look at your negativity this week to see how you can refrain from interacting with your own negative thoughts, change your behaviors or thinking in relation to others, donít participate in or listen to gossip and sarcasm, turn down the amount of negative media in your home, dispute your negative thoughts, and begin to meditate, even if you are only quiet and slow down your breathing for 5 minutes a day. You might want to make a chart to help you keep track daily of reducing your negativity.
What have you done with your summer? How have you had fun or pleasure? What have you been engaged with? What meaningful things have you done? What people have you spent time with that gave you wonderful and loving experiences? If you have done things in all four of these areas, you have accomplished a lot on your road to happiness.
There are four major roads to happiness: pleasure, engagement, meaningfulness, and relationships.
What have you done this summer to add experiences in all of these areas of your life? Consider writing things down in all 4 categories and see which ones you may have scored an A+ and which areas you could pay more attention to.
In terms of pleasure, I have attended and watched many movies this summer. Julie/Julia hit the top of my list. Iíve had lots of laughs thanks to the movies. And I finally started Netflix so I can see many of the independent films Iíve missed or that didnít make it to Las Vegas. Jersey Boys was filled with great music from the past, as was Love, and the other Vegas shows provided me with plenty of summer pleasure! Water for Elephants, Best Friends Forever, and The Reader have been great pleasurable summer reads.
Iíve eaten at several new restaurants, had great Thai and Italian dishes. I have made several great salads and many seafood dishes. I actually had a Whoopee Pie on vacation. I thank my friend Kathryn for telling me about them Ė wow! Iíve even allowed myself to have chocolate and vanilla shakes whenever I wanted them this summer.
I ate eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and lots of herbs from my garden. I spend a number of hours finding all the 5-leaved rose markers for clipping. And when I want to space out a bit or be totally engaged, I water my struggling, new lawn. It is easy to spend 30 minutes getting every little space filled with water so it grows in thick. It is also fun chasing the pigeons away with the jet spray from the hose.
Books such as Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Love as the Way to Live, Creating Your Best Life, The How of Happiness, and Positivity have provided me with my reading for engagement. I have had many days of being in flow writing for my blog, Happiness Talk. I also felt quite engaged when I read the chapter I wrote which will be published this fall.
Much of my flow or engagement comes from cooking. Iíve tried several recipes from the new chefs which allowed me to spend weekends in flow while also having good food for entertaining friends. The conversations with friends always provide me with great engagement. Meeting and getting to know a few new friends this summer was most engaging and pleasurable.
I think a lot of my work with clients is pure engagement. Separating it from meaningfulness is sometimes difficult. Helping others is always meaningful. But helping while engaged can be a purely spiritual experience. I have both couples I see for relationship coaching and individuals I talk with virtually and in person for life and business coaching. At times we are running through the daffodils or smelling the roses, riding the waves, going down the tongue of the river or floating in the clouds on our way towards their dreams. It is the most blessed experience to be asked into the journey of someone elseís life and have the pleasure and reward to traveling to new and adventuresome places. Iím honored to help access and provide meaning for them as it is reflected right back to me. Every day I receive magnificent gifts of this nature.
Another most meaningful part of my week is when I call my beloved 83 year old friend. She has hospice care but is otherwise alone and lonely. She was meant to be with people but at this age and with her condition, she spends her time, as so many older people do, isolated. She has an active mind which is always thinking and processing the political scene, DNA and now the meaning of life. It is special to listen to her and resonate with her, bringing joy to both of us. To spend an hour on the phone laughing with Bev is the food of angels. Seeing her this summer was also meaningful in the discussing of her death and the joy of her life.
Going to the beach with a friend who has had several heart attacks this year was also quite a special time of engagement and meaning. The connection we felt as he went into the Pacific for possibly his last time was like waltzing the tango. Time was suspended as we talked and soaked up the vitamin D. Watching him swim was such a joy, the smile on his face too precious for words. I have to admit it felt like we were about 20.
Being at Priest Lake on the boat with Stephen, Barrister and Jewell was pleasurable and engaging because of the beauty of nature. Watching Jewell fly at the picnic site was a pleasurable experience without bounds. A week of personal connection with the bonds of friendship with Stephen and his family added deep meaning to my life.
I redid my trust and will Ė writing some of it was engaging, but it has much meaning when I think of how right it feels. Cleaning out my closet and giving things to Sis was engaging and meaningful. Spending time on the lake with her and Cy was too. Enjoying a family breakfast with a sorority sister I have not seen for 43 years was a beautiful connective experience. Beyond words. Spending time with my great granddaughter was filled with the laughter and love of the generations. Being with my kids and best friends and feeling the loving safety of those relationships topped off my summer. The joy of a phone call from Paul my step son, a beautiful note from him, the ďI love youĒ at the end of calls with him, Sis and friends, are such indescribably delicious relationship moments. Hanging out with girlfriends, old and new always goes through all four of these categories. Enjoyable conversations with my ex, the same. Being at the hospital with my dearest friend and having him be alive, was again a loving connective experience. It feels like something without time that endures for eternity.
The relationships in our lives are precious. I hope you are having pleasure, engagement and meaning in the most important ones in your life! I hope your summer was filled with as many moments creating happiness as mine!