Negativity can be habit-forming, but if it were scientifically proven that positivity could change your life, would you make it a priority?
Negativity is strangely addictive. We’re fine without it until we’re around people that have it — then it’s like chain-smoking, puffing on piles of negative thoughts one after the other until everyone succumbs to a nicotine crash.
Nobody wants to admit they’re negative, but for most of us, it’s not even something we’re consciously aware of. As we get stuck in these sneaky, pervasive feelings, it shapes the way we think. We see more of the bad, notice less of the good. We wallow and complain and agonize, and our productivity takes a nosedive.
I spoke with happiness coach Kia Cannons to get an expert’s opinion on the impacts of negativity, and why it can stop us in our tracks.
Eating Negativity for Breakfast — Meet Kia Cannons
Kia Cannons is a Happiness Coach, creative entrepreneur, and host of Happy Hacks Podcast, which hit the iTunes #3 spot on the UK Health & Wellness charts. As a ‘Life Labs’ happiness expert for Psychologies Magazine, Kia teaches readers how to “do what you love,” and connect them with their inner voice. Ultimately, Kia helps creative women step into their potential and learn the tools to lead truly happy and fulfilled lives. She’s a happiness guru, multitasking baddie, and today she’s going to school us on fixing our crappy attitudes.
The Madness That Is Defending Your Right to Negativity
Nobody wants to be that person — the girl who complains endlessly about her ex, her body, her bills, her life. Not even the person who is person wants to be her, or likely, is even aware that she is her. So why do we have such a hard time shifting from negative feelings to positive? It’s one part awareness, one part victim mindset. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true: people will justify until they’re blue in the face all the reasons why they get to be negative, why they get to complain. They’ll tell you that their life is unusually hard, that they have dealt with unimaginable circumstances, that they’re doing the best they can. And that’s okay, that’s understandable, and to a certain extent, that’s real.
We’re allowed to not be okay sometimes.
But what we’re not allowed to do is stay there. We’re not allowed to fall in love with our struggle and our identity as a victim and use it to justify our negativity, which is in fact perpetuating all of the negative circumstances we feel so good complaining about.
When It’s Venting, and When It’s Just Not Productive
Cultivating a positive mindset isn’t about just slapping a smile on your face while your house burns down and pretending everything is fine. You’re allowed to be upset sometimes. You’re allowed to punch pillows and scream at the top of your lungs and cry in traffic. So how do you work through feelings in a healthy way, without allowing yourself to fester in negativity? Here’s what Kia had to say:
Once I’ve leaned into the thoughts and feelings that are causing me enormous pain, I run through a couple of questions:
- Beyond allowing the emotion to rise up, is sitting in this emotion beyond 15 seconds helping me or anyone else?
- I set an intention to view the situation through the lens of love and not fear, and I ask what is this experience teaching me?
- Lastly, I have compassion for myself. I always work on having the most loving ‘self-talk’ and recognize that I am a human being, so I’m flawed and can only do my best. Being my own best friend is a huge part of working through negative feelings.
Are You Inherently Negative? Here’s How to Tell
Sometimes it’s difficult to get the perspective you need. Sometimes you don’t know who this negative person is until you start becoming aware of your thoughts.
In other words, are your thoughts critical of others? Of yourself? Of situations? If you find more often than not that what you’re thinking about is how something could be better, it’s time to start rewiring your brain for positivity.
Positivity’s Powerful Impact
It’s not just anecdotal advice — positive thinking can literally change your life. Studies have shown that the mindset you’re in can impact the opportunities you notice, the choices you make, and therefore, lay the foundation for your entire life. In one Harvard study, scientists found that women who were optimistic had at least a 30 percent lower risk of dying prematurely due to disease, and this is especially true for heart disease. Doctors speculate the connections between positive thinking and physical health could stem from a lower risk of anti-inflammatory issues linked to elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone). In other studies, positivity has been linked to more successful careers, and visualization has been shown to reduce anxiety.
In short, it’s not pseudoscience. Positive thinking has an enormous impact over our health and success, and it’s no exaggeration to say that prioritizing it can transform your life.
How to Improve Your Mindset With Positive Thinking
Our feelings control our thoughts, and our thoughts control our actions, and our actions control what our lives look like. It stands to reason then that if you can master your feelings, you can change your life — and that’s absolutely the case.
So how do you do that?
There are plenty of ways to improve your own happiness, but in the end, what you do externally will have a superficial effect on how your brain actually operates. Kia says the most powerful way to shift into positive thinking is simply to become a conscious observer of your thoughts.
So many people have no idea what their thoughts are, and considering we have around 60,000 of them a day, and they drive all of the results in our life, it pays to give them some attention.
Once you have started to make an effort to notice your thinking, I challenge all of my coaching clients to ask themselves powerful questions in response to their negative thoughts such as — ‘Is that really true?’ It is incredibly empowering to realize that a thought that has been causing you distress or pain is actually just a habit or pattern, and not true at all.
A typical example of this is noticing you are thinking ‘I am such a failure at X, there’s no point in trying to be X.’ When you challenge yourself and ask, ‘Is that really true?,’ people can switch this thinking to something more truthful such as, ‘I am doing the best I can, and that is enough.’
This compassionate, positive thought will create a far different feeling, which will drive different actions and results in your life. When you begin to realize your thoughts govern your life and you get to choose your thoughts, you can learn to transform your life and reach a level of well-being you may never have dreamed possible.
Observe, Evaluate, Replace
Kia’s take on negative thinking is that it’s a problem mainly because of our lack of awareness. If you can become aware of your own thinking, ask yourself why you think that way (and weed out the BS in your own reasons), then replace that thought with a better truth, you can literally rewire your brain for positivity.
This isn’t about being perkier at work or more of a morning person — your psychological health is your physical health, and taking care of one will support the other.
You deserve to feel good — tell us what negative thoughts you worked through today on Facebook and Instagram, and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress and @SticksAndInk