Learning to leave the negativity behind

Rewiring your brain

Days spin out of control or go down the tubes pretty quickly if we let them.

Challenging situations, unexpected delays or a few irritating moments, especially early in the day, have a tendency to colour the rest of the day with challenge.

We love to swap war-stories, reciting all of the challenges of the day. It’s addictive. We often drag the feeling of challenges and irritations from one moment to the next, accumulating them, like a growing snowball of negativity, bracing for the next frustration to arise. Jaws and shoulders tense, brows furrow, and patience grows short as we mentally stockpile the day’s irritations.

I carried each challenging situation and offending person with me throughout the day, and then took them home with me in the evening to share with my loved ones. I had a habit of cherry-picking the negative stories from my day. Nice, eh? Honestly, I shopped my mind to find some gripe-worthy tidbit to share when I got home.

I wanted to share the love, but thought complaining was a great conversation starter. Really, Corinne?

This is where mindfulness came in. Awareness is curative.

I started to pay attention to how it felt in my mind and body when I was the recipient of others’ stories about every idiot on the road or what the guy at work did. It didn’t feel good inside me as I let myself get pulled into the drama, experiencing the irritations from another’s life. Gaining awareness into myself and my own personal tendencies was fascinating.

Paying attention to what was happening around me, I recognized I was not alone in my habit of reliving and reciting the negative. It’s a cultural tendency. We love to swap stories of the stupid and outrageous. Bad news is addictive.

It’s interesting to notice what we tend to focus on and which stories we feed. It was powerful to ask myself to get real. Was it really a bad day filled with challenge, or was it really a few minutes of irritation that I fed throughout the day?

What would it look like, and how would I feel, if I started to capture stories of the good stuff? Who on earth would be interested in hearing about the delights of my day? Well, it turns out most people are.

I had to change and uproot that old bias for negativity we’re born with, and had practiced so well.

I began keeping a mental list of all the good things that happened and the things that went well, and reporting on those when I arrived home.

My brain started to change and I found myself looking for, and paying attention to, all of the good in life. This is what I choose to feed and nurture.

I’m not pretending, or wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m just choosing which events I’m going to give my greatest attention and energy to. Why on earth would I cause myself to suffer all day because of another’s actions or a challenging situation? How far do I want to carry them? Challenges still happen but I don’t have to perpetuate my suffering by focusing on them.

I’ve found there’s much more positive in life than negative. There’re more kind and intelligent people than challenging ones. Good stories are the conversation starter when I arrive home.

I’ve upped the ante. Now, I not only speak about all the good, I write the good things down in my gratitude journal. I can hardly wait to reflect on my day and record the wonderful things.

The crazy thing is, I was the one whose mind, body, and emotions suffered as I fed the negative stories. And, I’m the one who benefits from my change of focus.

It’s a simple practice, but it’s benefitted my life greatly.

We all could use a little good news today.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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