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Sep
01

7 Ways to be Inspired When Surrounded by Negativity

If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.
-Robert Fulghum
Uh-oh - Some Observations From Both Sides Of The Refrigerator Door

Being inspired requires avoiding negativity. If we focus on the things we are unhappy about, those things will multiply in our lives and squeeze inspiration out. My post, Choose Your Attitude – Choose Your Life discusses how we can learn from Victor Frankl on how to change our focus and enjoy life when conditions are not desirable. But, what happens when we choose to be positive, but the people around us do not?

What happens when someone we are close to sees every inconvenience as a crisis? What happens when we try to share our inspiration and joy with another person and they respond by blowing us off and complaining about life? What happens when we look at the world with optimism and can only find stories of doom and gloom on TV? How do you get above the negativity without seeming arrogant or apathetic?

7 Ways to Maintain Inspiration in a Negative Environment

Fog at Sandy Beach in Acadia National Park

Low fog at a sandy beach in Acadia National Park in Maine.

  1. Pretend. A co-worker asked me yesterday, “How do you find inspiration when there’s so much negativity around you?” Jokingly, I said, “I don’t, I just pretend.” Though this is an exaggeration, sometimes, when we’re bombarded with negativity, complaints and whining, it wears us down, and the best thing we can do is to remember that deep down, we know that life is good, even if we don’t feel that way inside at that moment.
  2. Offer sympathy. By definition, sympathy is empathy with an offer to help. Say something like, “I’m sorry that you are so unhappy, is there anything I can do to help.” If you can help turn a negative mood around, it will boost your inspiration. If you can not help, you know that you have done what you can, and the person you tried to help knows you are available to help.
  3. Practice patience and tolerance. Every one of us has suffered from negativity at some point in our lives. We all know what it is like to feel as if we are stuck or that we can never be happy. Some of us experience this at deeper levels than others, but we all experience it. Remember that our unique personalities and life experiences shape our attitude. Be grateful that, today, you have found inspiration, and pray that others in your life will too.
  4. Use a mantra. Choose a short phrase to repeat to yourself over and over again. It could be, “I choose to enjoy my life”, “I want to be happy”, “I am focusing on the good things”, or anything that makes sense to you. I find it most effective to repeat a mantra during meditation and to use that same mantra to refocus myself when it becomes a struggle.
  5. Avoid negativity when possible. When dealing with family, very close friends and co-workers, sometimes it’s not possible to turn away when they are stuck in negativity. But, we can choose to end friendships with people who are disrespectful to us. We can choose to avoid violent or otherwise negative television or music and social circles which center on gossip or complaints about politics. And, we can choose not to participate in group gossip or complaining. These things can make inspiration difficult and we can choose what to expose ourselves to. We will find that as we become more positive, we will attract like minded people into our lives, and over time, our exposure to negativity will decrease.
  6. Be an example. The most effective way to help others find inspiration is to find it ourselves. When others see that we are feeling good, that we treat others well and that the world is changing around us, many of them will ask questions. It is only then that your answers will have any meaning. If you were not looking for inspiration or did not believe in the possibility, the words on this page would mean nothing to you.
  7. Take a deep breath. Principles from yesterday’s post, Quiet Moments For a Better Life, can also be practiced in short spurts at any time during the day. It is not always necessary or possible to completely remove yourself from an activity in order to practice self-reflection. Sometimes, just taking a deep, slow breath, closing your eyes and clearing your mind for a few seconds can help you refocus yourself on your desire to be inspired.

Do you have anything to add to the list? Are you struggling in a negative world? Do you have an experience to share? If so, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at danny(at)inssoftdesign(dot)com.

To continue reading about dealing with negativity, see How to be Inspired When Filled With Negativity where I talk about dealing with negativity inside of us.

About the author

Danny

I am Danny Kohn, writer and designer for this site and owner, software engineer and consultant for Inspirations Software Design. My three greatest passions in life are sharing time with my family, software design and sharing inspiration with others. I have the incredible privilege of being able to spend a significant amount of time every day doing each of those three things. I am a single father of Tristen, our 6 year old son. It has been such an incredible joy to watch him grow up and learn so much. Everything he does and says overwhelms me with adoration. We have a wonderful evening ritual of reading books together in a beanbag chair. Nearly every night, we have a laughing attack together. I smile and giggle constantly in his presence and feel truly inspired.

Permanent link to this article: http://beinspiredeveryday.com/2007/09/01/7-ways-to-be-inspired-when-surrounded-by-negativity/

15 comments

  1. Michael says:

    I must say that I enjoy your daily posts. It is always refreshing to find others who are insightful and inspired by all that is around them.

    Here is my Mantra: “The Sun is still shining and I am still breathing.”

    This true no matter the time of night or day. Although we don’t always see it, the Sun still shines behind the clouds and on through the dark of night (the Moon reminds us of this.)

    When the Sun is not visable to me, I think of it as a practical excercise in Faith, Hope. Patience. The Sun does not fade away when we walk into a building or become so involved withour day that we sometimes take it for granted as always being there; so why would it not be any different during the storms or darkness in our lives.

    The Son always shines.

  2. Danny says:

    @Michael: That is a really great mantra! And the analogy is excellent. I’m going to consider using that one for myself (if you don’t object to me borrowing it).
    Thank you so much for sharing, Michael.

