Happy New Year!  Has yours started off happy?  Many people across the country (world!) were looking forward to 2021 bringing a fresh start; however the first couple weeks of the new year left the nation with a lot on their minds.  As the unfathomable events on January 6 unraveled with the attack on our nation’s capital, the second impeachment of our then President followed with an unconventional inauguration, leaving half of the nation able to take a deep breath of relief while the other still very anxious for the future.

With so much anxiety, frustration and uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic (which continues to feel as though there’s no end in sight!) and the Nation in a state of political unrest, it’s easy for our minds to be swallowed up with negativity when there is so much around. So how do we combat the negative thinking to see light in the shadows and have a “mental fortress” in this chaotic world? It’s time to take combat and create a mental fortress of positive thinking.

That’s not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t express our worries but by creating a mental stronghold we can hopefully prevent our minds from going down a “rabbit-hole” of negativity by using the mental stronghold to combat negative thinking from taking over our daily lives.  I’ll be diving into three ways that we can combat negative thinking and attach a challenge to each.  However, there are a couple things we must be conscious of before putting the effort into creating our mental fortress. Being aware of our environment, who we surround ourselves with and allowing our mind to shift to that which we can control is key.  It’s likely you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  This prayer for serenity is a good reminder that “worry is a useless emotion” as it encourages us to surrender unnecessary worry.

It’s also important to take a conscious look at the people we surround ourselves with.  Would you say that the people you are most surrounded with are overall positive or negative thinkers?  Jim Rohn has famously said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” He shares thatPeople can affect our attitude by teaching us poor thinking habits. The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.” Who do you spend most of your time with? Are they negative thinkers?  Rohn also shares, “…but nobody can control our attitude unless we surrender that control.  No one else “makes us angry”, we make ourselves angry by losing control over or surrendering our attitude- we choose, not them.”  People (or current events as of late) may just put our attitude to the test.

Now that we’re aware of our environment (and hopefully in a more positive one!), let’s practice some positive habit interventions.  Here are three things we can do to combat negative thinking:

  1. Optimism– Analyze your habit of focus.  Are you focusing on the negative today?  Optimistic thinking FUELS optimistic thinking, where the opposite, worry and pessimistic thinking drives more worry and negative concern.  It’s a slippery slope.   

    Challenge yourself to see how often you can turn negative thoughts into good and look at the glass as half-full.  When a worrisome thought, negative news or stressful moment arises, think of three good things that happened over the past 24 hours and your mindset will instantly shift, processing and providing the positive reinforcement.

  2. Gratitude- Throughout the day.  Gratitude is a proven way to increase positive thinking.

    Challenge yourself to wake in the morning and start your day with a gratitude- thinking of one thing you’re grateful for.  Mid-day as you continue at work or home and it’s easy to let the day’s events take a toll on your mental stronghold, rather than starting your first conversation with a coworker, spouse or friend with political news, pandemic updates, work or home stress, start the conversation with gratitude. End your day with the top three things that day.  This will leave your mind thinking of the best parts of the day versus letting the stress take over when your head hits the pillow.

3.    Mindfulness– Focus on the present and be present.  Don’t the past or future to steal your worry.

Challenge yourself to have a screen-free day.  Too much of our worry, concern and negative thoughts arise from the news, social media, or simply, our emails or texts.  Instead, focus on self-care for a day (or even first thing in the morning) and do something that relaxes your mind and allows you to be present in that moment.  What fuels your mind and body with positivity? Coffee with a book or devotions, meditate, yoga, exercise, journal, music are things we can do that may combat negative thinking while promoting a positive stronghold.

I wish you a positive week and a strong mental fortress!