Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Power of Negative Thinking

Meditation is proven to relax people and have an effect on their bodies and minds. This is a scientific fact, not some sort of new age pie-in-the-sky holistic notion. Despite this fact, most people find it difficult to meditate and I'll admit that I am one of them. Every time I yell, "quiet you!" to my chattering mind, it sticks its tongue out at me and goes back to yammering away.

One thing that we don't realize though is that we are almost certainly meditating everyday in ways that we are not aware of. Meditation doesn't have to mean that you are clearing your mind and thinking peaceful thoughts. All it has to mean is that you are repeating a thought again and again until it has a tangible effect on you. Many people don't realize it but they are engaging in destructive and highly negative forms of meditation as they ruminate on the current state of affairs in the world and continually consume media which imprints a variety of troubling mantras on them.

In this day and age, we find that the most popular mantras relate to prices going up, quality of life decreasing with little chance of it ever going up again, and a negative outlook for jobs as globalization undermines our marketability. If repeating notions and thoughts of peace and tranquility relax your body and ease your spirit, imagine what repeating such negative notions are doing to them. You may literally be talking yourself into being sick in both mind and body.

I'm not suggesting that people forget reality and pretend undesirable changes are not at hand. I'm suggesting that they be aware of the fact that listening to and repeating the mantra of how bad things are isn't helping the situation and it's almost certainly skewing their perceptions such that they are going to feel worse no matter what the real impact on their lives such changes have. I suggest turning off the news and skipping the web sites which harp on negative changes and focusing on the reality of the quality of your daily life. Live (responsibly) in your reality and not some hypothetical future.

For most of us, our reality includes a great deal of comfort. I'm not talking about drawing comparisons between our lot and the lot of those living in starvation and poverty. I'm talking about the multitude of little joys we can experience that are so easy and mundane that we forget the pleasure they bring us. The average lifestyle of a lower middle class is often equal to or greater than that of kings in the middle ages. We forget the luxury we live in because we're surrounded by a mantra of disappointment at the luxuries we cannot have and the gloom and doom of the entire world.

So, turn off the negative mantra and try and replace it with a positive one. It may not make the world's problems go away, but it will make you happier with what you have.


joseph said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Great post, you put it so eloquently.

The results of my completely unscientific research project which has involved actively resisting the temptation to participate in the doom and gloom culture, demonstrate that by not engaging in negative thinking your average happiness level increases by 67.3%.

It's been about 18 months since I began the project, and I can honestly say I have experienced more long-term 'quality' happiness since then than at any other time in my life.

People who are concerned that they may end up out of touch with world affairs should worry not - if it's important, you will hear about from someone!

Carl said...

Hmm... this sounds somewhat familiar. However, I find that I'm actually quite adept at avoiding the negative influences these days. I keep myself in blissful ignorance of most everything around me; I figure, if I'm already doing that and am not currently ecstatic, just imagine how miserable I could be if I knew anything about what's going on these days ;)

1tess said...

Negative thoughts about yourself can have even more devastating effects on your happiness level.

There is a woman who volunteers at the place I work who is always making negative comments about herself: how clumsy, how fat, how stupid... She doesn't have much self-confidence always defers to anyone else's opinions. Granted she is recently divorced from a 25 year marriage/stay at home mom, and anyone would suffer a severe blow to self image in that case. (ok, I'd be enraged and dangerous, but...) I don't know her very well so can't say if she had so many negative words for herself before the divorce, or if her husband was verbally abusive, or if it's a result of the break.

Her daughter has been coming to volunteer now and it was she who got Mom to try volunteering at our place, to get her out of the house. And we're all really nice so maybe her negative thinking will change. She's a good worker and really likes to hear praise.

Orchid64 said...

Joeseph: You are the ultimate embodiment of this sort of thing! You're far better at it than I.

I feel obliged to add that I think that it's okay to be angry or upset at something which troubles you. I'm not for suppressing emotions. The main point is, of course, not to ruminate on such things. Feel it, express it, and move on. :-) Still, I'm not as good at that as I'd like, but I'm trying!

Carl: Ah, my dear stuffer, you recall my admonishing you (well, nagging) to stop calling a cyst something far worse. Paint it yellow and draw a smile on it and call it "Mr. Happy Bump".

Actually, this notion is an extrapolation from a book the CH and I have been reading called "The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events."

Tess: I think the woman you mention has adopted the negative mantra of those around her. This is part of the great damage that is done to people who are verbally abused (and why kids who are teased and tormented are damaged in ways that are far worse than people tend to realize). It may take awhile for you to convince her that she's good and I hope you'll have the strength to be patient with her long-term insecurity. I'm sure that her sense of her own inadequacy was reinforced by her husband if she's divorced after a long marriage.

You're a good soul for trying to help replace the negative with the positive!

Thanks to all for the comments!