Get Rid Of The Negative
Self-recrimination. I’m sure you, like me, we all of us, have our negative statements we play in our minds on auto-repeat. They may be thoughts with a one pointed focus or they may be clusters of disjointed attacks across various aspects of our lives. But they are all self-critical, hurtful, and not useful. Possibly triggered from fears, self-doubts, disappointments from not living up to our own expectations, or from internalizing negative words thrown at us by others. These negative words we say to ourselves feed other negative thoughts and can begin to snowball, deepening the harm we have begun.
So what do we do about it?
There are many practices from many traditions and different methods that work for different people. And you may find one that you invent for yourself that works better than anything else. The point is to want to find a way, to want to live in the positive, and to stick with it. The following are a few suggestions.
One tool to try is breathing. Not simply just that, but breathing techniques. Pranayama are breathing techniques with powerful benefits that, importantly here, take us out of our minds. In a good way.
One of these techniques is yogic deep breathing, or 3 part breath. Sitting comfortably, spine tall, chin parallel to the floor, shoulders relaxed – exhale all the air drawing your navel in toward your spine. Inhale first into the lower belly, then into the middle ribcage, then into the upper chest – 3 parts. When you have inhaled the most possible, slowly exhale first from the upper chest, then the middle ribcage, then from the lower belly until the navel draws in. Inhale repeat. Exhale repeat. For 3-5 minutes. Keeping the breath slow, deep, and steady.
The concentration will hopefully stop any dialogue you were having with yourself. The practice itself calms the nervous system and focuses the mind.
Another tool is engaging with the thoughts to then disengage from the thoughts. First, we hear ourselves. Take a little part of yourself and stand apart from your thoughts, and listen. Listen as if someone else were saying the thoughts you hear and note them down, mentally or on paper. Maybe you just start with one negative that really affects you when it starts to play.
I like to imagine a garbage can in my mind. I imagine my whole mind is a piece of paper filled with those thoughts that I then crumple into a ball and throw into my garbage can, leaving my mind blank. If you wrote down the thoughts, you could literally crumple them up, tear them up, or burn them. The point is to make them disappear. Really visualize very specifically how this happens and really see the emptiness afterward. Maybe creating a little ceremony that you can follow. This becomes the tool.
This first practice isn’t going to solve the problem. But if this works for you, it is a ready tool that becomes easier and faster each time. When you recognize one of those thoughts sounding off, you make it disappear. You know what they are, you know when they start, you know you can turn them off, or crumple them up, or burn them down. Each time you may recognize them more quickly and get rid of them sooner. The less attention those thoughts get, the less time for them to fully express themselves into all their ugly glory, and the less they will begin to appear.
A final tool I’ll offer here is also from yoga. In yogic philosophy there is the practice of pratipaksha bhavana, the replacing of negative thoughts with positive thoughts. When a negative thought is reeking havoc on your brain, start thinking of a positive thought, maybe even the exact opposite of the negative thought, and engage with that positive thought until the negative thought can no longer be heard over the sound of the positive thought.
Swami Satchidananda has a wonderful analogy for this: “if there is a dark room, and if you don’t want the darkness you cannot beat the darkness out. The easiest way to get rid of the darkness is to just bring a light inside. Bring in the opposite.” (https://www.yogaville.org/2014/06/13/the-easiest-way-by-sri-swami-satchidananda/)
You can get rid of the darkness in the room by switching on the light. Rather than trying to fight against the negative, reason with it, rationalize it, engage with it – you turn to something else completely until the negative disappears on its own.
Whatever path you choose, choose a path to do something about it, to be vigilant, to have stamina, and courage to hope. Courage to hope. We must relieve ourselves of the burden that we alone have created for ourselves. This is a daunting task. But our peace depends on that courage. The negative will always be out there, but it doesn’t have to be in us.
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