We all develop negative and toxic attitudes at times and none of us are invulnerable to mood swings or thoughts that dampen our happiness. That doesn’t mean you should surrender to them. Whether your negative attitude appears often or is a rare event, it is important for your long-term happiness that you manage to identify the thoughts that create it and what will change how you think. The 12 toxic and negative thoughts presented here pass through most of our minds, and it’s best to know how to handle them, freeing ourselves to live a truly happy life.
1. “I may not be happy right now, but I know I will be happy in the future.”
Instead of being thankful for having two working legs, a body that can do so many things and a brain that works all the time, many people complain about their weight and their looks. Instead of being thankful for the roof over our heads, many people pray for a shiny new car. Don’t be those people. You may not have everything now, but you have plenty. To see that, just make a list of things to be thankful for. The world is full of people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Do not wait for happiness later when you can have it now. It is all about appreciating what you DO have.
2. “Happiness depends on great moments and specific circumstances.”
For some, chasing happiness is not the same as being happy. For those who chase, happiness is always just out of reach, and only occurs during special, specific moments. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some sunshine or the chirping of birds, but one must separate happy moments with being a happy person. Happy moments pass because time always passes and it’s unavoidable. We expect to be happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, wanting a life where every action is rewarded. However, this kind of attitude only leads to disappointment and changing moods.
If you are serious about being happy, then chasing it is a bit more complicated. It is not always about momentary thrills and instant gratification. This is not a game of tag, but more of a ‘hide and seek’. The goal is to live a life that is meaningful to YOU. It starts with you asking yourself: “Why do I do what I do every day?” When that answer gives you meaning and joy, then you will have found your happiness.
3. “Every step I take, for myself and for others, must be logical.”
If we only ever listened to our logic, we would lose our passions, our sense of romance and probably some of the long-standing friendships we have with others. We would be stuck thinking we are going to fail at everything we do, that we will end up getting hurt. But that is nonsense, because if we truly lived out lives that way, we would not be living at all!
If you shape your every action so it seems logical to you or to others, you may feel 100% safe from acting a fool, but will spend your whole life waiting for something to happen. Sometimes you just need to try new things and take risks. Sometimes you just need to get up and do what feels right to you. A man did not invent the plane because flying made sense, he invented it because he had a passion, and not only that, because he wanted to do something completely illogical and make it come true.
4. “I am not good enough to do this.”
When you find yourself in a circle of self-hate, you must remember that you were not born this way. At some point in your past, someone or something sent you the message that something is wrong with you, and you have internalized that lie and accepted it as the truth. But it is not a lie you should carry on your back, and those that judge you are not you, so what do they know about what you can and cannot do?
In the same way that you learned to see yourself in a negative light, so you can learn to see yourself in a positive one. Every time you feel this inadequacy, see it as a challenge and prove to yourself and to others that you have self-respect and that no one has control over what you can and cannot do. It would not be easy, and it would not happen overnight, but it is possible with enough practice. It starts when you give yourself a break, and consider the possibility that you CAN do anything.
5. “Everyone should love me.”
People who are constantly on the hunt for other people’s approval eventually wear others out. They are stuck with the desperate need to prove their worth, time after time, always trying to get positive attention from the people around them. Ironically, they often get the opposite result, because they suck the energy of others trying to get their attention and end up annoying them. Even worse, they exhaust themselves in the process, and eventually become frustrated and angry because they couldn’t get what they wanted.
There is a much bigger picture at which to look in life, and there’s much more for which to strive than other people’s approval. Imagine yourself living completely alone, without seeing anyone. What would make you happy then? What would you do?
If you want people to love you, help them. Give them the love you wish you got. They may not always give it back, but it will help you find happiness in giving rather than receiving.
6. “I’ve seen and heard it all.”
No matter how much you know, how much you’ve learned or how many experiences you’ve been through, this life is much too complicated for anyone to be able to say that. Every day is a chance for a surprise, and you should never think that you are done learning. We learn every day, from the moment we’re born to the moment we close our eyes for the last time. Keep an open mind, because often the things we thought we knew end up giving us some valuable new lessons.
7. “I need to be in control.”
Imagine you are driving your car and get stuck in traffic. There’s nothing you can do but to be patient. Yet, that does not stop most of us from changing lanes, trying to bypass other cars or even, in desperate cases, drive on the other side of the road. These are all attempts to regain control over a situation that we simply cannot change. This leads to frustration and when we finally do get to where we were going – we already feel negative and frustrated which may cause us to take it out on others or just make ourselves feel worse.
Accept the fact that sometimes we have no control over what happens to us, but remember that no matter what happens and no matter what the result is, it will all work out in the end. Do not sacrifice your present for a future you fear. Let go and let life happen, investing your energy in the good things you can control in spending time with your loved ones.
8. “I have been hurt so bad that I’ll never recover.”
Pain and loss is a big part of life, and keeping them fresh in our memory only causes them to last longer. One of the hardest things to do in this world is to let go of the pain that we both hate and jealously keep, whether that pain comes from guilt, anger or tragic loss. Sometimes forgetting and letting go is the only choice that can cure us and release us, emotionally, from memories we use to haunt ourselves.
It is not easy letting go, it takes hard work and focus, but it is worth the effort when you feel that weight lift from your shoulders. Stop reading old chapters in your book of life and start making some new ones. Learn from your past mistakes and move forward. Sure, there will be new mistakes to make, but that is part of living a meaningful life.
9. “Everything that happens is personally connected to me.”
It’s easy to believe that everything that happens around us is somehow connected to us personally. It is easy to believe you are unloved or unwanted when people seem angry or unfriendly. But the truth is most people make their choices based on what they’re going through themselves, and it rarely has anything to do with you personally. Someone might have a bad day, and we all have our own problems and struggles to overcome. Do not take things personally and understand that every person around you is just trying to find their own way through bad and good days.
10. “I am better than other people.”
Be humble. Admit your mistakes and know when to ask for forgiveness. Ask others for their help and remember those to whom you owe your success. This constant act of comparing yourself to others will only bring you frustration and anger. It is a thought that we use as a shield to prove to ourselves we have worth. You DO have worth, and so does every other person. Realize that and compare yourselves only to the person you see in the mirror.
Remember, climb a mountain not so people can look at you, but so you can look at the world.
11. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
We all tell little white lies now and again. But even the simplest little lie can cause us stress and anxiety in the long run. In fact, it is quite terrifying to think that most people are more surprised by honesty than they are by lies. The one thing that unites people the most is being open and honest with each other; helping others see the world the way it is instead of selling them illusions.
Most importantly, do not lie for the sake of your own mental health. It is such an easier life when you’re simply being honest and have nothing to hide.
12. “I just do not have time for my family and friends.”
Neglect is almost as bad as abuse to some people. You may feel a little regret now, but you’ll feel a lot more of it later on in life, when most people wished they had worked less and made more time for their loved ones. And when we lose one of our dear friends or a family member, we feel as if we would give anything for just one more hour, even a few minutes, with them again. Think about that when you look at them, every moment is precious. Spend it well.
Take the time to have a really good conversation with a member of your family every once in a while. Share with them, be honest with them and above all – give them your attention. Life is too short not to spend it with those we love. Make the right choices so you don’t regret them later.
A few more words…
If you notice some of these behaviors and thoughts in yourself, remember that you are not alone. We all have a negative side buried deep within us, and it has the potential of bubbling up to the surface when we least expect it. The key is your own awareness, so identify the toxic thoughts and behaviors when they happen and stop them in time. Remember these tips and live your life the way you’re supposed to – happy.