3 ways to stop focusing on negative things

Melissa Bloom, founder of Aligned Life, reported that 70% to 80% of our thoughts are negative. That’s one out of every four.

Is that true in your life? If I were honest, I’d have to admit that’s the case for me. It is alarming how quickly my thoughts can go to dark places in imagining negative conditions or results. That kind of stinkin’ thinkin’ is deeply rooted in my family history.

  • Someone doesn’t return my email, so my mind assumes they are not just super busy, but rather ignoring me.
  • I see prices rising in the grocery store, so I begin to envision a life of scarcity and not being able to afford even basic things.
  • Someone doesn’t start moving 0.003 seconds after a light turns green and, immediately, I start muttering for the ‘idiot’ to get moving.

Like I said, it’s frightening how quickly my mind goes negative even after a very positive interaction I’ve had with someone.

“Our tendency toward negative thought is more habit than necessity. Like a computer code that was set long ago and keeps running even though that software company is now defunct,” Melissa wrote at The Burned Out Business Mom blog.

“Have you ever noticed how you might have five big things going on in your life — kids, relationship, work, friends, health, etc. — and four of them may be going so well, but you only focus on the one area that you are struggling with?” Melissa asked.

She compared the problem to trying to herd cats. That’s an insightful analogy because it’s very difficult to get a cat to respond to an instruction. They pretty much do their own thing, unless they’re hungry or they crave attention at that moment. Then they want it NOW.

I can certainly relate to the tendency to focus exclusively on the one problem that isn’t going as well as I would like, despite the fact that dozens of other things could be chugging along perfectly. Over the years, I’ve discovered If I spend even five minutes reading the news, it accelerates my negative thoughts and emotions.

Melissa said it’s possible to change our thinking to focus more on positive things or outcomes. She offered three suggestions for doing that:

1. Be aware of negative thoughts.

That sounds simple enough. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). That means as soon as we become aware of a thought, we must take charge to dismiss it before we allow ourselves time to dwell on it.

Our mind responds to whatever we think about. So, if we think about scarcity, we see scarcity all around us. If we focus on opportunity, we see opportunities galore.

2. Practice changing the subject

This is easier said than done. I heard about this concept many years ago at a men’s conference I attended. Rather than allowing our eyes to fixate on attractive women, we were taught to “bounce” our eyes to something else.

The same works with our thoughts. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, focus on what we already have in abundance. Practicing gratitude also works to restore and refocus our minds.

Melissa suggested making a mental list of five things we love about that moment, just to focus our attention on more positive subjects.

3. Have compassion as you go.

It’s very tough not to beat ourselves up when we struggle to maintain a positive attitude, but Melissa encourages us to be kind to ourselves in those moments.

“It took decades and decades to wire us this way. Autopilot is a very efficient way for us to run; it conserves our energy. So, changing thoughts deliberately requires a lot of focus and attention,” she explained. “You can never fail.”

Melissa’s full post can be found at www.theburnedoutbusinessmom.com.