As a kid, Tigger was one of my favorite characters from A.A. Milne’s series, Winnie the Pooh. His happiness got all over everyone as he bounced his way through life. His counterpart, Eeyore, was the donkey whose sadness could be just as infectious.
For most of my life I have leaned toward the Tigger attitude. I have enjoyed laughter and humor. I have always been an optimist, perhaps to a fault. The cup has always been half full at least in my eyes. Pessimism has never been on my radar.
However after walking through a long and arduous season of difficulty, I found myself continuing to battle negative emotions. Unlike Tigger, I had lost my bounce and could not get it back. What happened? Why were negative emotions haunting me still?
About this time I read You Can Be Happy No Matter What (Richard Carlson). He wrote, “Every negative (and positive) feeling is a direct result of thought.” Our minds are constantly thinking and those thoughts cause us to have emotions. We have jealous feelings because we have jealous thoughts or we have angry feelings because we have angry thoughts. I realized that my negative emotions were coming from negative thoughts. In order to overcome my negative emotions, I needed to deal with my negative thoughts, which can be incredibly powerful. Our minds tend to hang onto negative thoughts more than the positive. Negative thoughts can be incredibly dangerous as well. If we allow them to continue, they create a loop that we keep playing over and over. They can lead us toward a downward spiral of emotions that can result in self-destructive actions. Our thoughts become feelings that lead to actions. Negativity can be a thinking pattern we develop from disappointing circumstances that beat us down or cause us to live in hopelessness. For me, I was disappointed and kept being disappointed. All I could see was darkness.
1. I recognized the negativity. That may sound crazy, but negative thoughts had become routine for me and I did not even recognize them. However as I became more self-aware, I saw the Eeyore attitude in me. The negative thoughts had become normal. Once I became aware of them, I wanted to recover my optimism. That is where it begins. Become aware of your negative thoughts. Are you critical? Do you complain? Do you have a negative outlook on most situations? Do you see what is wrong before you see what is right?
2. I realized I needed to control my thoughts. I could not keep thinking negative thoughts and hope to move forward in a positive direction. I knew that I had power over my thoughts. I could choose to be happy or I could choose to be sad. My emotional state was not up to my circumstances. That was my decision. While acknowledging that life was difficult, I did not have to dwell on that all the time. I could think about other things.
3. As a religious person, my faith was a great help. I prayed and read Scripture regularly. I believe that negativity has a spiritual foundation. I believe that there is an evil presence in this world that is able to prompt us to think negatively because negative thoughts diminish the life our Creator instilled in us. I knew that GOD made me for more than a negative life. My faith gave me positive thoughts and pointed me in a positive direction.
4. I discovered that sitting still and doing nothing often contributed to my mental and emotional status. Wallowing in self-pity usually happened when I sat still. The absence of physical motion can contribute to the lack of positive emotion. When I forced myself to get up and do something, my mind kicked in gear and went a different direction. That is one reason that exercise was helpful to me during that difficult season. When I was physically moving, the negative feelings diminished.
5. I looked around and I was thankful for what I did have. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negative thoughts. I expressed gratitude because I had my family and my health and my friends and a job and the list could go on and on. They were the basic things in life, but they were things that I realized that millions of people in the world do not have. I was a blessed person in so many ways. I focused on what I had rather than what I wanted.
6. I expressed my feelings. This looks different for everyone. For some, it means talking to a friend. For people like me, it means journaling. For others, it means painting or drawing. I would write down what was going on inside. The pen on the page gave me a way to get off my chest the thoughts and emotions I was battling.
7. I found positive friends. My co-workers were a very positive bunch. They had a joyous spirit and they kept my spirits up. You really do become like the people you are around. If you are struggling with negative thoughts, consider the people you spend time with. Are they complainers? Do they criticize regularly? If so, make new friends. Find people who are optimistic. They create positive energy around you.
8. I realized that most of my negative thoughts were not true. Perhaps if you have been fired, what is a negative thought you encounter? “I will never find a job. No one wants to hire a loser like me.” That is simply an exaggerated lie. None of that is true. Be careful to not generalize specific circumstances as a commentary about everything in your life.
9. Seek professional assistance. There are times you need a trained counselor to help you deal with the negatives. If your negative emotions are controlling your daily routines, then you need to get help. Fortunately I was able to function well and maintain a sane level of joy and peace. Go beyond your medical doctor’s prescription. Meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist. You are dealing with something that could ruin you so do not play around with it.
When you are in a funk, you do not realize the value you have in the hearts of your loved ones. Be there for them. They need you. Negative thinking can be a massive struggle. However it can be overcome and in the process, you become a stronger person. You gain mental toughness. You refuse to be a victim of your own failures. You choose to live in courage and peace. You can regain the joy of Tigger.
Learn more of my story from my book – Found My Heart When I Lost My Way. It is available on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Found-Heart-When-Lost-Way/dp/1495370666/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1387629523&sr=1-1
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