Before I begin I will say that I am not a psychologist or mental health councillor, merely an athlete, Physical Therapist, musician and person with experience in mental health issues. My points may not be scientifically proven but I hope this serves as a useful resource for everyone.
The Power of Negativity. It is incredibly easy to be negative. It is far easier to be negative than positive. Without realising it many of us will consider five negatives thoughts on a single issue before considering just one positive thought. We can work to remain positive but the power of negativity seems to draw us back in so easily. When we feel blue, it doesn’t take long for a small problem to manifest or snowball into many other problems. We can become consumed by negativity, almost suffocating, and it feels like there is no way to pull out of this hole. The problem is, that a negative mind directly impacts our body. We are more likely to feel lethargic, frustrated, have low motivation, have general feeling of melancholy and who can forget, comfort eating!
Biologically we are programmed to recognise the negative aspects of a situation. This is a ‘survival of the fittest’ theory where those who can see the danger or negative aspects are more likely to be able to analyse and choose a safer or more positive solution, versus someone who waltzes into danger oblivious to hazards may not come out so lucky!
Ok, so it may be in our nature, but it is also our responsibility to take into account a negative, consider the positive and come to a solution or continue on a path to progression. I think this is where we often get stuck. These ‘blue’ feelings or negative thoughts weigh heavily on our minds, overshadowing our ability to easily consider, or even see the positive.
I’m currently one month in to a complete lifestyle change. At the beginning of September I bit the bullet and took a new part time job to allow me the time to train and recover like a pro, on my journey to becoming a successful professional athlete. I also started with a new coach just a week and a half ago! Big changes, with high financial risk. But, I did this because I am driven to achieve this huge lifelong goal and hey, you only live once! I believe I have what it takes. I believe I can push myself to the limit and then push a little more. Im so stoked, but even still, especially in these early days, when no one knows where I’m at or where I might get to, its easy to let the doubts and negative thoughts creep in. I’ve struggled to sell myself to sponsors, found the new schedule tricky to adapt to efficiently and all the while very conscious that I’m trying to do a lot more with a much much much smaller budget. My boyfriend Ben, has been very supportive and this week asked me 3 very important questions when I’ve doubted myself or felt negative:
Do you want to quit?
Do you enjoy it?
Why are you doing this?
He will force me to answer him out loud. This doesn’t wipe the negativity slate clean but it does clear some of that heavy dark cloud and allow room for the perspective, positivity and acknowledgement of things to be grateful for at this early stage.
It takes work to remain positive; a conscience effort to look at things a different way, for example instead of worrying or catastrophising, consider problem solving and perspective. This applies to all aspects of our lives: Relationships, Career, Fitness, Health, to name a few. I’ve made a conscious effort to do certain things for a positive mental well being, some of which I feel are important for everyone to try and employ:
- Smile – literally the easiest thing you can do, even a forced smile can turn into an actual smile and get those endorphins positively influencing you
- Surround yourself with positive people – i have made a conscious effort to surround myself with positive people. These are people who are supportive, kind, happy, successful, grateful and humble.
- Take responsibility – there are always going to be those lucky people who seem to get everything for nothing, but the reality is these people are a minority. Take responsibility for the things that are happening in your life and if you want them to change, you must initiate that. Don’t bleat over the fact someone has been handed more than you. Jealousy is toxic. Move on and make things happen!
- Pay it Forward – do something good for someone else for no other reason but to do a good thing. Putting good energy into the world is a very good thing 🙂
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for – these don’t have to be big, because in reality we are all very fortunate to have simple things like a roof over our heads, our health and to be alive! Thats got to be something to smile about 🙂
- Reflect on your progress – stop and recognise what you have already achieved. So often we don’t take the time to do this… Take the time! I remember the first time I ran for 20minutes non stop, now I’ve ran 2 marathons, completed an Ironman and paced for a trail ultra marathon in the dark! Or even the first time I got on a mountain bike, just 1 year ago! So much has happened in this year, qualifying for Pro Xterra card, winning a few XC races and Xterra events and upgrading to a Cat 1 XC MTB rider… all on a demo bike I had borrowed.
- Read positive quotes – with social media these are everywhere but I will watch this one video before every single race, or big training days. No explanation needed, just watch: Rise and Shine Athlete Motivation
So to summarise, it’s ok to have negative thoughts. Being a ‘defensive pessimist’ has been shown to have its benefits; but you must ensure that with the negativity and doubts you take the time to consider the positive, keep your mind open and calm to avoid becoming suffocated into that deep dark hole of negativity – nothing good happens there.
I hope this can serve as a useful blog and provide you with a strategy you can apply to all aspects of your life 🙂