The Power of Negative Thinking

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When something traumatic happens in our life – we lose our top client, our job, discover that we are sick, or separate from our spouse we are often told to focus what we have left. The common wisdom is that thinking about the good things will help us avoid the depression that may follow an event like this. While this works to some degree, new research suggests that thinking about what life would be like if we subtracted one of the “things we have left” may actually make us feel much better.

Before reading further, test it out. What would your life be like if you had never met your spouse? What if you had never gotten the job you think most fondly about? What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were blind? Simply by traveling down this mental path of negative thought, we discover new reasons to appreciate the things we have, and we experience more pleasure in these things.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently published four studies that all prove the power of negative thinking. In one, people who reminisced about how they met their partner reported a lesser degree of satisfaction in their relationship than those asked to imagine what their life would be like if they never met their partner in the first place. In others, students were asked to either write about a positive event of their choice and how it changed their life, or choose a positive event and write about their life as though it had never happened. The students who imagined that the event never happened also reported greater degrees of happiness and satisfaction with their life than those who simply wrote about the event. The implications of this research are amazing. It suggests that we are taking the long way to happiness by thinking “positively” and that simply subtracting the elements of our life we are grateful for leads us to become more joyful and appreciative about our life.

It is all too easy to become depressed about the future of our business or our jobs these days. The economic crisis has been dragging on for too long and the instinct to either fret about the future or dream about the past can be overpowering. By making this information a part of our work life we can find a path to follow what will lead us to the future success we dream of and hope for. Imagine what your business would be like without a key employee, or what your life would be like if you never took the risk of starting your own business. How about that key client that helped change your business model? By focusing on those things we would hate to live without in our work life, we gain invaluable and potentially surprising insight into the directions we need to be moving toward in these tough economic times.

Call to Action:
What are you most grateful for in life? Discover the appreciation you feel by mentally subtracting that one thing from your life. You can do this in your journal or in an email to me.

Articles, Changing What Matters, Personal Growth, Relationships, , , ,

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