Negativity is like a stop sign on your own success. During recovery, you learn how to counter negative thoughts when they tell you to drink, use, or just give up. But negative thinking is so much more than that, and often much tougher to spot.
Here’s why a negative mindset is putting the brakes on your career and recovery, and what to do about it.
The Power of Negativity
Negativity can be so powerful in part because it is hardwired into human survival. The same fight or flight mechanism that may have saved our ancestors from a saber-toothed tiger, kicks in when we get alarmed, hear bad news, or fear a loss (such as losing a job). Another mechanism is to freeze in our tracks, which is the correct response to something like a bear in the wild. The problem is that we still have those instincts and tendencies, even if we are freezing at the sight of an incredibly long to-do list!
But you can identify and overcome negative thinking. Here are 4 common categories of negative thought:
- Defeatism – Deciding something can’t be done, before you’ve even tried, giving up without much effort, deferring to someone else and otherwise just throwing in the towel would be a defeatist mindset.
- Criticalness – Negative thinking can be aimed at the world, where you easily see all of the ways something isn’t right, sounds or looks wrong, or is just plain a bad idea. That sort of criticalness interferes with the ability to see solutions and solve problems (keys to success).
- Self-criticism – This one can be the most difficult to overcome if you suffer from self-doubt and self-criticism. Defensiveness, fear of failure, hostility and even grief can all stem from a place of self-criticism.
- Success-dependence – Thinking that one must first do “x” to be happy, or first achieve this to take the next step is a negative, success-dependent way of thinking. Just as money can’t buy happiness, achievement is not a necessity to accomplish joy–it’s your negative self-talk that makes you believe that.
The Power of Positivity
So if you are the type to feel any (or all) of the above negative mindsets, what do you do about it? Even if you can agree that it is hurting your career and recovery, if it’s some sort of evolutionary trait, you can’t change it, right?
Well, that line of reasoning would be an example of defeatism. In actuality, happiness is like an upward spiral–as you practice the skills associated with overcoming negative thoughts, they get easier to do.
Just so that the positives outnumber the negatives (in a glass half-full sort of way), here are 5 ways to increase your positive thinking:
- Practice gratitude – Of all of the qualities associated with happiness, gratitude has the strongest correlation.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness practices and meditation, for as little as 10 minutes per day, have been linked with increased peace, calm, focus, and even productivity.
- Exercise, outside – Exercise itself releases positive endorphins (chemicals in the brain), but if you can combine it with nature the results are even better (daily is best!).
- Writing – Journaling or writing thoughts down can be an excellent outlet, but if you focus on writing down the good things that happened that day, studies have shown that you can make a difference in positivity in as little as three days!
- Play – Take at least some time each week to do something you love.
Make it a Routine
Like any of the individual skills listed above, coping with negative thinking takes practice and consistency. Even just 10-15 minutes per day can improve your mindset and boost your health, recovery, and career.