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How to Stop Negativity in its Tracks

We all feel it from time to time: stress, overwhelm, disappointment, confusion, feeling upset. There are times when it passes quickly and times when it can feel like a dark cloud that never lifts.

The temptation, of course, is to muscle through it – keep calm and carry on, but that can sometimes just bury the feelings and then they emerge sideways or upside down or in ways we would never expect. OR we turn to numbing behaviors to self-soothe – like binges of any kinds from Netflix to shopping to exercise to substances; it’s across the board. If we are self aware, and we know our favorite distractions, we are ahead of the game. 

What if I told you there was another way, and it was available to you 24/7, cost nothing and did not take much time. Sounds good? From our friends at the Greater Good Science Center, it is called taking a self-compassion break.


Why does this work? With our negativity bias, we tend to notice the negative aspects more than the positive because in ancient times that kept us safe.  Now however, the negativity can be internalized and people tend to beat themselves up emotionally, and run a negative scenario over and over. (The old not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough narratives) The good news is that this downward cycle can be broken, by replacing the self-criticism with self-compassion.

This is from the work of Kristin Neff. It’s simple and here are the 3 steps:


  1. AWARENESS.  Think of a situation that is stressing you out – you know you feel it in your mind, can you sense where it might be nesting your body? Say "I am experiencing stress." You are mindful of it and not trying to deny it, it is there in this moment. 

  2. COMMON HUMANITY.  Remind yourself that everyone goes through this from time to time. “Everyone is struggling with something.” 

  3. Be Kind to Yourself. Speak to yourself as you would to your closest friend. You can put a hand on your heart and say. '"[Your name], this is a tough moment, I‘ve been through worse, things always have a way of working out, I’ll get through this too. Uncertainty is the door to opportunity." This is about SELF-KINDNESS. The message of the day is: The point of power is when you become your own coach instead of your critic.

  4. Now what is one small thing you can do to move yourself forward? 

Finally I want to share a quote by Pema Chodron: Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. 

If you want to learn even more about the benefits of self-compassion, there’s a whole section in Emotional Advantage.  As always, take care of yourself, be kind to others and remember you have the power to tap into your authentic happiness and create a life you love. 


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