We all do it.
We have a bad experience and we speak up. We have a great experience and we go on with our day.
It’s human nature.
In Redlands, as in many small communities, we are simultaneously lucky and susceptible to the damage negativity can do, because passion for our city runs deep, which can be a great benefit, but also can create difficult dialogue.
Engaged and attentive citizens provide a constant stream of posts and conversation regarding the city government, schools, business community and (especially) change -- which is a good thing. But being negative -- as well as being an audience to negativity -- can be harmful to your health.
Recognize when negativity is affecting you
Participate in the discussions, but check in with yourself. Especially on social media, people can saturate a thread with negativity. Pay attention to whether you’re feeling any of the following effects:
- Distraction -- thinking about the conversation non-stop
- The desire to comfort yourself with alcohol or food
- Loss of sleep
- Snapping at family members
- Writing snarky comments of your own
- The feeling that people are attacking you
What it does to your health
You may pay for over-exposure to negativity with mental health symptoms, your physical health and even your wallet (excessive spending, shopping, medications to manage difficult symptoms)
Anxiety and stress cause your brain to release chemicals into your body that shorten your lifespan over years of exposure
Your irritability may degrade your relationships with the people in your support system -- your spouse, children, friends, colleagues and neighbors
If you are coping by eating ice cream or drinking wine, you could be putting yourself at risk of diabetes, liver damage or other physical problems, in the long run.
If you are coping by using drugs, you could be putting yourself at risk for addiction. Coping can go wrong before you realize it.
Lack of sleep is a major factor in many medical problems, including obesity. Medical problems are costly. Attending to negativity isn’t worth it.
Stop the damage
If you recognize these symptoms and can associate them with exposure to negativity, you can do something about it.
This advice is not so you can fix the problem the engagement is centered on, but so you will go to bed knowing you were more part of the solution than part of the problem, and which may have more positive affects on your health.
Inject positivity, but be honest about it. There is always room for praise and kindness. Be the person in the conversation setting a good tone.
Make all of your comments productive. If there’s a concern or complaint, sure, it needs to be identified, but then move on to fixing it. Steer the conversation toward ideas to try.
Empathize with the others. Recognize your truth and someone else’s truth can both exist.
Ask yourself what the negative commenters’ goal is. They’re being negative for a reason (Or are you being negative? If so, what’s your pay-off?) Does it make people feel powerful, intelligent, better than others? Think about why the person might need that.
Step away from it. Sometimes that’s the best option.
Of course it’s not realistic to avoid negativity completely, but good practice to be aware of when it’s getting to you.
Dr. Traci Lowenthal is the owner of Creative Insights Counseling, a counseling agency in Redlands serving individuals, families, and couples. She can be reached at 909-240-7833.