  3. Jenny Guest says:

    I too am finding the daily inspirations such a blessing. I had a weekend where I worried constantly about 1 of my children and was finding it so hard to step away from worry and negativity – your 7 ways and Michael’s The Son always shines is just what I need. Many thnaks to you all

  4. Danny says:

    @Jenny Guest, I’m so glad you are finding what you need here. It means a lot to me.
    My son is just 2 1/2 and I am just beginning to get a glimpse at the overwhelming, tormenting helplessness that being a parent can be sometimes. I can only pray that my son won’t worry me half as much as I worried my parents as a teenager.
    I hope your child is safe and well and that you find peace no matter what happens.

  5. adele says:

    wow this was just what i was looking for ,thank you.

  6. Dina Curet says:

    In my line of work with people recovering from mental illness when someone is sad I tell them to think happy thoughts since our thoughts control our emotions.

  7. Michelle says:

    I have been struggling with a negative spouse for some time. I have found my inner peace, however, we all make that choice in our own time. This “inspiration” gives me new ideas, such as your suggestion of saying, “I’m sorry you are so unhappy, is there anything I can I do to help.” I will impliment this one today! But, I also wanted to share my mantra which I adopted from St. Francis’ prayer
    Lord make me an instrument of your peace,

    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is dispair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    Where there is sadness, joy.

    I have found that when listening to his rantings, by repeating this mantra in my mind, I do find peace, and in turn, it has helped him to release his negative thoughts, which no longer penetrate me, and he is able to find his own peace.

  8. Dee says:

    I am in a lot of pain emotionally and mentally. I have been trying to meditate for the past 3 days and yet I feel a heavy burden weighing on my chest. My 19 & 20yr old disrespect me verbally, my sister has a crusade against me & my mother disappointed in my decisions. I am trying to please everyone and failing them all. I’m trying to overcome these emotional outbursts and find peace in the middle of mayhem. I want to learn how to act and not REACT. I want POSITIVITY in the midst of ALL the NEGATIVITY!

    I meditate and each time I start, I fall asleep. I feel too drained to stay focused. How can I overcome this? How can I remain positive when every time someone approaches me it’s with negativity?

  9. Danny says:

    @adele, @Dina and @Michelle, Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas.

    @Dee – Thanks for sharing your struggles with us. I’m sure that many people can relate.

    I believe that being surrounded by negative, non-supportive people is probably the most difficult obstacle when trying to make positive life and attitude changes. Many years ago, I gave up a life of alcohol and other drug abuse, and the first thing I was advised to do was to give up my old friends and make new ones. This was the single most difficult thing for me to do and I had seen many others attempt to clean up their lives fail because they kept themselves surrounded by the same old influences. You’re struggle is different than mine in that you are not trying to give up drugs, but when trying to give up negativity, many of the same principles apply. If everyone in your life is reinforcing your old habits, it will be extremely difficult to change them. This is even more difficult when many of those people are family, because we can’t just drop those relationships and pick up new ones. The best thing we can do is to find new friends to associate with that are more like the person we want to become. That way, when those negative people in our lives bombard us with negativity, their negativity will have much less influence on us.

    Making new friends can take time, patience and energy, but it can be rewarding and rejuvenating. A good way to start is to join a support group, community group or organization of people who suit your interests. You will probably meet resistance from people in your life today, but any positive change you make will be met with resistance by people who reinforce your negativity. Think of that resistance as growing pain.

    I could write a whole post or series of posts on this one topic, and I may do that soon (thanks for the inspiration!).

    As for falling asleep during meditation: this is most likely a sign that you really need the sleep. Meditation induced sleep is often quite restful and beneficial. And, I’d say go with it. For some of us, learning to meditate is a long process that requires persistence and patience. It definitely was for me. I often fell asleep or my thoughts would drift and race. Even after I started to achieve some success, I would sometimes get anxious while meditating in anticipation of reaching a peaceful state.

    Sometimes with meditation, we have to let go of expectations and allow things to happen that we may not have planned. The funny thing about plans is that, sometimes meditation (and life) takes us way beyond our plans.

  10. Dee says:

    Thank you for your inspiring advice, it felt like rain in the middle of a desert! At first I tried to explain myself to my mother and she never answered my calls, I felt hurt but then realized that I have not wronged anyone and I cannot let others inflict their emotions and rejections on me. Nobody really has the power to make anyone feel any less because we are the ones IN CONTROL of what we feel! I choose to feel free from the burden of not being able to please everyone.

    What I once would have felt as a curse I now see as a blessing. I wouldn’t have come across your site if my family wouldn’t have inflicted so much rejection and negativity. Now they are keeping their distance from me but it only gives me MORE time to surround myself with positive thoughts and attract the things I REALLY want in my life.

    This may be a long and tedious task to undo 38 years of NEGATIVITY but I’m soaking-up ALL that is POSITIVE in this world to overcome my trials. Thank you Danny ;)

  11. mario says:

    Thank you and God bless you. I needed this wisdom in a time of hardship.

  12. Becky says:

    I just discovered your blog and am loving it! Such great advice and inspiration. Thank you for being you and sharing with us.

    @Michael- I’m going to start telling myself this when I feel the lowest. It’s so true!

  13. Ravinder says:

    I read above inspiring thoughts, and many others… but somehow am not been able to control my reactions to most situations.

    Also, am always unsuccessful to meditate. what to do ??

  14. Steven says:

    I enjoy reading the many messages posted above. I plan to keep reading and be part of it to keep up with the stress of daily living. By the way, I’m in my late 40′s and I make reading spiritual materil as my main interest.

  15. Rainer Proksch says:

    Some nice and practical tips explained which can be followed by anyone. Keeping away from negative thoughts and negative situations helps a lot. Also chanting or repeating a positive phrase over and over again helps a lot in overcoming stress.

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