07 January 2016

Banishing Negativity (Guest Post by Cally)

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There are a lot of articles already about leading a positive, happy life. Bring ’em on, I say! More positivity is something that should be celebrated and cherished. However, there are times when it’s not that easy to be happy and though venting and working through your own emotions is very important, sometimes it can be easy to fall into the vicious circle that is negativity.

I speak from experience. For over 10 years, I suffered with depression. It started off fairly mild and ended up taking me on a rollercoaster of guilt-ridden ups, and extreme downs. It was no way for me to live. I tried counselling, medication, exercise, yoga, acupuncture – all great things in their own right, but they just didn't work for me. If somebody had told me, during my very worst times, that all I really needed was to sit back and evaluate my own life and change my way of thinking, I’d have laughed at them. All the self-help books and advice I saw online telling me to “love myself” just came across as patronising and annoying at the time and, honestly, sometimes it still does.

But, that was the truth – for me, anyway. I needed to just take time and look at things from a different perspective. This year has been the first in ages where I can say I'm truly ‘away’ from the darker times of the past and I'm proud to say that I mostly did it all myself, with the help of some wonderful family members and friends. Of course, this is not going to be true for everyone and I don’t claim it to be, but I'm sharing my personal story with you to show that it is possible.

One of the biggest game changers is starting with the smallest of steps: changing your attitude towards things. Life is full of ups and downs. That’s what makes it exciting. Though living life without an edge to it seems grand and enticing, the truth of the matter is that, as a species, humans need conflict every now and then. It keeps us going. A bit of excitement, a rush of emotions and a shot of adrenaline – we all need this from time to time. So, with that in mind, yes, there will be bad days. There will be days when the world just seems like the coldest, cruellest place in the universe but it isn't true. Of course when that mood takes over, it’s very easy to lie down, roll over and ‘accept’ the horrors around us. Unless you decide not to and look those horrors square in the eyes and say a firm “no, life is for living, not for wasting away.”

Looking at things through a positive light can be tough, especially when everything just seems to be falling part. However, if you start adopting more positivity, it genuinely does become easier to cope with them. Some negative thoughts are healthy, as they help us to see from a different angle, but too many of them are overwhelming and will confuse the situation. Picture negativity as a big, dark cloud of smoke round someone. It isn't so easy to see things clearly when that’s all going on. Thinking positively and rationally, will help you access things better. For example: say you have a friend who isn’t very well. Perhaps she has to go in for an operation. Fearing the worst and assuming that the operation will go wrong and your friend’s illness will get even worse is a normal thought and proof that you care for your friend’s well-being. However, if you let that thought linger, perhaps your friend ‘getting worse’ will turn into your friend ‘not making it at all’ and that terrifying outcome starts to play over and over again in your mind. Instead, and this is just an example, be positive. Think of the situation rationally: your friend is in hospital, the best place she can be, being looked after by trained professionals to whom this operation is ‘just another day at the office’. They know what to do, and they will do it to the best of their abilities. That way of thinking is a lot easier to process, and, most likely, a lot more realistic, than assuming everything will go wrong and the very worst will happen.

A Color Bath

Life throws these curve balls at us all the time, often without warning or giving us any time to prepare. While it’s undeniably important to care for those around us, one of the most important things we can do for everyone involved is to look after ourselves. There’s an old saying – “look after number one”. For years, I thought this was quite an arrogant, egotistical way of viewing life. “Why am I more important than anyone else? I'm not above anyone,” I thought. Then, I realised that it isn't a selfish notion at all. Unless you look after and love yourself, you can’t completely be there for other people. There’s the idea of being ‘selfless’ – people who spend all their time, money and energy on making others happy. These people still have to put themselves in the limelight as well, otherwise all that time, money and energy will eventually run out – especially the energy part.

It’s a scientific fact that being overly negative is bad for us. Stress and depression can do a lot of strange things to our bodies and minds and though, in small doses, these things are perfectly natural and healthy, letting them take over is just dangerous. Stress can cause many things: lack of energy, insomnia, being tired all the time, losing weight, gaining weight, hair loss, nausea. I've talked before about the physical symptoms of depression that aren't as widely known or talked about as the mental ones. Pretty much all of the former list, with the potential of added crushing doubt, paranoia, extreme mood swings and even suicidal thoughts.

I understand, and speak from experience, when I say that I know that depression can be a life-changing illness and no, it’s not easy at all to shake it off, but it’s possible and I hope that can serve as a light at the end of the tunnel for some. However, for those out there who are not depressed but still find their lives being eaten up by negativity, of course there is hope for you too. Something I see a lot online is people venting their stress on Facebook, Twitter, and any social network you can think of. Even taking ‘sad selfies’ and putting them on Instagram. If that works, then that’s wonderful and I'm all for people finding an outlet. However… I've also seen a lot of people who exclusively use their social sites as means to vent stress, anger, hurt and they do so every day, several statuses at a time. Personally, I don’t think this is a healthy way of dealing with emotions. I understand everybody is different, but the way I see it, writing it down for the ‘public’ (even if your social network is friends only, you are still sharing personal information with others, however trustworthy they might be) to see is not always the wisest thing to do.

For starters, if your social network is public, you’re opening yourself up to all manner of criticism, judgement and potentially even bullying and threats. Everybody should be entitled to their opinion (just as I am writing mine here, which you may disagree with, and that’s completely fine too!), but there are always going to be people out there who will disagree and, sadly, there will also always be people out there wanting to turn that disagreement into arguments and even full-blown Internet wars with others. Not to mention Internet trolls, who exist solely to cause misery to strangers online. *Slow clap* well done, you lot…

If you are able to defend yourself and your opinions and don’t let anybody else sway you if you’re definite in what you’re saying; that’s great. Either ignore the haters, or debate back with them. But, if you’re feeling low as it is, then broadcasting that unease and anxiety to the world, will expose your vulnerability, potentially. I just don’t like to see somebody who is already hurt, being kicked when they’re down. And I do see it a lot online. I mention this because sometimes it’s easy to rant and vent and complain online and to get into the habit of doing so. It becomes normality and instead of sharing the happy things, I've seen some people only ever use Twitter to gripe about not being served the right coffee they ordered, or to complain that somebody badmouthed them on an online game. I'm not in any position to claim what is and what isn't important, but I feel that often, these ‘smaller’ gripes could probably be dealt with in private, instead of posted online and broadcast ‘forever’ unless the original poster decides to delete them.

In conclusion, being positive can be difficult at times, but it’s worth trying because it’s a lot less stressful to try and look at the lighter side of things than to dwell all the time in the dark. Negativity is fine, but only in short doses. Why would you want to stay unhappy and angry? It’s exhausting, and you deserve better than that!

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