To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
- Lao Tzu
Growing up, I’ve always loved living in big cities. From Bangkok to Melbourne, Sydney, London, NYC, and now Los Angeles, I get excited about the buzzing streets, busy commutes, an array of shops and cafes more than anything. It’s the positive, vibrant, fast-moving energy that I thrive of. As of now I am sitting on the 8th floor of a famous co-working space whose beautiful view overlooks the Hollywood Hill. Being a nomad has taught me many things - and one of those things is that you are your own home. Home is not where your parents are. Home is not where your closest friends are. Home is not a postcode, or a house, or a land. When the world is your home, you carry home within you. With that in mind, I have learned to take good care of my body, but more importantly, of my mind.
Life is full of ups and downs. Even though we try to stay positive and happy, sometimes we just can’t help but feel a little down. Things don’t always go as planned. Disappointments, rejections, hurt, worries, illnesses, jealousy, annoyance - all of these things can occur to make us feel very uncomfortable in our own mind. We know it’s not good to feel this way but somehow it’s hard to stop thinking about it. We internalize our thought about a certain thing that annoys us or hurts us because it gives us comfort. However, by internalizing that thought in our head, thinking about it over and over, we reinforce the negative feeling we have and fill ourselves up with negative energy.
Here are the 6 tips of what you can do to get yourself out of the habit of internalizing negative thought patterns. So that you can easily let go off negative thoughts whenever they hit you and feel happy again.
1. When you find yourself over-thinking about something, take your mind off it with “meditation”.
It’s hard to switch from a negative thought to a positive thought right away. So instead of trying to do that, use “meditation” to help you transition. Because when you meditate you need to have a clear mind - you should not think about anything but just focus on your breathing. Meditation sets your mind and your brain to default - to a blank state. Doing this for 10 minutes your head will be clear and you will feel relaxed - ready to start thinking about something that gives you joy again.
2. When you face a struggle in life, instead of feeling you’re unfortunate or life is not fair, see it as an opportunity to learn and to grow your mental strength.
Because without a struggle, you wouldn’t get to grow your mental strength. It’s a blessing in disguise. When you start thinking life is unfair, you’d then have a tendency to circle that thought in your head - telling yourself so over and over which is only going to make you feel worse. Instead of wasting time feeling sad and sorry for yourself, accept the situation and see this as a challenge for yourself. Forget about the future. Just focus on your next step. Then your next step. Inch by inch. Eventually you claw your way out.
When the worst happens, you can’t worry about the rest of your life. You can’t even be worrying about the rest of the month. But you can usually handle one day at a time. And whenever 24 hours is too tough, bite off five minutes at a time. Tackle one problem at a time. Take a step. You get a little confidence… take another step, and another. Eventually you find that the worst is over.
- Andrew Matthew, author of Happiness in Hard Times
3. When you feel stressed because you feel overwhelmed with work and things you have to do, make a clear to-do list and tick them off one by one.
Writing things down helps you organize and give a structure to your thoughts – and that helps you feel more at ease. Create task lists based on priority. Categorize them into groups. Assign them working time slots and deadlines, so that you don’t over-multitask and feel overwhelmed. Once you’ve got it all organized, then you just have to follow through. Focus on one task at a time. Complete it one by one. By doing it this way, you’ll feel less stressed and get more things done.
4. When you feel grumpy and negative because the people around you are negative, start treating yourself as a priority and step away from those people.
Nothing is worse than being affected emotionally by other people’s negative energy. Sometimes you can’t help but bump into a moody person at the grocery store or a grumpy face at the gym. Try to understand that they are fighting their own battles. If you have to associate with them in any way, then try to be detached about it as much as possible and do not take it personally. Let them vent if you must, but if being negative and grumpy is their nature – it’s their natural thought and emotional pattern - then you cannot do anything but avoid being affected by it.
If they’re family, try helping them in a subtle way if you can. If they’re friends, spend less time with the negative ones and hang out more with the positive ones. Your time, energy, and feelings are precious. So don’t let anyone think they have the right to destroy your good mood, positivity, and happy vibes with their negativity.
5. When you feel tired from work, try to focus on the simple joy in life.
Sometimes it’s hard to relax when you’re tired from work. Knowing your body is the best way to lift yourself up after a hard day. What is the one little thing you can do at the end of a hectic day that will help you unwind? A glass of wine? A bath? A comedy show? A beautiful dinner? A run? Make it a habit to add these things to your daily life so that stress doesn’t build up and you don’t experience burnout.
Learn to find joys from simple things in life – the little things you should be grateful for – your kids, your home, your family, your friends, your work, etc. When you make gratitude a habit, no matter what happens, your heart still feels nourished and full.
6. When you’re sick, don’t see yourself as unfortunate. Instead, feel thankful for being alive.
Being sick is never fun. We feel weak, emotional, irrational, and sometimes we wish we could just hide under the ground like a carrot stick. But you should feel happy that at least you’re sick - you’re not dead or suffering from a more chronic or more serious illness. There are many more people who have worse conditions than you. You are very lucky that you are recovering and that you will be well soon. Take this opportunity to think about who you feel thankful for in life, the things you’d like to do before you die, and make plans to achieve those things so you won’t have any regret when your time actually comes.
Switching our thoughts from negative and positive is not easy. Just like any other habits, it requires practice – lots of it. In the beginning, it will feel like we’re forcing ourselves. But as we keep doing it, being mindful of our own thoughts and realizing that we have the power to change how we feel because we can change what we focus on, it gets easier each time.
Through these powerful practices, we are creating a new pathway in our brain and strengthen it through repetition. We are building powerful habits that will help us become the master of our own mind, so that no matter what happens in life, we know that we’ll be okay.