It’s no secret that our thoughts, emotions and behaviour are interconnected. What we think can influence how we feel, and vice versa. This is especially true when it comes to how we process and make meaning of negative events.
Interestingly, research has shown that it’s not just our overall outlook that matters, but also how we think about specific events. In particular, what matters is our “thinking style” – the way we interpret and make meaning of events as they happen. And isn’t it amazing that we all make something different of the same event??
If we tend to view the world in a negative or pessimistic way, we’re more likely to see negative events as being part of a broader pattern of bad luck or personal failure. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, depression, and anxiety.
Conversely, if we have a more positive or optimistic outlook, we’re more likely to see negative events as isolated incidents that are not indicative of our overall life situation. This can lead to feelings of hope and resilience.
For example, if you tend to “catastrophise” a lot, you might be seeing the negative events much worse than they actually are. On the other hand if you are able to look at things through more positive glasses you may tend to see negative events in a more positive light, or just be more accepting.
So, if you’re finding yourself feeling down in the dumps after a negative event, it might be helpful to try and adopt more flexible thinking. This doesn’t mean pretending that bad things don’t happen, but research suggests that flexible thinking and acceptance lead to better mental wellbeing.
Here are a few tips that you may find helpful:
1. Let go of the negative: When something negative happens, it’s natural to dwell on it for a while. But rather than hanging onto it, work on moving your focus of attention to the meaningful parts of your life, call a friend, stay close to your loved ones, pick up a hobby, and socialise are just some of the examples that would help you move your attention. Remember, one negative event is not indicative of your overall life situation.
2. Manage Your Expectations: Many expectations result in many disappointments. We cannot control what others do, but we can control our expectations. Make sure to communicate what you want well, avoid making assumptions, and reduce negative thoughts and emotions caused by unmet, and perhaps unrealistic expectations – It is worth having a reflection about Perfectionism here.
3. Don’t focus on what could have been: It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what could have been if the negative event hadn’t happened. But this is a fruitless exercise that will only make you feel worse. Instead, focus on what you can do now to improve your situation.
4. Make a plan: Once you’ve accepted the negative event, it’s time to make a plan for how you’re going to deal with it. This will help you to feel more in control and less helpless.
5. Revisit your gratitude journal: When you feel good or thankful, write it down, and when you don’t, go back to your list to remind yourself that your situation is going to get better.
6. Practise self-care/self-compassion: A healthy body is strongly linked to a healthy mind. It is easier to have a more positive perspective if you are eating healthy, having enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, meditating and exercising regularly. Caring for yourself and working on self-compassion/self-love will help you have a more flexible outlook on events.
7. Find your calling: Sometimes no matter how difficult our situation is, we become motivated to pursue or endure them because we know that we have a greater calling that we would like to achieve in the end. Having a calling will help you see opportunities and find new ways.
8. Seek support: Don’t try to go through tough times alone. Seek out the support of friends, family, coach or therapist if you need to. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through can be incredibly helpful.
By following these tips, you can start to adopt a more positive thinking style and, as a result, feel more hope and resilience in the face of negative events.
So, the next time something negative happens, don’t despair – think about how it makes you grow as a person. It just might make all the difference.
If you would like to discuss how I can help you change your story for a happier and more successful one, call us on (+44) 1277 424 911 or email: [email protected].
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