What happens when you dwell?

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Have you ever wondered why we tend to dwell on the negatives instead of focusing on the positives around us?

According to Professor Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, we are programmed to dwell on negative experiences because they are platforms for learning and thus, becoming a “key element for survival”.

What is Dwelling?

Dwelling is an act of repeating negative thoughts in your head, over and over and over again. Whether it’s something in the past or present, we can’t seem to stop replaying the scenes nor do anything to change things.

At this rate, you keep digging a hole and finding yourself stuck. Common examples include dwelling on the “injustices” that you have been met, asking yourself “why me?” “what’s my purpose?”. It could be a physical or emotional hurt you are facing. In other words, you’re just stuck. And if prolonged, could lead to obsession and depression.

How do We Stop Dwelling?

Most often. dwelling is a product of fear. When we are fearful, we no longer think rationally about the situation, thus resorting to negativity and low self-esteem. Here are three ways I use to get over issues quickly and move on.

1. Set a time to dwell

Just like how you schedule your day, find time to ponder on the negatives instead of dwelling on it throughout the day. This way, you leave 1 hour feeling like you’re not up to it, and the next 23 hours settling your daily to-dos and moving on with what you need to get done.

2. Switch to problem-solving mode

If it’s a problem that needs to be addressed now, I will usually go into problem-solving mode and write out a plan instead. Don’t focus on problems of the past, those are done and dealt with. Move onto goals that can be achieved in your life right now. One trick that I use is to imagine a switch. All of us have the ability to flip the switch depending on our state of mind. So the next time you are feeling down, visualise yourself flipping that mental switch in your head.

3. Focus on goals you can achieve

When we dwell, we tend to focus on unachievable goals – most often the ghosts of our past. It doesn’t have to be huge life goals, even just daily goals will change the way you think and feel. Learn to accept the world as it is, instead of trying to change it. Accepting the past will allow you to build a better future for yourself and in turn, lead to long-term success.

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