What causes catastrophic thinking

How to get pessimistic people to be more positive about things

"Now don't always be so negative."

Here's a little secret: this sentence makes things a lot worse. And it certainly doesn't make people who are currently seeing everything terribly negative, suddenly see things more positively.

But there is a simple trick that can really be used to dissuade others from chronic pessimism. That has something to do with our self-image.

Our brain favors negative thinking

Our brain is fundamentally geared towards seeing problems rather than positive things. This is an evolutionary holdover: we have to survive, so we have to be mindful of problem factors.

"We also get used to things very quickly, which is why we lose sight of small, beautiful things much faster than negative ones," says psychologist and author Ilona Bürgel. A delicious dinner is forgotten again the next morning. And a beautiful moment soon loses its meaning. But a professional setback, for example, sometimes lags behind us for weeks.

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Anyone who has focussed on the fact that everything is going shit at the moment, everything will go shit for him too, because he * she only concentrates on negative aspects. But what do we do with people who are constantly pessimistic about life? Colleagues who keep complaining to us about how terrible everything is? Family members for whom the glass always seems to be half empty?

First of all, according to Bürgel: “We should not interfere in principle.” Everyone is who he is and does not want to be remodeled - unless he specifically asks for help. In therapy, for example, there is the rule “No coaching without an assignment”.

Let us assume that a person just sees everything black again and lets us participate in it without being asked. Reactions like “Now pull yourself together, it's not that bad after all” work in such situations like righteousness and often lead to arguments. For our counterpart, the respective problem appears omnipresent at this moment and overshadows everything. Even if that is so incomprehensible and annoying for us. Perhaps he * she is currently in a phase of life in which there is felt to be little good and the negative predominates. Don't forget: our brain favors this.

Fortunately, the brain can be tricked

The great art is to show the black painters that the supposedly little good is all the more valuable. This is not achieved by verbal thrashing, but by subtly drawing the attention of our counterparts to positive things in life. By initially listening, holding back and allowing a change of perspective at the right moment.

If, for example, the partner ceaselessly grumbles about problems in the job, only complains about gruesome bosses, and at some point says "I really need a vacation", that could be our cue, says Bürgel. You could well give the conversation a more positive twist: “Yes, that's a good idea. Where? Mountains, water or city trip? "

With dotted inquiries, you can also put things into perspective and set a new focus of the conversation, says Bürgel. Another example, let's stick with vacation: We are traveling to Sri Lanka with a friend. We like it here, but for him * she everything sucks right now. Food crappy, weather crappy, surroundings crappy. He * she almost infects us with this destructive mood, makes us unable to enjoy the vacation.

We now have two options: Either we let it lead to a dispute and thus to a break. Or we try to draw attention to something positive by asking. "Yeah, I understand ... but hey, something else, just thinking about the train ride through the jungle yesterday. You said you liked it. What did you find most impressive? The passage at the waterfall? ”If he * she gives in, we have won him * her and can stick with this positive memory - and reinforce it through repetition.

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But: Nothing with everything awesome, nothing with everything so great, everyone loves each other, nothing with exaggeration. “Only authentically positive thinking is appropriate,” says Bürgel. "We have to send this signal: see bad things, but also what else is there."

Often people who complain often did not even notice how stressful this was for the overall mood. But we shouldn't forget that behind our endeavors to convert them is mostly that we ourselves are stressed by it, that the situation burdens us. "If, for example, the parents unearth the same negative story for the tenth time, you can of course just say stop," says Bürgel. We could explain to them that we are simply not in the right shape for this topic and make them an alternative offer: "Let's talk about it tomorrow on the phone." That also has something to do with personal responsibility.

Those who deal with life more playfully inspire others

Speaking of personal responsibility: The very best method of not being dragged down by those who think negatively is to be a role model yourself, says Bürgel. “When someone starts a song, there is always someone who will sing along.” Likewise, a good mood and a genuine smile would be contagious to other people.

Those who are very open to positive experiences radiate that to the outside world. "

We all know this one person in our circle of acquaintances, who is always lively through life, who does not seem to be disturbed, who can be dealt with in a very relaxed way: Those who deal with life more playfully inspire others - without words.

The American psychologist Barbara Fredrickson found out that a positive attitude changes life permanentlyalso health-wise. If you consciously save the so-called positive micro-moments, as Fredrickson calls them - the nice conversation during the lunch break, the compliment of an acquaintance - this generally leads to more well-being.

Fredrickson is considered to be the driving force behind positive psychology and has received several awards for her scientific achievements. In her current workLove 2.0 she writes that shared positivity - two people who share the same good feeling - has a greater impact on health than when someone experiences this positivity alone. This includes watching a movie with someone who shares the same taste in movies, sharing good news or jokes, or experiencing funny incidents. This results in feeling more in tune with other people at the end of the day.

People have to come up with the funnel themselves

You shouldn't expect to turn pessimists into optimists by flick. And if even the cautious influence does not help, it sometimes requires a radical step, says Bürgel: "The endeavor that everything always has to be good and that we always have to get along with others is nice, but unrealistic." together and feels under pressure if you should look for other friends, says the expert.

If you ask Bürgel what the most common and most fatal type of negative thinking for her is, she says: “Brooding.” Constant why, why, why; this is a spiral that is difficult to break and that carries over into many areas of life. Bürgel researches how people get out of there.

According to her, people must first notice for themselves that the scales are crooked. Just like drug addicts first have to admit to themselves that they are addicted. "You have to admit that all you have to do is ruminate negative thoughts," she says. Then the first and most important step on the way to healthy optimism is taken. So in the future one could think more of possibilities instead of losses.

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It has nothing to do with the fact that we can't even be negative, frustrated, sad or pissed off. We can and must do all of this. We should just not forget that there are certainly beautiful things in our lives. And that is all the more important to enjoy.