Let’s be honest: when it comes to negative thinking, most of us need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Whether it’s traffic on the freeway or the weight we’ve gained in our arms, we are seasoned vets at focusing our attention on all the things that we wish were somehow better or different.
As a life coach and an inspirational speaker, I am constantly being asked for quick-fix tips for inducing happiness and reducing stress. My answer is always the same: if we want to be happy, we have to learn how to turn the volume down on our negativity and shift our awareness to the parts of our lives that are working, to thoughts and ideas that make us feel inspired and uplifted.
The reason for this is that, unbeknownst to many, negative thinking is the number one cause of unhappiness in humans. That’s right. It’s not your lack of sleep or your cranky boss that is bringing you down, it’s your thoughts about these things that cause you to be less than your naturally exuberant self.
An incredible method for shifting away from the negative and into the positive is an exercise that I call “The Flip Switch.” The Flip Switch is a great tool for instant happiness, as well as for kick-starting our brains into the habit of focusing only on the thoughts that make us feel empowered and optimistic. If it is practiced regularly, The Flip Switch will benefit us emotionally, mentally, and also biologically (think endorphins, new neural pathways, and extra serotonin, oh my!) in our quest for happiness.
Application of The Flip Switch: When you find yourself drowning in a downward spiral of negative thoughts — or even just treading water in them! — this list is your life preserver. To stop negativity in its tracks, shift your attention onto one of the activities on the list below for a few minutes (or as long as you feel is necessary) when you first notice negative self-talk start to come up.
- Listen to music that you love. Music is an extremely powerful tool for shifting your mood and mindset. Just make sure to choose music that energizes and elates you.
- Call someone who understands and supports you. Hearing the voice of someone we love or a friend who gives great advice is always an instant pick-me-up.
- Get into nature. My personal favorite. There is nothing that calms and soothes me more than watching a sunset or being on the beach by my house.
- Meditate. This is a great go-to when you find yourself already pretty deep in the downward spiral. When we are stuck in negative thought patterns, the first physical shift that occurs is that we stop breathing. Shifting our focus onto our breath causes our minds to slow down and brings immediate relief.
- Laugh. Laughter is hands down the best remedy for releasing tension. Watch a silly movie or a YouTube video, or remember a joke that never gets old.
- Exercise/get in your body. When we are moving and being active, we shake up energy and shift our focus away from our mind and into our physicality. Even if this means running in place for 30 seconds or doing a silly dance in your office bathroom, I promise you will feel a difference.
- Appreciate what is around you. Look around your environment and make a conscious effort to list and appreciate everything in your field of vision that you like. Maybe it’s the way the man on the subway is holding his baby, or maybe it’s the photo of your parents that you keep on your desk. Negative thoughts cannot enter our minds when we are in a state of appreciation, so appreciate, appreciate, appreciate!
- Make a gratitude list. When you feel the onset of negativity, quickly turn your thoughts to everything in your life that you are grateful for. This high-vibe tactic diffuses the negativity and is like a reset button for your brain. I have a list I carry in my wallet of all the things I’m happy about — it’s my secret weapon that I pull out and look at when I start to feel down.
- Do an act of kindness. Studies have shown that giving to others elevates levels of dopamine in the brain and instantly boots feel-good brainwaves.
- Create your own! You know yourself better than anyone. If the items on this list don’t particularly invigorate you, just think of the things that make you smile and do that! Eat your favorite food, look at a photograph that reminds you of an awesome vacation . . . Anything that feels good is fair game.
Some items on the list may work better for you than others, so choose the activities that excite you most. You will know when you have successfully “flipped the switch” because you will a) feel better and b) feel much more neutral about the triggering issue that set off the negative thoughts in the first place.
Cheers to your newfound state of bliss, and happy Flipping!