Overcoming negativity became important to Sam when Sue said, “I’ve had enough of your pessimism, I want to enjoy life. I’m leaving you.”
Sam often described himself as a pessimist, he had a certain comfort in it because it had been with him for so long. Yet, he had to admit he wished he was happier.
Sue, tended to be negative too, but wanted to improve her life and over the last 6-months was working on how to be positive.
She had told Sam about the positivity ratio and how it helped her natural healing.
Overcoming Negativity: The Positivity Ratio
The positivity ratio provides a guide to overcoming negativity. It represents the “tipping point” where the frequency of your positive feelings compared to negative feelings tips you over to being a happier, more positive person. Studies found that the tipping point lies at a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative feelings.
“Tipping point” is a term scientists use to indicate the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new state or development. An example of a tipping point is the boiling point of water where it turns to steam.
The positivity ratio recognizes that it’s natural to be negative sometimes. Negative emotions like anger, fear, and frustration act as warnings that something’s wrong and action needs to be taken. They can help overcome obstacles, avoid injury, and motivate you to make positive changes in your life.
That being said, “gratuitous negativity,” negativity that lingers on after its usefulness and isn’t used to improve, does nothing good for you. It’s often blown out of proportion to the circumstances and generates more negativity.
Most of us operate at a 2:1 positivity ratio with some being even lower on the positive side.
“Reducing negativity may be the fastest, most efficient way
to increase your ratio,” says Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD, in Positivity.
You can find out your positivity ratio by completing the on-line Positivity Self Test at http://positivityratio.com (takes 2 minutes). Your score provides a snapshot of how your emotions of the past day combine to create your ratio.
You can also use this self test to tract your progress as you use the overcoming negativity tips that follow.
Tips for Overcoming Negativity
- Dispute Negative ThoughtsOften stress and emotional suffering result from the way you think about or perceive things that is based more on past experiences than present reality.Having a “negative attitude” or a habit of “negative thinking” keeps your mind occupied with negativity. You miss what’s right and positive around you. You miss the positive opportunities available to you.Use the techniques of learned optimism and cognitive therapy to dispute and replace negative thoughts with those that better serve you.
- Deal with Mind TrapsMind traps are faulty thoughts and beliefs that keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns of behaving and powerful negative moods.Find out how to free your self from common traps like “all-or-nothing thinking” and “jumping to conclusion” in Cognitive Distortions Create Mind Traps.See Overcoming Guilt for another example
- Identify Positive DistractionsIdentify a few things that make you feel good and do them when you start to feel negative or down — an uplifting book, a walk, a hobby, a chat with a friend.
- Do a News FastThe goal of most news is to attract readers by reporting on topics that grab their attention and fire their emotions. The result is anxiety, rage, and other negative emotional states for readers. These news-driven emotional highs and lows become addictive over time.A “news fast” gives you a break from the news so you can become aware of what you are feeding your mind and its effects on you.Start with one day and notice how your body, mind, and spirit feels. You may notice an improved mood and even less physical pain in your body. Just like choosing healthy food over junk food nourishes your body; choosing healthy news over junk news can nourish your mind.
It’s best to continue the news fast for a week, then decide what sources of information you want to feed your mind.
- Take Control of Negativity TriggersThe simplest way to control negativity is to avoid the situations or people that trigger it. Take some time to reflect on what triggers your negativity. Do certain behaviors, people, or activities spark it?Once identified decide if you really want or need them in your life. If you can’t avoid or don’t want to avoid a negative trigger, try one of these options gleamed from Fredrickson’s research:
- Modify it. Examples:If you setup your day for negativity by fuming about the traffic during a work commute, you might try taking a bus or joining a car pool.If a person you care about triggers your negativity, ask yourself how you might be contributing to their negativity by joining in with it. Then, change how you respond. Studies show that people who respond to negativity in a neutral or positive way can break the negativity cycle.
- Attend to different aspects of it. Examples:You might change your focus from noticing all the bad drivers to listening to enjoyable audio books (while keeping your eyes on the road) during a commute.Attend to giving positive attention to a negative person first. Adults and children often use negativity to get attention, so give them attention by showing interest in them or commenting on their good qualities.Studies show that the areas that you devote your attention to grow in strength and significance over time.
- Change Its Meaning (Reframe It). Examples:Use your commute time as “free time.” Reflect on all the things you are grateful for, or plan your day.Turn a negative event into an opportunity. Help yourself or a negative friend see how often negative situations and problems in life turn out to be great teachers that open up unforeseen opportunities.
- Develop a Meditation Practice.Meditation has been used through the ages to calm the mind by guiding it away from habitual, restless thoughts, negative emotions; and toward peace, happiness, and its “true nature.” Visit the Meditation Techniquesarticle and choose a practice to begin today.Overcoming Negativity Key PointsThe fastest way to overcoming negativity is to lower you daily diet of negativity. Use these 6 overcoming negativity tips to create a healthier more positive you. Sam and Sue did!
Sources and Resources
Amen, Daniel G. Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain’s Maximum Potential (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008).
Fredrickson, Barbara L. Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009).