It’s such an energy drain.
As humans, we are predisposed to notice danger, and this has been a very successful survival strategy. However, these days, it’s not conducive to a calm and successful life – or to nurturing happy, healthy children.
To overcome what neuroscientists call our ‘negativity bias’ we need to train ourselves to focus on the good stuff. This stops us wasting time and energy on things that are not important and enables us to appreciate what wonderful lives we already have and model that for our children. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy for a good life.
Notice when you complain or see the negative side of a situation. This includes complaining in your head, not just out loud, and all the times you wish something was different or better.
Acknowledge and label what’s going on. If appropriate add something that feels calming and soothing to you. If it’s something that is bringing up uncomfortable emotions you might also find it helpful to take a deep breath to gain perspective.
Things you could say to yourself:
‘I notice I’m feeling frustrated, and that’s OK, I’m a human being experiencing human emotions.’
‘Mmm…that’s making me feel annoyed. That’s interesting. What’s going on here?’
‘Oh, look at that, I’m complaining again. That’s the negativity bias in play.’
‘Oh, I’m focusing on what I want to change in this situation. I didn’t realise that I did this so often. But that’s ok, self-awareness is the first step to change.’
Immediately flip your complaint or focus on something positive – but only if it’s true.
There is no point in lying to yourself. For example:
‘That’s lucky, only half of the pot got spilt, lets clear up the rest.’
Or, ‘I’m glad it’s nearly 5pm’,
And even ‘So, here I am, breathing, spending time with this wonderful, if feisty child. That will serve her well in the future.’
‘Never mind…’ ‘At least…’ ‘Wow!…’ are good ways to start if you are struggling with this.
If you can’t find something positive to notice when you are emotionally triggered, try and keep yourself calm, or distract yourself from focusing on the bad stuff.
‘It’s OK, this is normal.’
‘Breathe, notice my heartbeat.’
‘Let’s count all the yellow things I can see.’
I know this sound silly, but trust me, it works. By taking your focus away from the perceived threat or negative situation you are taking away it’s power over you so that you can respond in a calm, authentic manner in alignment with your core values.
Once you get into the habit of this, you’ll realise how often you used to complain or see the negative side of something. Notice how it makes you feel to stop this automatic habit. Perhaps you’ll notice that you have more energy because you are not wasting it on negative stuff. Or you’ll find that you are less affected by small things and so have more time and headspace to give to what’s important. And maybe your children will notice (or at least sense) that you are happier and nicer to be around!
Start counting your blessings throughout the day. Notice flowers, appreciate a smile, say thank you when the traffic parts and lets you out, love your body for all it does for you, be grateful for your home, savour your food.
Find out more about Celebrating Life.