Last week, I had a rather bad day. Something arrived in the mail that reminded me of a difficult work situation I had two years ago. When I began to explore why I was feeling grumpy, I began to spin. The negative thoughts whirled around in my mind and I was having a difficult time stopping them. I know that most of the people who read this article will have faced the same problem.
Recent studies have highlighted the fact that it is easier for humans to stay with a negative feeling or thought than a positive one. You may have heard the phrase "our minds act like Velcro for negativity, and Teflon for positivity." In terms of evolution, our negativity bias was a benefit. It was important to remember what was dangerous and life-threatening. Tiger = pain, spiky plant = poison. The problem for us living in our current age is that our negative thoughts can take over our minds when we are in no immediate danger.
It is estimated that the average person has 40,00 - 60,000 thoughts a day and that 75% of them are negative. Some researchers think this estimate may even be conservative and that the percentage of negative thoughts may be even higher! Most of us do not live in a world as dangerous as that of our distant ancestors, but we have become trapped in the Negative Nellie state of mind.
Mindfulness can help us recognize when unnecessary negative thoughts begin to take over our minds. When we recognize a negative thought pattern emerging, we begin to dismantle its power. It is important to remember that being aware of danger is a gift out minds have provided us and to never feel guilty, lazy, or unhappy with ourselves when we catch a negative thought pattern taking over.
I recognize when I start to spin far more quickly than I did even a year ago. But by gosh, that doesn't mean I don't still spin from time to time. The good news is that I am learning everyday how to better negotiate the thoughts and feelings when they emerge.