just breathe - 7 ways to protect yourself from negativity

7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Negativity

On your journey toward a positive mindset, it's important to protect yourself from negativity. Negativity can seep into your life in many ways, so it's important to learn to recognize it.

Recognizing Negativity

It’s never fun to think about your friends, co-workers, or even family members as toxic, and yet, they often can be. When you find yourself constantly drained after interacting with a specific person, it’s often the effect of exposure to negative energy.

You may not even think about it, but you know negative energy. It comes from those people who are always complaining about their life, those people who subtly put you down, especially when you’re feeling good or empowered. Often, they don’t do it consciously try to hurt you. After all, they love you. It’s just in their nature. 

The trouble is, the more time you spend with negative people, the higher the chances that their negative energy will attach itself to you. That is the last thing you need as you’re working on removing the negative thoughts from your own mind. You don’t need them feeding that nasty little voice that you already have that takes away from your accomplishments. Let’s look at some way you can combat that for your own health.

7 ways to protect yourself from negativity

Ways to Protect Yourself from Negativity

1.   Set boundaries

It’s vital that you keep an eye on how social interactions are impacting you, and whenever you detect negative energy coming off someone in your circle, you need to set some rules. But how do you recognize if someone is giving off negative energy? 

The most obvious sign is that you’ll feel drained. Negative people basically you’re your energy like a vampire. Have you ever felt exhausted after spending time chatting with a friend over coffee? Think about the topics of conversation during your time together. Was there a balance in talking and listening? Were you able to share your life? Was your friend only talking about the bad or frustrating things in her life?

If the moment they leave you feel the need to lie down, that’s a clear sign that you’re overwhelmed. One thing that I want to point out, as an introvert myself, is that the exhaustion from negative energy is not the same as the exhaustion from peopling too much. As an introvert, you know that when you’re around people—usually a larger group, not just one or two—you might be really tired when you leave. But you might still feel happy.

For example, when I go to a writer’s conference, I feel energized because I’m around other romance novel lovers. We share tips and talk about methods and plans for writing and marketing. It’s also exhausting, but in a good way. I’ve learned to give myself breaks throughout the conference where I can decompress and be alone to recharge. Even though I’m tired and I might not want to look at people for a while, I still feel good.

Being with a friend who gives off negative energy, though, doesn’t feel good. You don’t leave the interaction happy that you participated. If you think back, it’s probably not the first time it’s happened. Be glad you detected the problem in this relationship and limit the time you spend with them. 

No one wants to cut ties directly, and yet, in some cases, you might be better off if you do. It’s hard to cut people out of your life, especially if there hasn’t been some kind of fight or falling out. They won’t understand why you’re leaving them. They don’t know they’re having a negative effect on you (it’s usually unconscious, remember?). Of course, you can first try to steer the conversation towards the positive. Pay attention to how the other person responds. Do they keep dragging you back to negativity? 

If it’s a friend, it’s easier to limit the amount of time you spend together; you can always pretend to be busy and only see them when there are other people around so you don’t have to deal with their issues one-on-one.

Limiting the time spent with a relative is trickier, especially if you live with them. If they notice you’ve been avoiding them, try broaching the subject in a polite manner. The chances that this will work are slim, but you can at least try. It’s important to consider how you will frame the conversation, though.

If you just point out how negative they are, they might feel like you’re attacking them and that will add more strain to the relationship. Make sure you explain how their language and attitude impacts you, even though it might not have that effect on someone else. Remind them that you are doing some work on yourself and you are focusing on positivity. Maybe ask them to join you in your journey of self-growth. If they get offended, there’s not much else you can do. Give each other some space and see if it gets better.

If you have to deal with negative people at work, change your routine to avoid interacting with them. It’s not always possible to avoid negative people. You might be on a team together for a project or the negative person might be your boss. In that case you can avoid them and you might not be able to confront their negativity. If your career depends on them, you don’t want to upset them too much. In those situations, it might be better to focus on your mental well-being and reflect and recenter yourself when you get home.

2.   Don’t play into their game

The problem with negative people is that they need drama in their life. They love to complain and they’ll find whatever reason for it. They will complain about some aspect of their lives and expect a response from you. Don’t give in to your first impulse. As a caregiver, we want to fix things for everyone. If they whine about the room being too hot or too cold, they want your attention to feel sorry for them and fix it for them.

Instead of changing what you’re doing to make them feel better, tell them you feel just fine, even though it might seem a bit rude. They have the ability to fix their own situation, just like you do. If you give them the attention they seek, you’re reinforcing that the whining works. If you ignore their whining, they’ll probably look for something else to complain about. Like everything else we talk about, it’s a process.

No different than when a toddler asks for a cookie and you say no, they get mad. When that doesn’t work, they might stomp and demand. If you still say no, or ignore them, then they might scream to get that cookie. But you know what? If you stick to your guns, they learn that you’re not giving in to their negativity. 

