It happens this time every year! I live in Chicago and whenever the temperatures get cold, people start complaining - “it’s too cold!”, “I hate the snow”, “it’s so gloomy out, it depresses me”...blah, blah, blah.
I have lived in this city pretty much all my life, so I’m used to it. This is what happens around December, it’s get cold. It is winter after all.
We all have a tendency to focus more on the bad experiences than positive ones. But constant negativity can also get in the way of our happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damages our health. When we complain, our brains release stress hormones that harm neural connections in areas used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. This also happens when we listen to someone else moan and groan.
If you are worrying and obsessing over things like the election or how to lose weight, this is not doing you, your body or anyone around you any good. I’ve been working on meditation practices to help with my stress and anxiety, which is mostly driven from all the negativity around me. Here’s a few practices I’ve been working on to calm my negative mind.
Step 1: Become aware of your negative thoughts. Notice you are in a negative cycle, acknowledge it and especially, accept it! Acceptance is the basic premise of mindfulness meditation, which helps reduce stress. You don’t have to sit in a quiet room each day with your eyes closed to reap the benefits of being mindful. Just notice your thoughts in a non-judgemental way and don’t try to alter them.
Step 2: After you’ve accepted your thoughts, try and challenge it. Why are you beating yourself up over things that occur that you have no control over? Or, if you have control over it, take action and do something about it. Put a better spin on things and determine what you can do to change this thought.
Step 3: Try Breathing. When negative thoughts are making you feel agitated, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Do this several times and you should notice a calming sensation take over your body and mind. Practicing controlled breathing can help lower the stress response and calm anxious thoughts.
Step 4: Make it Positive. Look for the good things in every day. With all the negative, there must be something good that happens to you in one day? How about the fact that you were able to wake up and live another day? Or maybe you have loved ones in your life like family and friends who care about you? Focus on the good.
Also, this may sound like a stretch, but one tip would be to stay away from social media for awhile. There is so much negativity there, so give your brain a break from it. The more you dwell on the negative, the more your brain becomes accustomed to it.
So Chicagoans, the next time it snows, think about heading to a sledding hill with your kids, or make a fire at home and curl up on your couch with a warm blanket and a book for some mellow time. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day!