How to Hack Negativity

Do you know people who live underneath a black cloud? These are the type of people who constantly complain, or are worried that something has or will go wrong. This incessant worrying regardless of the subject creates this negative energy that follows them like a black cloud. You listen to these people for a little bit, but after a while, you start to tune them out. Until, finally, you can’t take it any longer, and you look at them and say, “this is just an ordinary day, and you act like the world is unraveling.” The antidote to this negativity is gratitude.

The Price of Negativity

The problem with those consumed by negativity, stress, and worry is that they are trapped by the black cloud. Sunlight cannot enter their world. In essence, they are always in a state of reaction, or crisis. There is no peace of mind. There is no serenity or lightness in their life. The minute something goes array in their life, they immediately enter this negative feedback loop. They are so focused on survival, that enjoying life is quite frankly impossible.

The Science

We all know that we are what we choose to focus on. Regardless of what happens on the outside, we can control the calm on the inside. Most of us are not Zen monks, displaying mental and emotional balance, but we can harness some of that energy just by counting our blessings. A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to not just an increased sense of well-being but also better sleep, willingness to accept change, and also helps and lower symptoms of physical pain. In 2008, subjects experiencing gratitude were studied under FMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and it was found that they were influencing their hypothalamus in real time. The hypothalamus is a tiny part of the brain that directly influences sleep, eating, and stress, along with an array of other functions. Gratitude also stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for creating new learning pathways.

It’s Not About You

One of the first steps to connecting with gratitude and hacking negativity is recognizing this fundamental point, and that is: you are not the center of the universe. You must connect with something beyond yourself. I’m not suggesting you believe in a God, but you must realize the power of something beyond you. Think of the Earth spinning, the oxygen you breathe, your heart pumping, your legs moving. You didn’t create any of this. You were given this gift. Be grateful.

Recently, I was in a car accident. The car that struck me was only inches from slamming into my door. My vehicle spun around a few times until coming to a stop. I collected myself and realized I was still alive. I checked my body and my head or blood or some type of wound, but I appeared fine. I thought, “As a police officer, my job has been already dangerous, but I never would have thought dying like this, from a stupid car accident.” It makes you wonder. It makes you reflect. What kind of life would my son have without his father? Would my wife be able to support herself without me? All these emotions flooded my system, but I was overwhelmed with this sense of gratitude. How lucky am I to be breathing and intact? I get to share another day of life with my son and wife. Nothing could be better.

Splitting the Black Cloud

If you or someone you know is walking around with that black cloud hovering over them, it’s time to split that cloud with rays of light. The easiest way to start bringing more light, levity, joy, happiness, and abundance back into your life is through gratitude. Begin by spending time in the morning just being grateful for the things you’d normally take for granted. Try to come up with three things you’re grateful for. Say them to yourself silently, or write them down. If you’re going to say them silently, say them slowly enough to feel the value of each one. “I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my morning coffee,” etc. As you generate this gratefulness, focus on the heart. Imagine the gratefulness penetrating the heart, flowing in and out of the heart. Now imagine the “heart” generating gratefulness outward, throughout your entire body, and outward into the world. You should feel your chest soften and open. You should feel yourself in this state of presence, filled with infinite giving.

Peace of Mind

Gratitude practice is a powerful technique, but it must be practiced daily. Very often, we imagine we will be grateful or at peace once we’ve accomplished something or attained a certain item. The truth is, these are all external forces and we have no control over them. Whatever you gain, you can lose. You could lose all the money you put into your savings account tomorrow. Your wife could leave you. How are you going to be at that moment? This is why peace of mind must be generated from within. Further, you can see how unforeseen events can totally destroy our peace of mind, which is why it requires constant work and connection to something beyond ourselves. When we are connected to our blessings and all that is good in our life on a regular basis, it provides us perspective. When you have perspective, you can recover quickly from disappointment because you see that your life is blessed.