Most humans have a predilection towards bad news. Meaning, our brains can remember negative images or concepts a bit more quickly/easily than the positive stuff. You can find numerous studies on this topic here and here.
So, don’t be surprised if you often find yourself feeling a kind of ‘negative bias’ on certain days. Are you already feeling like you’ve failed with some of your New Years’ Resolutions? Listen, you aren’t alone. The trick to being resilient against setbacks is all in your mindset. If you focus on the negative, you feel negative, you therefore give up.
The good news is that there are ways to break a negative thinking cycle – staying positive is easier than you think. In fact, you can actively work at activating the neurons in your brain that are associated with pleasure. Here’s how:
Find time each day to smile or sing.
While it can be challenging to smile on days when we’re feeling down, science tells us there’s good reason to try. Same goes for singing! Why? Because both smiling (even fake ones) and singing release feel-good hormones into the brain. So flash those pearly whites and warm up those vocal chords! It’s time to start smiling at strangers and singing in the shower again. Making an effort to fit these mood-boosters into your day will help you stay positive when you’re feeling anything but.
Make less is more your new mantra.
More and more people are hopping aboard the minimalist bandwagon—with good reason. In this brave new (busy) world, it’s hard to clear our minds and closets of all the clutter. Our inboxes are overflowing and our to-do lists are never ending. We often try to fit too much into our schedules and it leaves us feeling unaccomplished and negative when we aren’t able to achieve them all. It can all feel so overwhelming. The solution is simple: simplify! So how do you do it? Start by not agreeing to every request for your time. Be strict about managing your time to ensure you aren’t over-extended every day. First tip: make sure you include time for yourself at lunch. Studies show that employees that consistently work 8-hr days with no mental breaks are unhappier and less productive in the long run. Working through your lunch can actually make you less productive… it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Make an effort to be realistic with your time, and be conscious when you are over-extended (and then feeling negative about not delivering).
Feel what you need to feel when you fail—then forgive (yourself) and forget.
It’s inevitable. We can’t win every single time. And while it’s perfectly normal (in fact, healthy) to feel upset when you’re met with failure, it’s important not to dwell on your mistakes. The area you need to dwell on is the lesson learned. In sports, it’s shown that personality types that beat themselves up over each setback make for poor team mates and often ‘choke’ under pressure. Move past the need to blame (yourself, or others) and focus thought & effort on the lesson learned. Remember, that every single mistake is a gift – it’s a valuable lesson learned. Try to see the end game (what comes after the mistake) versus just your mistake.
Simply put, it will take a concentrated effort not to let yourself consistently focus only on the bad things in your day or week. Try using the 3 techniques above to conquer your internal negative dialogue and don’t dwell on negative thoughts—you’ll feel much better, trust us. Embracing the power of positivity could be the key to unlocking more enjoyment in your life.