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No to Negativity
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No doubt, we all go through times when we're challenged by circumstances, difficult people, or just plain bad luck. And during those times, we often hear people say things to us like, “Just think positive!” or “Look on the bright side!” Have you ever noticed that it never really helps to hear that? In fact, having someone tell you to simply think positive when you are having a meltdown is actually a little annoying. Well, there's a reason for that. Simply trying to think positive can be a form of denying the truth and actually lying to ourselves, which will only delay resolution and genuine positivity.

Does that mean that thinking of good things and concentrating on true blessings isn't helpful? Not at all. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to “think on these things.” We should definitely take notice of the positive things in our lives. But studies have shown that when it comes to actually working through mental difficulties, it is more valuable to avoid negative thinking than it is to think positive.

Dr. Neil Nedley of Nedley Health Solutions 1 assigns his participants in his depression recovery program to go for fourteen consecutive days without using negative or critical speech. Each time you catch yourself making a negative comment, you have to start over. If you think that is not a challenge, just try it! I had to start over numerous times, sometimes halfway through. But as I progressed through this exercise, I did notice a change in my overall thinking. I didn't really think I had been a negative person, and compared to many people, I wasn't. But in actually taking close notice of my speech, I found myself making many negative comments.

Negative comments are not always necessarily rude or mean things. They are often just passing comments that you may even be saying to yourself! Like, “I can't believe I'm so stupid!”

Start Over

The best way for this exercise to make sense to you is to try it. If you have to start over several times, don't give up. Every time you try again, you become more aware of your speech. Not that anyone should become obsessed with every word that comes out of the mouth. That wouldn't be beneficial. But the point is that you are training your mind to take a new pattern of thought. Oh, and don't be tempted to treat starting over like a failed diet. You know, "Well, I've already messed it up for today, so I'll just use the time between now and tomorrow morning to say all those things I was holding back!" Start over immediately.

So, do you think you are up to trying the 14-day challenge to avoid negative speech? The key to success is first to be aware that it is happening. Then take that negative thought and turn it into a positive one. For example, your co-worker says to you, “What do you think about the boss's new policy?” Since you don't like the new policy, your first reaction is to say, “I think it stinks!” From there you and your co-worker will probably have more negative comments to share about it.

But what are you supposed to do if you really do think it stinks! You don't want to lie, right? Well, you first ask yourself how you can respond honestly without bringing on negativity. So, instead of saying that it stinks, you might answer instead, “I'd really like to see him take a different route with that. I wonder if we could persuade him.” See, you have answered honestly, but you've changed the direction of the preceding conversation from how much you don't like something to discussing how you would like for it to go.

Remember, re-training our thoughts to become less negative is a process, but it's a process worth trying. Negativity doesn't form over night and it sure doesn't disappear over night. But the results are positively worth it!

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By Gwen Scott Simmons. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

1 Nedley Health Solutions

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