It doesn’t matter if you are reading this at 2 am, in the middle of the day, or late at night. Just take a minute and think about how many times you have engaged in negativity today.
Don’t forget to include complaining, gossiping, and outward expressions of general discontent. Those negative thoughts, words or actions regarding your spouse, children, co-workers, employer, employees, or even that lady that sits in the third row of church.
For many, this little exercise may bring a stark realization of just how many times we engage in negativity throughout the day. Some will deny that they are negative, others will try to rationalize their negativity (“I was only negative because ______”), and others will project the negativity outside of themselves (“At least it is not as bad as ________”). Some will wander through all three of these patterns.
For those that are willing to be honest with themselves, and admit that they may have, at times, on occasion, in some way, engaged in more negativity than they should, let’s take a look at how that may be impacting not only yourself, but also those around you.
We have a baseline tendency on how we process information in the brain. For simplicity of this article, lets just address this tendency as either positive or negative. This baseline has been determined by your previous experiences, and your response to those experiences. Other influences to this baseline are current inputs to your brain. What we see, hear, touch , feel, taste, and smell. Output also influences this baseline. What we think, what we say, how we act. (Interestingly enough, these outputs, also becomes inputs. i.e. What we say, we also hear. Let that sink in for a minute). Repetition programs specific pathways in the brain so that they are used are more frequently as a default for the brain. The more a particular pathway is utilized the more easily future neurological impulses will travel down that path.
Imagine a path in the woods. If many people travel on that path, weeds and brush are tamped down and do not impose a barrier to other who may come along. If however, that path is not utilized, or utilized very little, soon the weeds, brush, and overhang will quickly begin to cover the path making it much more difficult to pass through.
The same thing happens in our brain. Neuro pathways that are utilized over and over again, become very open, and it becomes much easier for new impulses to travel down these paths. Positive, or negative, either way, the path that is utilized more, will be the path that is easier for future impulses to follow.
How do these pathways affect us?
There has been much research into how negative thoughts can affect our health. The impact that this can have on one’s health is staggering. Anxiety, depression, immune system, nervous system, pain, digestive issues, and much more can be effected by these pathways. Both positively and negatively.
Can our negativity affect others?
YES!!! We are in constant psychodynamic loops with others. Our output serves an input for others, who, in turn, respond with output, which becomes our input. And the Cycle continues. There are also great research from The HeartMath Institute on how the degree of one’s coherence (balance) of the nervous system effects those around them. And vise versa. A classic case study involve a mother who brings in her significantly hyperactive child to a therapist. The mother, on arrival, is clearly exasperated and overwhelmed. The child was indeed quite hyperactive and into everything in the office. Instead of focusing on the child, the therapist instead began working with the mother. Bringing her into coherence. Within just a few minutes the child begins to calm down, and settles into the mothers lap calm as can be. With no direct intervention with the child whatsoever.
OK. I’m convinced I want to change… But How?
There in lies the million dollar question. How does one change perhaps years of conditioning pathways a particular way, to something else. The answer may not be all that elusive. STOP the negative thoughts, words, and behaviors, and replace them with positive ones. The answer really is that simple. However, the path to get there may be much more involved. Here are some helpful tips and exercises that can assist you in forging new, more productive, and healthier neuro pathways.
- Be mindful of what you say – This is likely the easiest starting point. We can certainly take control of the output from our mouths. Before speaking ask yourself:
- Is what I am going to say helpful to me?
- Is what I am gong to say helpful to someone else?
- Is what I am going to say Positive or Negative?
- How can I re-frame something negative into something positive
- Control your input – To the extent possible, limit negative input (Things that you see and hear). The television news is a good starting point. Generally pretty negative. Begin to add in additional positive input. Inspiring and positive books, movies, and videos. Surround yourself with inspiring and uplifting people. (Hint: These are generally people that have an abundance of positive neural pathways already burned in, so they exude positivity).
- Control your thoughts – Many people will say this is the most difficult to do, or that they unable to this. It is a matter of practice and perseverance. The more you practice something, the better you become at it. Mindfulness based meditation is an excellent tool to help gain control over our thoughts. Mindfulness meditation differs form other forms of meditation in that it does not seek to clear the mind. Which is a difficult task to do anyway. It accepts the premise that have thoughts that come up during meditation practice, we accept this in a non-judgmental manner, and use this as a cue to shift our thought process to something else. Many leading university level hospitals utilize mindfulness based meditation in their cardiac, cancer, and pain management programs. The clinical outcomes of patients are significantly improved for those involved in these programs.
Some other treatment modalities that may be beneficial:
You owe it yourself, your health, and the health of those around you to choose become more positive. Integrated Functional Health is committed to natural remedies to improve the health of our mind and bodies.