How “negative Visualization” Can Make You More Positive
It’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood, and much harder to break out of it. You may feel trapped in a constant fear of failure, or perhaps wallow in jealousy over the things you don’t have. Consuming negative emotions is unlikely to help you change circumstances for the better, but what if you could make all your anxious, unhappy thoughts work for you instead of against you?
This is the theory behind the mindfulness technique known as negative visualization . Here’s everything you need to know about how to become more positive by becoming even more negative (at least for a little while).
What is negative visualization?
Negative visualization is not a fancy way of saying “negative thinking.” In fact, the idea goes back to the Roman Stoic philosophers . The modern version of Stoicism has gained a following in recent years, especially as practices such as mindfulness have grown in popularity. While I am by no means a stoicist, some of the key tenets of the philosophy certainly appeal to me, a very anxious person. For example, I am particularly drawn to the modern stoic emphasis on separating what you can control (thoughts and feelings) from what you cannot control (the rest of the world). However, you definitely don’t have to go all the way into stoicism to try negative visualization.
” Psychology Today ” defines negative visualization as “a deliberate representation of how much worse your life would be if you didn’t have what you have.” It’s that simple: you flip your negative thinking and use it to get a more grateful, positive perspective.
How it works
When you visualize all the worst-case scenarios that could happen in your life, you can set yourself up for two things: First, you can take the time to mentally prepare for real life opportunities and come up with real ways. deal with them. Second, you can accept the fact that those worst-case scenarios didn’t happen and feel grateful for what you have.
Steps to Practice Negative Visualization
To practice negative visualization, you begin by contemplating every anxiety-inducing ” what if ” you can think of while in a controlled environment (rather than in the form of an unplanned panic attack). Take some time to get yourself into a more positive state by doing the following:
- Make a list that sums up what you are grateful for in your life, as well as what you would like to have. These can be specific people, property, and general areas of life (such as work or hobbies). You can do this mentally or write them down if it helps you focus.
- Visualize possible negative outcomes for each of the items in the first step. Spend 5-10 minutes reviewing your list, thinking about how you would feel if this item were taken away from you, or if this job or activity was no longer possible for you.
- Keep thinking about other negative possibilities that don’t fit in your life right now. Think of illnesses you never had, accidents you never had, and so on.
- Time to calm the negativity: think about how you could deal with some of these possible losses. Think about the hard times you’ve been through before and how you can get through it again (practically and emotionally).
- Refocus on everything on your list in the first step. Try to appreciate what you have more. Consider how much better it is to focus on your gratitude for these things rather than the mere prospect of losing them.
Remember, the goal here is not to send yourself into a spiral of worst-case doom and gloom. Instead, the goal is to remind yourself that you appreciate what you have and also to make you feel ready in case something goes wrong.
As Psychology Today notes, “Happiness is actually more about wanting what you already have than about getting the next thing.” If this sounds stupid to you, hey, it’s better to be stupid than to wallow in negativity.