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Practical Ways to Filter Out the Negative and Cultivate a Positive Mindset

a set of Scrabble game times spell out the phrase "Be Positive"

In the past, I've discussed the dangers of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity suggests that there is no room for negative emotions at all and encourages people to mask them in favor of positive thinking. However, this doesn't mean that positivity is inherently bad or unrealistic. Rather, positivity serves us well when we understand that there is still room for unpleasant feelings and emotions in our lives.

For this reason, I find that people have a hard time allowing themselves to be positive. And inadvertently do things to rob them of a positive outlook. Looking at the world today, there are undoubtedly a lot of things to be upset, angry, and worried about. Are we expected to just to live in a delusional bubble and deny our reality? Of course not. So I want to take some time to talk about what we can do to find a healthy, positive mindset despite what could be going on around us.

Filter Your Feed

At this point, most of us know that what we see on our social media timelines are a direct reflection of the topics and people we are interested in seeing. Liking, sharing, and commenting on posts and stories are how the algorithm starts learning how to put certain content in front of you. For example: I have a dog, I post him on my Instagram stories a lot, and I tend to veer towards posts and videos that involve dogs. If I like and comment on posts about dogs, eventually the algorithm is going to start putting more "dogfluencer" content on my social feed. The same thing can be applied to comedy skits, family vlogs, food, or pretty much anything else you can think of.

A neon sign in the image of a 'Like' notification as seen on Instagram

With that being said, if you are constantly interacting with posts surrounding hard topics or topics that get you irritated, you will continue to see those posts show up on your feed. Sometimes if I notice this type of pattern, I start taking steps to filter my social feeds. This could mean scrolling past certain content without interacting, muting users (keeps you connected but hides their content), blocking users, or even just limiting the time spent on social media in general.

Depending on how we use it, social media can be a great place for connection, community, and niche interests. However, it can also be a hub for comparison, doom scrolling, and negativity. Approaching our social media experience with intentionality can do a lot to protect our peace of mind.

Stop Doom Scrolling

This is another social media practice that I believe people struggle with (including myself). Doom Scrolling is the active of excessively seeking saddening or negative material to read or scroll through social media or news outlets.

Yes, for a lot of us, seeing unpleasant content on the internet is inevitable. Some of us work in industries in which being informed about the latest news (no matter how tragic) is extremely important so we actively research. But as a whole, I believe we all should make sure we are aware of the world around us even when that news is tragic or unpleasant to see/hear about.

An illustration of a man looking at this phone with a perplexed look on his face

No one is suggesting that we just stop educating ourselves or stop being informed. Rather, Doom Scrolling is more associated with a lack of self-control. Yes, I may research some hard topics in order to be informed but I stop consuming that content right after I've retrieved the information that I need. Understand that there is no value in Doom Scrolling because 1) It puts us in a state of hopelessness about every single problem happening that we can't control 2) It pulls us away from the things in life that we can control.

Instead, try setting a specific time of day to get your news and information. You can also try editing the focus settings on your phone, which allow you to block certain apps for use until you go in and change the settings again. If you work an occupation that makes you a little more susceptible to Doom Scrolling (such as Politics and Law), try to limit that intake for the job only. If consuming negative/unpleasant content is a big part of what you do for a living, you may also want to consider ways you can destress and center yourself outside of it. When you're reading up on these things, also be sure to check in with some questions: Is this something that I can control? Is there anything I can do for this situation right this minute? What is something else I could be focusing on that is within my control?

Choose Better Company

The company we keep can mean well but unfortunately rub off on us when it comes to consuming and spreading negativity. I'll be the first to admit that there have been times where when I'm conversing with someone, the only things I had to talk about were all negative. So much so, that a friend literally had to get real with me and let me know that she couldn't sit back and listen to me complain about my job anymore because it was pretty much the only thing I talked about. Imagine how draining it is to meet up with someone and all they want to talk about is what's going bad, what's going wrong, and why everything is terrible. The fact is, being around people who are constantly negative is exhausting.

It's hard to keep a positive mindset about anything if you're constantly surrounding yourself with people who drain your energy. But perhaps some of them are people close to you, like family members. Obviously, things aren't always so severe that you'll want to cut people off from your life. But it is a good idea to limit interactions or draw certain boundaries in social behavior.

An illustration of a group of black women laughing together

For example, let's say a family member or close friend has a habit of gossiping which makes you very uncomfortable. Be transparent and let them know that you're not comfortable with the conversation they're facilitating. That could look like phrases such as "I don't feel comfortable talking about people who aren't in the room with us" or "I don't think that is information that I need to know". Maybe someone keeps bringing news about hard topics outside of your control, like the latest crimes in the area or tragic happenings. You can always say something along the lines of "I don't really have the capacity for this right now. Is this something we can talk about later?"

It would be up to you decide whether or not these relationships are worth having, or if you need to be more vocal about your boundaries, or if you simply just need to distance yourself temporarily. In any case, when you improve your social circle you make it easier on yourself to keep a positive mindset.

Positivity Takes Work

You may have heard the phrase "it takes more work to be positive than to be negative" and I would have to agree with that sentiment. Our minds tend to default to negative so it does take us being more intentional to maintain a positive outlook.

External forces such as a our social circle, the news, and social media all play a part in us either being negative or maintaining a positive outlook. However, there is also the inner work on our side that plays the biggest role. Practices such as positive self-talk, journaling, and meditation are examples of what we can do to keep a positive mental attitude. But, if we're being honest, sometimes we don't feel like doing it. Sometimes it feels like a hassle to take a few minutes out of the day to write about how I'm feeling. Sometimes it feels like hassle to take time every single day to look myself in the mirror and recite positive affirmations. It feels like a hassle to pay more attention to what I'm thinking about, back tracking, and replacing the negative thought with a positive thought.

Using social media without intention, doom scrolling, gossiping, speaking negative: these are all things we don't really have to think about when we do them. It's as if we go on auto-pilot and allow our minds to "shut off" in a way. But even though these activities seem passive, they have a great impact on our overall mindset as well as our self-image. Cultivating a positive mindset, however, requires us to be much more intentional and refuse to go on auto-pilot with our thoughts, words, and actions.

When it comes to maintaining a positive outlook and filtering out the negative, for a lot of us, our very lives depend on it. Personally, I don't think I could live my life if all I could think about is everything that's going wrong in the world. It's a recipe for disaster when we don't give ourselves a break from the loom and gloom, when we don't put thought into who we spend time with, and when we don't put thought into our own words.

Reader, I hope you will take some time to think about what you can do to create a positive mental attitude in your life. Or, if you're someone who is already pretty positive, what ways you can maintain that positivity and spread it to those around you. But, as always, I advise not to use positivity as a reason to dismiss the very real grief, anger, concern, and fear others may have about current events or their personal life. Sometimes the most positive thing you can do for someone else is to just be present during those negative times while serving as a reminder that things can--and will--get better.

Thanks for reading,



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