A lot of people say that the world is becoming more depressing. But I don’t think this is true. I don’t think the world has particularly changed; I think what has changed is the way we look at the world, our lives and ourselves.
Between our ability to see news coverage from all around the world, social media and photoshop it is very easy to look at the world and see only the bad, the fake and the unattainable. The sad fact of the matter is, negative news sells better than good news.
By the end of 2018, I was obsessively scrolling through social media, comparing myself to people I knew, people I didn’t, celebrities, Youtubers; basically anyone whose life seemed to be better than my own. I was constantly seeing bad news about terrorism, Brexit, Trump and murder. I had people in my life who brought nothing but negativity, who I was literally still in touch with because I had known them for so long. I was swimming in a world of negativity; was it any wonder my anxiety and depression were out of control?
So going into the new year I decided I was going to slowly start stripping my life of its negative attributes. Here are some of the ways I got rid of negativity.
Facebook – I’ve already done a post about getting rid of Facebook, but it is one of the main things that was causing the negativity in my life. On the first of January, I originally began purging my Facebook by going through my friend’s list and unfriending anyone who I, a) Didn’t actually know. b) Didn’t actually like. c) Hadn’t seen in more than 10 years. d) Whose content made me sad/angry/triggered/annoyed. I was shocked to see that over half of my Facebook friends fell into one of these categories. The ones that were left were people I would actually consider my friends.
But I was still seeing so much negativity through adverts, shared posts and I was still comparing my friend’s happiness and achievements to my own (which was not healthy). I decided to stop using facebook for a month (see blog post here) after the month I never went back. I do feel a little out of the loop sometimes, as I don’t see all the latest news or events but I am becoming a believer in ignorance is bliss. If something is particularly important, someone will tell me about it. But if it’s a small bit of new that is literally just there to make people feel bad, then I would rather not know.
This went for seeing other peoples posts as well. I had a bad habit of being triggered by peoples negative posts and needing to have my say, which would result in having online arguments. These arguments would leave my blood boiling and my anxiety being up in arms for days after the event. People would often ask me why I responded to these posts, the answer was I couldn’t help myself. So I removed the temptation by deleting the app altogether. I still think this has been one of the best decisions of my life.
People – Cutting negative people from my life is something I have been working on for a little while now. It started when I made the conscious decision to stop seeing a friend from school. We had been friends for over a decade but our lives were beginning to move in different directions. Holding on to our friendship was beginning to have a negative impact on my mental health. As I worked for higher and higher goals and began achieving more in my life, she made me feel guilty for wanting more. We had grown up with very different backgrounds, I will admit that my upbringing was more privileged than her own. I don’t know if she did it on purpose, but she made me feel like I had brought my success rather than worked for it off my own back. When I went up to Uni, she made it sound as though I had only got there because of my parents and not because I had sat and studied for hours and fought for my place. When I left Uni with the highest degree possible, I got a job that was reasonably high paid. Again, she made jokes about how it was because of my social class, rather than the fact I had worked so hard to achieve my degree. I don’t hate her, I know there must have been reasons for her taunts but I realised I didn’t need to feel the way she made me feel, so I cut ties. She’s happy, and I’m happy. We stopped bringing joy to each other’s lives, so it was time.
But cutting ties is not always that easy. When I was younger, my little sister and I were so close but as time passed we became very different people and drifted apart. While I lived in another city, we got along just fine. But when I moved back and we were living in the same house again the problems started. Our personalities are very different. She likes to follow trends whereas I make a point of trying to stand out. By trying to rebuild our closeness I was only succeeding in irritating her. She had a way of making me feel so small and worthless. Despite this negativity, I knew I couldn’t simply cut her out of my life; she is my sister. But I realised I didn’t have to care as much as I did. We still live in the same house but we drift around each other. We can go a few days not talking to each other. This in itself sounds negative, but it actually works out for the best. In normal life, we would not be the sort of people who would choose to befriend the other. So we go about our lives staying out of the others way, but we both know the other will be right there if one of us needs help or a shoulder to cry on.
Work – I understand that it is not easy to just quit the job you hate and get a new one; life isn’t that simple. But there comes a point when you know something needs to change. If your job is causing you so much tension to the point that your mental health is deteriorating, it is time to do something about it. It might not be instant, it might take some time to find a new job and get it. But I can guarantee you, if you do not start looking and trying to get yourself a new job, you will still be stuck in the job you hate years down the line.
