Stop The Negativity LoopAugust 20, 2020
When negativity overload gets to be too much, how can you break free?
It’s the late summer of 2020 and the news cycle can barely catch its breath. By the minute, it feels like we are bombarded with pulse-raising stories, data that immediately affects our breathing, our emotions, our stress. We then ruminate on these thoughts – wondering when “this will all come to an end” or we develop stories for the coming months, already dreading what hasn’t yet happened.
This is a negativity cycle, and we tend to feed it externally. Right now, many things are conflating in this cycle: it’s an election year, our political landscape is heavily divided, there’s a public health crisis and seemingly everyday, a growing mental health crisis as well.
How do we put an end, or at least a pause to this personal negativity cycle?
Information is like food for your brain, and the information you’re feeding your mind can have real impacts on your daily life – making us feel overwhelmed.
Our Founder and world-renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Davidson, provides some context:
Whenever we’re facing a challenge, our brain immediately calculates how much effort it will take to tackle it. Studies show that we often overestimate how much it’ll take to address a challenge. If you see a hill off in the distance, for example, you might think it’ll be a lot harder to climb than it actually is. But here’s the interesting part: a study from a few years back asked people to reflect on what’s meaningful to them, to reflect on the deeper purpose of a task, and as a result, they tended to judge its difficulty more accurately. So when we see meaning and value in the challenges we face, we evaluate them more realistically. In other words, knowing why you want to climb that hill, knowing why it’s so important to get to the top, or to the other side, helps you to see it more clearlyDr. Richard Davidson
So, perception is relative and malleable. And we can affect this perception by the lens with which we view things, as Dr. Davidson references, and by changing our information “diet” to limit the endless cycle.
One of our colleagues at Healthy Minds Innovations, Trainer and Program Specialist, Stephanie Wagner, recently led a guided meditation on this topic where she explores tuning into how you feel with certain news or social media sources and then leaning into self compassion as a way to soften this feeling.
A few key things you can do:
- Assess how your news sources make you feel: Are they driving fear and stress? Is there another source that will keep you informed, but lessen the emotional reactivity? Or can you limit your news or social media intake to only certain times? Maybe take a break all together.
- Shift your perspective: This can be hard – but appreciation practices, or delving into your own values to change your lens, can be a great start.
- Stay present: avoid falling down the rabbit hole of what is to come. Try this present-minded practice.
It’s a hard time right now, for a lot of people. It is all too easy to be lost in the negativity cycle of the news or our own current challenges. It takes a lot to break free, but it is a skill that can be developed. Feed your mind something healthy, change your perspective, stay in the moment, and you too can short circuit the cycle.