The other day I found myself surrounded by negativity. Picture this scene: I had waited in -20 C weather for the bus that arrived 20 minutes late and it was jam packed. We made our way slowly through rush hour traffic. An upcoming delay was announced due to a serious traffic accident up ahead and we would now be taking a detour. The bags I was carrying were getting heavier and heavier. Some children were crying. Passengers were getting restless. An argument broke out at the back of the bus between two passengers which was impossible to tune out given that we were packed in like sardines. Some passengers at the front were lamenting to the bus driver about missing their expected stop as we detoured. The cursing and raised voices at the back of the bus were getting louder. Concerned parents looked on, frustrated, as their children heard the awful words being spewed out. People were shifting around nervously at being subjected to the uncomfortable situation. The rising tension was palpable and threatened violence. The situation was enough to make anyone’s blood pressure rise. I momentarily thought of getting off the bus and walking 30 minutes home rather than remaining in the midst of this horrendous scene. However, in a moment of clarity, I found peace was able to endure in complete calm. How was this possible? I’ll detail some ways of neutralizing negativity that can be applied to everyday unpleasantness.
1. Focus on Yourself – Rather than partaking in the negativity, bring your awareness back on yourself. Focus on your breath. Chances are if the negativity is affecting you, it may have affected your pattern of breathing. Pay attention to your breath. This will give you a focal point to come back to if your mind tries to carry you away back into the situation taking place. Take a deep breath in of peace and calm, then breathe out love and understanding. Deep breathing improves our circulation, stimulates parasympathetic dominance, and decreases cortisol. This is one easy, accessible way to keep your body relaxed and not be brought down by the negativity.
2. Visualize – The use visualization is a classic mindfulness tool. It can also help you take great strides away from participating in negativity. An inspiring visualization to use is imagining a candle lit with a brilliant flame inside of your heart. Keeping your thoughts and emotions in check, the flame remains lit and still. If you begin to feel the influence of the negativity, the flame begins to flicker and may go out. Your focus using this visualization is to keep the flame burning brilliantly as you radiate positivity and awareness. Another excellent image to utilize is the vision of a protective bubble surrounding you. It helps to create a boundary in your mind that negativity cannot penetrate.
3. Be Aware – Remember yourself. In every given moment throughout the day. What does this mean? When you remember yourself, you do not identify with your thoughts and your mind. The mind is a powerful tool for positivity when used correctly. But you are a conscious human being, and more than just a mind with thoughts. Having that awareness throughout the day allows you to observe your thoughts rather than allowing your thoughts to control you and dictate your mood. Not being influenced by external situations is greatly helped when you do not become your thoughts about a particular circumstance/person/place/event.
4. Dis-engage – Avoid engaging with negativity. You give life to it and allow it to perpetuate by engaging with it. You enable situations or people to be negative and promote negativity by reacting to it. Often difficult, but in many cases, the best course of action is to walk away, don’t put in the last word, let it rest and let it go.
Stress management is a key to quality of life. With an abundance of negativity surrounding us in everyday life, I find it so important to teach tools that help people deal with the ever-rising stress levels in our society. Often times stress can aggravate symptoms or even trigger the onset of an illness. Start with these small tips, and with practice, they will serve you well in neutralizing negativity during the inevitable adverse encounters in life.