When I left university I pretty much got myself a job straight away (which I somewhat regret as I didn’t give myself any time to recharge after a literal year of hell). The job started off great, I was learning new skills and actually getting paid for it. After 3 years of being a student (who didn’t actually qualify for a student loan, so I was literally living off the money I could save during the holidays), it was nice to have some money for once. But I soon outgrew the role and more importantly, my personality outgrew the company. I am very opinionated and I don’t like it when people try to put limits on me. Which is exactly what this company did. They didn’t like it when you thought outside the box or tried to incorporate something new. They were all about numbers and they didn’t care if you had to sell your soul to the devil to get them. But when you achieved higher than those numbers they then expected more from you. When my line manager told me that I had reached the highest I was ever going to achieve with the company it was like a smack to the gut. This is it, this is what my life is going to be like from now on. All my hard work was for nothing? I was miserable. After over a year with the company, I was at breaking point. I had had several low points but after the summer I had a complete break down to the point I was having suicidal thoughts. I needed to get out. So I applied for jobs everywhere. After 3 months I finally got an interview. I nearly cried in the lunchroom when they told me on the phone that I had the job. (I did cry when I got home). It wasn’t perfect. I now travel over an hour to work every morning. But I am so much happier!
Sometimes it is not a case of cutting something negative from your life, sometimes you need to work a little to replace the negative with something positive. But I can guarantee you it will be worth it.
News – As I mentioned, I don’t really keep up to date with online articles anymore, but I also stopped watching the news. Watching the news used to be something I did every night, which used to leave me going to bed feeling very depressed. So I stopped doing it. As I said, if there is something important happening in the world, I will hear about it from people telling me. But the amount of negativity that news stations feed their viewers is sickening. It’s why we think the sky is beginning to fall. The world isn’t actually getting darker, or falling apart. We are just hearing more negative events than positive. Why? Because the negative sells more papers.
When I tell people I don’t keep up with the news, a lot of the time they call me nieve and say ‘but you need to know about these things.’ or ‘if everyone did that, where would we be?’ My answer is simple. Is the world going to change a great deal if I am not completely up to date with the latest of Trump’s screw-ups? Is the country going to be saved if I know a little more about what’s happening with Brexit? The answer is no. BUT! Will my mental health be improved if I am not constantly fed these negative titbits? Will my own quality of life be better if I don’t constantly worry about things out of my control? YES! And as for the phrase, ‘if everyone did that…’, that phrase can take a hike. What other people want to do with their free time and their own headspace is neither my concern or my responsibility and it is not yours either.
Influencers – I’m not sure if Youtube counts as social media, but it is the one platform that I have no inclination to get rid of. I love Youtube! But, even through this platform that I loved, I was still being fed negativity. Some of the people I had started following when I was a teenager, had also grown up and were now a lot different. Some of them had become very idealistic and blinkered in their beliefs and would often make content that shamed people who did not think the same way. Despite, not agreeing with them and being angered by their content, I would still watch it because it was there. Even as I type that sentence it sounds crazy. So just like with my Facebook, I went through all of my subscriptions and purged. I unsubscribed to Russel Brand because his videos irritated me, Freelee the Banana Girl because her content angered me and Eugina Cooney because her videos were triggering my own body dysmorphia. Now the only videos in my subscription box are ones that I am interested in, make me laugh or make me feel good about myself. We choose the content we view, we just have to retrain ourselves to not seek out what makes us feel crap.
Thoughts – This one is a little harder, and I will admit is something I am still working on. When you have gone for years having a constant stream of negative thoughts inside your head, it’s hard to suddenly stop. But something I have started doing is listening to motivational speeches while I get ready in the mornings. A lot of these speeches talk about doing positive affirmations. When I first started listening, these sounded silly. But the more I listened I found myself looking in the mirror while I brushed my teeth or did my hair and makeup and I would say the affirmations out loud. As the weeks passed I did it more and more until one day, when I was heading to work knowing there was a difficult task I had to complete in the office. I was feeling down about doing the task, the negative thoughts in my head telling me it was going to be hard, that I wasn’t going to do a good job and that I was going to fail. It was as I was driving that I caught myself thinking these thoughts, I paused and decided to change them. Instead, I thought to myself, I am amazing. I am talents. I am skilled. I am going to do a great job. I am worthy. It really was like a magic spell. The more I repeated it, the better I felt. When I got to the office I was feeling motivated and you know what? I crushed it!
There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself that you are going to have a bad day, that you are going to fail then the likelihood is you will, because that is the outcome you are looking for. But, if you tell yourself today is going to be good that you re going to do a good job, you will notice that your days will start to get better. Not because anything external has changed, but because of the way you choose to process the world. Rather than getting annoyed that the printer jammed, look at it as an opportunity to check your document one more time for any mistakes. Or if your line manager tells you you’ve done something wrong, don’t take it as ‘I’m rubbish!’, look at it as ‘this is how I can improve!’
In books, the narrator’s voice dictates the mood and genre of the story. We all have a little narrator inside our heads, to change the genre of your life story you must first change the narrator’s voice.
So there are some of the ways I have been removing negativity from my life over the last few months. It has been 3 months since I started my self-improvement journey, and already I can see so many positive changes.
Have you stripped your life of negativity? What did you let go of? Let me know in the comments below.