Limiting the Effects of Negative Environments
In an ideal world, we’d fully isolate ourselves from negative environments. The reality is that we can’t fully escape negative environments. However, there are steps we can take to minimize our exposure to negativity and limit its impact.
Acknowledge Your Reality
When we believe that we are being forced to tolerate a negative environment, such as a spouse who constantly complains or working for a company whose values don’t match our own, we can feel trapped and hopeless. The illusion of being subjected to negativity against our will can increase stress and depress our mood.
To regain a sense of control, it’s important to acknowledge that you do have a choice in every situation. You may feel that you can’t afford to quit your job because the pay and benefits are too good and the job market is too unstable. Instead of bemoaning the fact that you’re trapped in a job you don’t like, acknowledge that you do have the choice of quitting. Instead, you are choosing to keep your job, because you enjoy the stable pay and benefits that it brings. This simple reframing of your situation will ease your stress and make you feel more in control.
When you feel negative judgments arising, don’t resist them. Remember, what we resist, persists. Instead, acknowledge and embrace your feelings. Only by doing so will you be able to progress to the point of letting the negative feelings and judgments go.
Journaling is another excellent way to release your feelings. At the end of the day, pour out all of your negative feelings and thoughts onto paper. Use the Total Truth process described in The Success Principles to ensure that you’ve fully excavated your feelings about troublesome situations. Negative feelings are like weeds. If you don’t fully extract them (e.g., pull out the roots), they will come back. If you’d like, burn your journal pages or letters that you write.
3 Decompression Tips
When you find yourself repeatedly exposed to the same negative environments, such as your office, use one or more of the following tools to decompress and center yourself before moving on to the rest of your day.
• Don’t listen to the news, which only adds negative images and thoughts to your mental space. If you commute between your office and home, spend your drive time listening to relaxing music or educational CDs. When I have to drive home from Los Angeles after a trip, I like to listen to a comedy channel. Because I spend the entire drive laughing, I walk in the door ready to greet my family pumped full of feel-good endorphins.
• Create a decompression ritual to help you disengage from your negative environment. For example, take a walk after work, spend a few minutes meditating, or do yoga. A few minutes invested in nurturing and calming yourself will be rewarded with a calm and happy remainder of your day.
• Do not use alcohol as a way to unwind. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which means that any stress and unresolved anger you’re carrying will come bursting out more easily. The innocent targets of your attacks will the people who deserve your anger the least: your family and friends.
Add to Your Environment
There may be situations where you are unable to control an environment. However, that does not mean that you should give up completely. Look again to see what small steps you might be able to take to create a more nurturing supportive environment.
For example, if your office culture tends to be negative, hang motivational signs in your work area or select a picture for your computer screen saver that uplifts and relaxes you. Take a quick walk at lunchtime to reconnect with nature, or close your office door for a few minutes of breathing and meditation rather than gossiping over a cup of coffee.
Finally, strive to be as positive as you can be. Give up complaining and blaming, and look for the best in every situation. Not only will you attract other positive people into your life, you may be the beacon that inspires others to shift their attitudes, as well.
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