Filtering out negative thoughts

I can’t count how many times a yoga teacher has advised me to take advantage of my practice to filter my thoughts and simply watch them; not judge them, but just watch them drift. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so hard, but once you do, I’ve found it disturbing how many thoughts are negative.

Photo by guercio

I constantly catch myself thinking things such as “you’re/he/she is so stupid“, “the world is so sick“, “of course it’s hard, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, why should you be a pro in only 10 minutes.” Most of these thoughts remain in my head and are therefore harmless, but they do cause damage after a while. Thinking negatively can affect everything around you and, well, turns you into a negative SOB.

It’s not easy to shift one’s habits but there are some great tools that are easy to implement.

Whenever you catch yourself saying “I can’t” try adding yet at the end of it. I can’t yet is much more hopeful and positive.

Keep in mind that every decision you make is a choice. “I choose to work on this project, because I’m great at A, B and C” is a better mindset than “I can’t do D“.

Limit your exposure to negative folks. This is a tough one especially if these are family members, but it’s important for your mental health. People that bring you down to their pit of despair are simply no fun to be around. This applies to social media as well. Use the #firstworldproblem hashtag once too often on Twitter and that’s an immediate unfollow in my book. This might sound silly, but do you really want someone in your twitter stream complaining about everything? Ugh.

Email communication is another tricky area. I only use email for business communication and as a result my emails are very curt and to the point. Perhaps they are a bit standoffish, but I value people’s time and thus I’ve adopted these guidelines for all my email communications:

  • Email may not be the best medium for everyone and so if your email is too long or poorly written, I’ll just pick up the phone instead.
  • There’s usually no urgency. It’s sometimes great to craft an answer and save the message in draft mode, then go back to it a few hours later or even the next day. This pause may allow you to think of alternatives, different view points or questions you hadn’t thought about.
  • Venting in draft mode. We’ve all been there. You get an email and you’re screaming with rage and thus hit reply right away and start hitting the keyboard maniacally. When doing so, it’s best to remove the email address for the send field, just in case you accidentally hit send.
    Once you’re done, just delete the email. It’s a total waste of time, but getting your anger out on “paper” may release some of that negativity. Just walk away for a while and you’ll probably find a more appropriate way to respond.
    I’ve also found myself doing this on twitter. I’ll hit reply, will write my tweet and then delete it. Negative tweets can be just as bad as negative emails and starting a twitter fight can be very emotionally draining.

David Spinks wrote a great article and goes further in detailing why negative emails shouldn’t be sent.

I think that the world would be a much better place with a bit more positive, don’t you?


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