Lately, I have been noticing a number of people with negative attitudes. The bad traits I see in others are usually those that I have as well, so this made me have a look at myself. Yes, as winter rolls in and people ask me how I am, I am responding with: “I’m cold”, “I hate winter”...and unfortunately I go on a bit.
This led me to do some research on negativity: is it harmful and how we can train ourselves to be more positive.
Is it harmful?
The short answer is yes. It has a negative effect on stress and cardiovascular health. Some negativity usually leads to more negativity. If we constantly have negative thoughts our brain changes its “dirt paths” to “super highways” as the neurons grow closer together, which means it is easier to repeat those thoughts/words than it is to think/say positive thoughts. Hence we find people whose first response is a negative one.
Stress produces cortisol and, when released by frequent complaining, affects the immune system and makes us more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and obesity.
It is also harmful to our relationships. My mother (a usually very positive person) was hospitalised in her final year and started complaining about all her health issues and pains in most conversations. My brother reminded her that no one likes a grumpy old lady and she would be happier and get better help if she was more positive. She took this on board and the next time she was asked how she was, she responded with my back is a little worse, but I’ve had lots of visitors. This is a lesson for us all. As I tell my grandkids, grinners are winners.
What to do
Reset our thinking. Why do we have those negative thoughts? Are they true? If so, what do we want to change by stating them? Just replacing negative with positive may not do it.
If we have something that is truly worth being negative about, find the solution. Find your purpose in complaining, begin on a positive, be specific on changes needed, and end on a positive.
Reset our immediate response so that it is not a negative one.
Spend time each day thinking about what you are grateful for. Research shows this can improve mood and energy and substantially lessen anxiety. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.
Be a critical thinker, not a critical person.
This is harder to do, than it is to write, but I will try to follow my own advice and not grumble about winter!