Let’s face it. There’s a lot going on in the world to be scared and worried about, to be angry and frustrated over. You could easily lose yourself in the deafening chatter about Coronavirus, the falling stock market, or out-of-control weather. It would be understandable. But what if you decided to do just one thing differently that would turn down the noise just a little bit and give you a little more room to breathe? How about we try it.
The Power of What You Believe
It’s always so interesting when I explore what clients believe about feelings of anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and loneliness. Often their faces drop as they whisper the answer under their breath. It inevitably includes words like powerless, hopeless, overwhelmed, discouraged, and thoughts like “I’ll never feel calm”, “I’ll always be afraid”, or “I’m so helpless”. They can give a pretty good argument to support why they seem unable to feel or think differently. It’s a downward spiral of negativity that takes them deeper and deeper into sadness and despair. It seems endless.
“…negative thoughts and negative emotions feed on each other. As they do, they pull you down their abyss.” – Barbara Fredrickson
But hold on. There’s good news. There is an effective way to end the descent into anxiety that feels so dark and bleak.
Life changing research on positivity shines some light on a new way to think about anxiety, anger, or depression. It’s more than just telling someone to stop being so negative. Researches are now understanding that the secret lies in adding something to this process. The secret is adding a decent sized dose of positivity to the chatter in your head. So, minimize the negative chatter to begin with is step one. Then you have to add a positive emotion to the conversation in your head in a specific ratio – at least 3:1. It’s true. A special formula of 3 or more positive thoughts or feeling expressions to 1 negative one literally changes the brain.
"Science has proven that this process of intentionally dissecting negative thoughts and mindfully choosing to add a positive belief to that thought is proven to “leave a lasting mark on the brain” – Barbara Fredrickson
You Have to Believe the Whole Story
The kicker is that you really have to believe the positive thoughts and feelings are true - that these emotions are heart felt. That you truly feel grateful the miserable rainstorm let up just long enough for you to make it into Publix without getting drenched. If it’s not sincere, the body gets confused and more negativity is produced. You really have to mean it down deep in your bones. And from there this process can spiral upward. When you turn a positive emotion into a supercharged positive emotion, your mind is busy building on the positive and adding more positivity to the story. Then amazing things begin to happen in your brain! It looks like this. Gratitude for the let up in the storm is built on by noticing that there is a dry cart waiting for you just inside the door, and that someone greets you warmly as you enter, and that your favorite chocolatey snack is on BOGO. See how it grows!
So why not try it? Slow down, breathe, look around for something inspiring. Intentionally express something positive about what you see, hear, feel or experience. Here’s a few positive emotions that Fredrickson says are proven to “broaden and build” your positivity.
The way I guide my clients through the process of positivity is to describe the negative thought and associated feelings out loud, and then choose to wrap the story in a positive emotion like compassion or gratitude. Put a positive spin on the story by finding an elevated way to look at the situation, a more loving way, a more hopeful way. Guiding them to access something good they feel, something that is a strong value or belief, builds on these emotions. It helps to remind clients that they are themselves good people, that they have positive emotions that they have not accessed, parts of themselves that they can tap into to shift the chemistry of their brain to one that feels calmer, gentler, kinder. It’s soothing.
So when fear grips you, anger overwhelms you, or sadness brings feelings of despair, pause a minute. Consider what positive emotion can also be a part of what you see, hear, or feel. Wrapping it in gratitude, love, interest in other people, or compassion deepens the experience and grows inspiring thoughts and feelings.
Give it a try. It might just make all the difference. Let me know how it goes!
Need help? Call today 850.450.7223.
Dianne Presley, LCSW, BC-TMH
Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Anxiety, Depression, Loss and Relationship Therapy
Gottman Level 1 and Level 2 Trained Couples Method Therapist
Gottman Trained in Traumas and Affairs and in Couples in Addiction
Gottman Educator in 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing Baby Home
Certified Brain Based Success Coach