Negativity is toxic for many reasons: 1) it destroys your mental health, 2) it can actually make you physically sick, and 3) it just brings the mood down for everyone else around you. Negativity just can’t exist if you want to create a positive life. That doesn’t mean you can never have a bad thought, but for the most part, concentrating on the positives in life helps you attract more of the same. If you only focus on everything going wrong, you miss out on the beauty right in front of you.
Many people wonder how to find this elusive happiness that everyone talks about. It doesn’t actually exist tangibly, so this means it comes from our own minds. Therefore, we can feel happy whenever we choose because we get to control our emotions. With that said, this doesn’t mean that feeling good all the time happens overnight. It takes practice to train your mind to see the good in bad situations and circumstances.
Below, we’ll talk a little more about why negativity is toxic, and how you can engage in positive thinking to turn things around.
Science proves that negativity is toxic
“You can’t litter negativity everywhere and then wonder why you’ve got a trashy life.” – Unknown
If you’ve ever been around someone at work or school who just seems down in the dumps all the time, you know how it can affect everyone around them. In a work setting, it brings down the mood of the whole team because people can feel that energy. Just as positivity is contagious, negative moods are as well. You might think that negative moods or thoughts don’t really cause harm, but science proves otherwise.
Negativity is toxic because it can cause mental health problems.
Just as positive thinking can promote a healthy mindset, negative thoughts can do the opposite. When you constantly entertain negativity, you start to seek out experiences and people that reflect your mindset. The quote from Buddha that says “What you think, you become” very much applies here. Everything in life comes down to your mindset and the way you approach obstacles.
As they say, it doesn’t matter so much about the situation you face. Instead, it’s the attitude you have about your circumstances. A positive attitude can help you overcome any challenges. But negativity tends to drain your energy, rendering you powerless and stagnant. Studies have shown that a negative disposition can actually cause some of the world’s most common mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression. In fact, a U.K. study of more than 30,000 people, the largest of its kind, found that traumatic life events played more of a role in mental illness than even genetics or life circumstances.
“Whilst we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results of this study showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, the way a person thinks about and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel,” said lead researcher Peter Kinderman, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society.
So, now that you know that ruminating about the past is the main predictor of mental illness, perhaps this can offer some perspective. We often look at past experiences as a way to define ourselves, but really, they’re just stories. The things that happened to us may have shaped our character, but they don’t have to negatively affect our life moving forward.
Remaining in the present moment helps clear the chatter from your mind and keeps you focused on all the wonderful stories you can create right now. Negativity is toxic because it destroys your inner peace and takes away your strength, so try to choose positive thinking instead.
Negativity is toxic because it can harm your physical health.
It is well-documented that a negative mindset can actually cause physical health problems. Most people think negativity only affects the mind. Additionally, chronically sour moods can increase cortisol levels, which leads to all sorts of diseases. A passing negative mood probably won’t cause much harm, but making it a permanent part of your disposition can lead to problems.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, said in an article on Health.com: “Many negative emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration become problematic when those emotions turn into a more permanent disposition or a habitual outlook on the world.” Some studies have shown exactly what can happen to our bodies when we maintain this habit of worry, anxiety, and stress for years on end.
A 2014 study published in the journal Neurology linked high levels of cynicism later in life, i.e. a general distrust and skepticism of people, to a greater risk of dementia compared to those with a more trusting attitude. This remained true even after accounting for lifestyle factors such as smoking, age, sex, and heart health markers. Speaking of the heart, a negative outlook may affect it as well.
A 2009 study from the journal Circulation looked at data from nearly 100,000 women and found that the risk of heart disease increased in the most cynical patients. The more pessimistic women also had a higher chance of dying over the study period in comparison to those with a more optimistic outlook.
“We know that neural pathways are changing every minute of your entire life and that your brain is generating new cells throughout your life. And this neurogenesis is not only associated with the formation of new memories, but with mood stability, as well,” said Simon-Thomas.
She went on to say, “We can be deliberate about shifting our habits of feeling and thinking in the world.”
So, not only does negative thinking cause mental health problems, but it can wreak havoc on your body as well. Plus, being around negative people just brings down the mood of everyone in the surrounding area.
Negativity is toxic because it can affect other people.
In general, people don’t want to hang out with others who constantly complain or engage in negative thinking. Bad moods can easily infect everyone in a workplace or school environment, causing discord and poor morale. Of course, no one can feel happy all the time, but in general, it helps everyone when the overall mood remains positive.
If you struggle with this, it helps to block out everything except the present moment, and focus on the task at hand. You may not always feel like being at work or school, but positive thinking and staying mindful can help smooth out any tension you feel.
Now that we’ve talked about how negativity can harm your mental, physical, and emotional well-being, let’s discuss how to combat this toxic frame of mind.
How to boost positivity:
Positive thinking doesn’t always come easily, but in time, you can make it a habit instead of having to force it. Below, we’ll list a few ways that you can bring more positivity into your life.
- Keep a positive circle of friends. They say you are the five people you hang around the most. So make sure you enjoy the people you spend time with. Try to seek out friendships with people who have qualities you admire or wish to have yourself. Being around negative people will only bring you down. Therefore, try to distance yourself from those who engage in these types of attitudes.
- Recite positive affirmations or mantras every day. You can either keep sticky notes on your mirror with positive sayings or write them in a journal. Be sure you read them aloud each day. A positive mindset starts with what you feed to your brain; just like you nourish your body with wholesome foods, you have to take care of your mind as well.
- Challenge negative thinking. No one in this world can say they’ve never had a negative thought about themselves. It’s just a part of being human. However, you don’t have to agree with what your mind tells you. When a negative thought creeps into your mind, simply acknowledge it and then choose to focus on something else.
Negative thinking patterns such as rumination and overreacting can cause mental and physical health problems. It can also destroy other people’s moods and morale in a work environment. You may not think negative moods can really have that much of an impact. But science shows the harm in long-term pessimistic mindsets.
Studies prove that chronic pessimism can lead to heart problems, dementia, and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. If you want to increase your chances of living a long, healthy life, make sure to engage in positive thinking. Recite positive affirmations, challenge your negative thoughts, and keep yourself motivated by surrounding yourself with positive people. Just remember, a positive attitude can make even the worst situation seem like a walk in the park!