When dealing with negative adults, you need to train them that you won’t respond to it. When people complain about their problems, as a good friend, you’ll be tempted to listen and give advice. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help a friend, as long as it’s not costing you. If it chips away at your mental health, that’s not good for you. If you don’t have an exit strategy, you’ll be stuck there for another hour listening to them moan and complain.

The thing is, if they’re really looking for help or advice, they’re do just as much listening as talking. But we all know people who say they want advice and then ignore everything you say and shoot down your suggestions. In this case, don’t get too involved. It’s a waste of your energy.

Don’t try to fix their problems for them. Negative people don’t want solutions to their problems. They like having problems. It’s their thing. No matter how much you reason with them, nothing will happen. If they solve their problems, next time you meet they’ll have nothing to talk about. 

Just Breathe as a way to protect yourself from negativity

3.   Breathe

Breathwork is a limitless source of good vibes, and we suggest you tap into that. You just need to stop whatever you’re doing, and take five deep breaths. Feel the oxygen flood every last inch of your lungs, and then let it out, expelling all the negative energy you’ve accumulated with it.

If you need to be more grounded to clear your head, try this: trace up and down each finger of your hand for a breath. Breathe in go up your thumb. When you breathe out, go back down. Breathe in, move on to the index finger. It’s a slow process, but the breathing in conjunction with the tactile experience of running your finger across your hand will help you focus and clear your mind.

You can even try this while interacting with a negative person, to remind yourself that their negativity does not define you. Chances are they’re so absorbed with their problems they won’t notice your little, but very useful trick. 

4.   Carry a crystal

In ancient times, warriors used to carry protective amulets into battle. And today, you can do the same. Trusting in the power of these valuable, ancient relics of the earth might just be the best thing you do for yourself today.

While there are several crystals associated with protection, clear quartz stands out as one of the best, most efficient ways to repel negative energy. You can also try carrying black jade, which is known to keep negative people away. If you want to learn more about the science behind crystal healing, read this. And here's a guide on healing crystals.

5.   Maintain your space

When interacting with a negative person in real life, if you give them too much direct attention and eye contact, you will get sucked in into all the drama and bad vibes in their life. By looking around, you remind yourself that you are your own person, separate and unaffected by their negativity. You’re not stuck in a bubble with them.

Remember that you have a choice when it comes to who you see and for how long. Even if you don’t cut these negative people completely out of your life, you can limit how much of you and your time they get. Use that newly freed up time to do something you enjoy. Take up yoga or meditation, go to the gym, go for a walk alone or listening to your favorite music. Any of these things will be beneficial to your well-being.

6.   Stay away from online dramas

Oh, Facebook and Twitter, why you gotta be so toxic? In the digital world, staying away from negative people translates to regularly cleaning out your contact list. Or, if you don’t want to appear rude by cutting them off your friends list, be smart and use the unfollow button or mute them, so their posts won’t appear in your feed. 

Unfortunately, negative people have their way of finding online prey easily. Say you comment on someone’s post and a stranger replies to your comment heaping all their negativity on you. Trolls be trollin’. Your fingers will itch to reply, but you should resist the temptation. The troll is not going to listen to your viewpoint. They don’t care. On top of that, the anonymity of the Internet encourages them to be total assholes. If you see there’s a whole drama going on, turn off notifications, put the phone away and go take a relaxing bath.

There’s simply no point in engaging in conversations that lead nowhere. If a particular account, or social media platform is causing you anxiety, then it’s time to leave it behind you. Every now and then, you might want to try a social media de-tox. Log off all of your accounts and delete the apps from your phone for a whole month. Let you real friends know that you’re going offline for a month so they don’t worry and can reach out to you another way. After 30 days, see how you feel. You might not miss it at all anymore.

7.   Remember that life is good

If you’ve been around negative people for too long, it’s time to look after your own mental well-being. Their negativity might have weighed on you more than you think. Do some introspection and analyze how you react to things. Do you feel the need to complain about your problems more often? Negative thinking can be contagious and you need to rid yourself of that.

Meditation can help, and it might be worth a try. Journaling is another way to self-reflect and work through your thoughts and emotions. Another journal that can have a powerful impact on your mindset is a gratitude journal. Write down something every day that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be big or mind-blowing. You can choose something as simple as a joke your kid told you that had you laughing so hard you cried. It could be that you drank a whole cup of coffee in peace in quiet this morning. 

Don’t overlook the power of positive affirmations. While it’s all too easy to get sucked into someone else’s negativity, it’s also pretty easy to remember that is just one (biased) way of looking at the world. Use daily affirmations to remind yourself how awesome you are. Read more about the benefits of affirmations here.

The most important thing for you to remember is that you cannot control other people’s thoughts, attitudes, or actions. But you can control both your mindset and your exposure to unhealthy things. You need to do everything you can to protect yourself from negativity. Make the best choices for yourself. If other people don’t like it, they’re not worth your time. People who truly care about you will want you to be healthy and do what’s right for you, even if they don’t understand or like it. 

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