I wrote this 18 months ago and never posted it for some reason. Here it is:
tl;dr – ways you can change negativity into positivity in the short term and long term
Three things I believe:
- Karma exists, but is not governed by a supernatural force
- Positivity and negativity are self-perpetuating
- You can change negativity into positivity
I’ll attempt to articulate why I believe these points and how I believe you can achieve #3.
Karma exists, but is not governed by a supernatural force:
Karma is a complicated concept and is interpreted differently between various religious / spiritual / scientific philosophies. My understanding of the term is something along the lines of “what goes around comes around”, rather than a cumulative force that decides how you will be reincarnated. I think it can (and does) exist without supernatural intervention, also.
I consider karma to mean the tendency for people to do nice things for / to you and want to spend time with you if you do nice things for / to other people and are rewarding to spend time with. Phrased in these terms, it seems obvious – who would want to spend time with a jerk? Or who would avoid spending time with a really nice person who values your time?
It’s important to note I think karma is an example of correlation, not causation.
Positivity and negativity are self-perpetuating:
If you believe the aforementioned kind of karma exists, it demonstrates this point well; Positive outward actions lead to positive inward actions, negative lead to negative. If someone does a positive thing for you, you’re likely to perceive this positively, feel more positive because of it, and be more likely to do further positive things as a result.
A basic example:
If your friend buys you a beer, you’re more likely to buy him one later.
If someone throws a pint on you in a bar, your more likely to want to hit them.
I think this perpetuating positivity (I’m going to stop referring to negativity now – who wants to perpetuate that?) can occur in thought processes as well as actions, through mood (short term) and mindset (long term).
You’ll know from experience that everything seems better when you’re in a good mood. I don’t think this is chance – I think this is because you perceive and appraise everything in a more positive way, whether you know you’re doing it or not.
This is something I’ve experienced (on both levels), which is why I believe
You can change negativity into positivity:
There’s no reason to stay in a bad mood if you’re in one, or to maintain a less-than-ideal vision of the world because of habit. I’m by no means trivialising depression or grief or any other causes of negative emotions, but I think there are ways you can change your thinking to become more positive.
I mentioned positive mood as a short term outcome, and positive mindset as a long term one, so I’ll cover those separately. Below are methods I’ve used personally to good effect, so I hope they’re useful.
If you’re in a bad one,
- Try to figure out why
- Get somewhere calm. Take a few deep breaths and attempt to remove yourself from any factors enhancing the bad mood.
- Evaluate any reasons you highlighted in the wider context, not just within your bad mood (they’ll look a lot less bad)
- Focus on something POSITIVE
This is harder, but still possible. I’m still trying to figure out how to do this more,
- Meditate regularly. I did mindfulness meditation for fifteen minutes two or three time a week for a couple of months, and my average levels of anxiety and stress dropped noticeably (from the inside and from the outside) and have remained lower two years later.
- Try to see the good side of every situation. Think about why commuting by public transport is good (time to read, less environmental impact), why spilling your coffee isn’t bad (didn’t burn me, can get another point on my loyalty card sooner), and so on. This is hard, but seeing the positive side of things quickly becomes habitual.
- Do more things you enjoy and less things you don’t. Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Change your internet homepage to a site about your hobby instead of Google, wear the hat you like even if it doesn’t match, and so on.
- Take actions and decisions for your benefit. I saw the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ on the wikipedia page for karma earlier, and it captures this point nicely. If you do things for your benefit, the dissonance between what you want to do and what you do disappears, so it’s harder to feel bad about it. This doesn’t mean “be selfish” either, just don’t pander to other people’s desires. The actions and decisions you take will then feel more rewarding (although there is a greater sense of accountability attached to these kinds of decisions – I might expand this into its own post).
Those tips, combined with an active desire to think more positively and some reflection on your progress, are definitely workable. I hope they help!
- What goes around is likely to come around
- People are more likely to be nice to you if you’re not a jerk
- Things seem better when you’re in a good mood, and worse when you’re in a bad mood
- A bad mood / negative outlook isn’t permanent