One simple way to get out of a negative mindset

If there was one simple shift available to move out of a negative mindset, would you use it? 


There are lots of reasons why a negative mindset is an unhelpful thing. It makes us act as if few things are possible for us. It feels heavy, anxiety-inducing and hard. A negative mindset can affect how we interact with other people. Plus, it is a lens through which we see the world that blurs out opportunities, hope and excitement so that we barely see these at all. If there was one simple shift you could use to move out of a negative mindset, would you use it? Well, here it is.

Don’t worry about being positive

That probably sounds a little odd given that this is an article about shifting out of a negative mindset. For most of us, the assumption is that if we are not being negative then we must be positive. But this can understandably feel like a huge reach. How do you go from “nothing will ever work out for me” for example to “everything is going to work out for me”?

The answer is: you can’t. Not really. I mean, you can repeat affirmations to yourself and try talking in more positive terms - and this might have a temporary impact. But if you don’t feel it - and believe it - then it’s just a surface-level change that won’t last. So, what can you do instead? Look for a neutral. 

Neutral is better than negative

My advice, if you’re looking to change a negative mindset - especially if this is being triggered by external events, or is something habitual you’ve had a long time - is to choose a neutral perspective rather than trying to switch straight to positive. Once this has become your habit then you can experiment with positives. But the most important thing to achieve at first is easing yourself away from what a negative mindset creates: stuckness, sadness, powerlessness, anger, giving up etc.

A neutral perspective is rooted in facts. It encourages you to focus on what’s happening in the present - and to accept that what comes next is uncertain. And, crucially, it won’t activate your nervous system in the same way that a cycle of negative thoughts can.

A negative mindset is often a reaction to uncertainty

Most humans find uncertainty hard. It’s very uncomfortable not to know what is coming next in a relationship, with a job, when it comes to money, health or someone else’s reaction. So, we often fill that space of uncertainty with a negative conclusion. Especially if you’ve been doing this all your life it feels familiar and comfortable. Remember that ‘comfort’ doesn’t mean pleasant in this context - it just means known.

If you are facing uncertainty and your mind tells you that a negative outcome is inevitable then you’ve eliminated the uncertainty - you’re tricking yourself into believing you know what is coming next (which no one does) to avoid feeling powerless. A neutral mindset is rooted in accepting the discomfort of uncertainty in a way that makes you still feel empowered - and that’s not as hard to do as it might sound.

Change isn’t linear

We put way too much pressure on ourselves to do something like a mindset shift quickly these days. The reality is that change takes time - and you can expect it to. The process of changing your mindset, for example, might start with a big lightbulb moment of “Ooooh that’s what caused this pain all this time.” This is the moment of liberation that feels really good (often the 'breakthrough we have in resilience coaching') - and it is the point at which you’ll start to feel different. For a while... But inevitably, old thinking and habits will kick in again and again and again. Which is not to be negative about the potential for change - more to manage your expectations so that you know it’s just part of the process, not a reason to give up. 

The moment we are most likely to give up on a change is the moment we feel like we are failing at it - or going backwards. That’s also the moment we need to dig in hard and stick out the discomfort (where you’ll need all your resilience). It is simply your old programming kicking in. 95% of the thoughts we have every day are repeated (according to the National Science Foundation in the US) - that’s what we’re trying to undo here. A lifetime of repeating (possibly) the same negative thoughts.

The real change happens when you accept that this repetition is what has created your negative mindset - and commit to gently steering yourself onto your new chosen path. Again and again. It’s not about accepting that the current situation can’t be changed - just that this is the starting point that you’re working with.

Examples of neutral perspectives

How can you make it easier for yourself to change? When it comes to moving out of a negative mindset, that’s going to depend on what you replace those negative habitual thoughts with. You might feel a lot of resistance to an instant positive perspective. But something neutral? Or just the facts? That’s likely to be easier to do. And if it’s easier to do that means that you’re more likely to do it. Remember that the goal here is just to replace the negative thoughts with something that won’t have that flattening, tiring impact on you. Something that opens up the possibility for an outcome other than the worst one. Let me show you what I mean.

Neg: Nothing ever works out for me. 
Neutral: Things have worked out for me in the past and can do again.

Neg: That person hates me. 
Neutral: I actually don’t know what they’re thinking.

Neg: This situation is going to get worse and worse. 
Neutral: I don’t know what’s going to happen next because I’m not psychic.

Neg: This is what always happens.
Neutral: I’m focusing on what happened in the past but the future is not clear yet.

The neutral statements feel different, don’t they? Lighter. Maybe a relief. But at the same time, they don’t feel disingenuous or like you’re having to pretend you’re someone you’re not - or lie to yourself - to accept them. 

I often describe the work I do as a resilience coach with clients as “simple - but not easy.” Because it is quite simple to change when you know how. The hard bit is to stick to the new path, rather than switching back to the one you’ve been on before now.

One of the benefits of working with a coach is being shown these ‘hacks’ that reveal how simple this stuff really is - plus the support that allows you to stick to a commitment to change when it doesn't feel easy. Most of the problems we have don’t require a complex solution, no matter how heavy and impossible you might feel about it right now. The option to choose a neutral perspective to get out of a negative mindset is one that not many people realise is open to them - which is why it’s a great example of this. Applying this shift to your own issues/challenges/mindset can be transformative.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Winchester, Hampshire, SO23
Written by Alex Pett
Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP cert coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She works with resilience to help clients build confidence, recover from burnout, be assertive, set boundaries, find joy and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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