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How to Get Out of a Negative Mindset

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistJanuary 06, 2021

When stress builds up over time, it can easily become so large that you can’t really see beyond it. You feel blocked from the enjoyment that comes with experiences that normally lighten your mood. Even when you can name those positives, you don’t feel them. Weighed down by stress, restlessness, lethargy, and negativity, it can feel impossible to find your way back to feeling good. But there are ways to feel better.

When you feel stuck in a negative mindset, you may need to force yourself to do things that can help you pull out of it. Despite how it feels -- and despite how the news and our lives are filled with the restrictions and difficulties brought by COVID-19 and politics -- life is not all bad. At the risk of being labeled Pollyanna, you can benefit greatly from looking for the bright spots and opportunities to make life better.

Some ways to help you feel better are to:

Limit screen time. Especially with the massive increase in people working from home, many are spending so much time on their phones, tablets, and computers that they often feel a sense of deadening from it. While it is easier to stay glued to your device -- and your seat -- try pulling your attention away from your screen when you don’t need to be working. Get involved in something in your immediate environment, or get out to enjoy a different one.

Make constructive use of alone time. This is especially important, given recent restrictions in activities. You might reflect more on yourself and your life with the idea of clarifying what is important to you. As you do, look for ways to pursue a meaningful, engaged life. You could find things to do in the now, such as taking an online class in something you’ve always wanted to learn, or work to gain clarity on long-term plans.

Nurture your relationships. If your relationships are feeling strained, pay attention. Consider whether there are things you can do to resolve problems and strengthen a sense of closeness. Often, just finding enjoyable activities to do together can help. For instance, you might watch a movie you both like and then talk about it afterward.

Choose to slow down and appreciate the moment. Being less busy because you have no other choice can leave you frustrated as you look for ways to return to your previous active pace. But if you choose to live more deliberately, attending to each experience and what it has to offer you, then you may find a greater sense of calm. This can mean appreciating the beauty of the snow outside, savoring the meal before you, or deciding to engage in an enjoyable activity with a partner or friend.

Enjoy the great outdoors. Even if you don’t feel motivated to get outside, doing so can be re-energizing -- though with frigid winter temperatures, you might be more inclined to describe it as invigorating, or even shockingly cold! Still, you may feel better for your efforts.

Looking for positives when you aren’t exactly in the mood can feel like you are lying to yourself. So acknowledge your emotional struggles and the very real challenges in your life. Then choose to try to find a path out of your emotional anxiety, depression, or general malaise. By consistently making efforts to find opportunities feel better, you truly can help yourself make the most of your life.



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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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