Tis the Season

The heralds of winter are here: migrating birds, shorter days, falling leaves—and a reminder from my pharmacist to schedule a flu shot. It’s an advisory I have learned to heed, because when I don’t, the consequences become as plain as the runny nose on my face.

Everyone sees the value in protecting against winter colds and flu. Less recognized is the benefit in safeguarding ourselves against a much more common ailment that can lay us low at any time of the year: negativity.

Scientists assure us that the stress that always accompanies negativity lowers bodily resistance to illness. The good news in this is that you can improve your health by not dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions—yours, or those of other people.

Most of us avoid mingling with sneezing and coughing flu sufferers, but we seldom take the same care to sidestep infection by others’ negative thoughts and feelings. More often, we gossip about a co-worker’s bad mood… speculate on the reasons for the boss’s testy reply… brood about the peevish behavior of a husband, wife or teenager….

All this cogitating is a sure way to catch someone else’s negativity or to deepen your own. Ruminate on something negative, and the situation seems to go from bad to worse. That is the Law of Attraction in operation: you get what you focus on. Focusing on the negative is like inhaling a cold or flu virus and deliberately aggravating your condition until you develop pneumonia!

You may object that you have a positive outlook by nature and that it is only the gloom-and-doom attitude of others that gets you down. That is a confession that you cannot or will not control your focus. Emotions are triggered by thoughts, and the quickest way to shift what you feel is to redirect your thinking.

When your children are in a grumbling frame of mind, your own mood does not automatically turn sour. Kids are kids, you tell yourself, and you expect them to be grouchy at times. So long as they are not screaming down the rafters, you turn your mind in a more positive direction.

Try taking a similarly detached view of adults in their black moods. Let them be, and trust that they will work things out by themselves. Fretting with them or about their negativity will not brighten their day, or yours.

Also understand that unless someone asks for it, your commiseration or help is not welcome. Moreover, well meant but unsolicited advice can backfire, prompting people to defend their negativity to prove it is justified. The more they do so, the more firmly their negative attitude takes hold of them.

Focusing your attention elsewhere gives the other person time to deal alone with their agitation and recover, like allowing a flu victim undisturbed bed rest to recuperate. You also avoid unnecessary exposure to the virus of his negativity.

I’m grateful that for most of the year I don’t face much risk of suffering the aches and exhaustion of flu. It’s enough for me that it’s always the season to be wary of negativity.

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