No matter how happy you are in life, there’s always that one person who can bring you down with their complete and utter despair and negativity.
It’s normal to feel negative now and then, but sadly, for some people, it becomes their first reaction to everything they face in life.
So, if you can’t avoid them, you can at the very least know how to protect yourself fully from negative energy – and we’ve got you covered.
From knowing how to deal with their negativity to increasing your positivity, we’ll look at how to identify negative forces in your life and what you can do to minimize their impact on you.
What are the signs of negative people?
I grew up in two worlds – one with positivity (my parents and brother) and my extended family which are the pure definition of negativity.
So, I write this article with a lot of first-hand experience because I had to learn how to protect myself from their negativity from a young age and it’s only now as an adult that I finally have got to grips with it.
But that’s the sad thing about negativity, it can come in the form of people that we love, but who are truly not good for our mental wellbeing.
Years of being around negative people can have a massive effect on your outlook on life and even on yourself.
I spent many years feeling that I wasn’t good enough simply because I had relatives who would drive that into me any chance they got – until I got sick and tired of it and started resisting their negativity.
So what makes up a negative person?
Because before you can take steps to protect yourself, you should first be clear on what to look out for.
Here are the most obvious signs of a negative person:
- Being very pessimistic
- Always complaining
- Being judgemental to others
- Being stuck in the past or holding onto old grudges
- Always avoiding trying new things or experiences
- Focussing only on problems and never on solutions
- Criticizing unnecessarily
- Always feeling like the victim
Even though we come across negative people all the time – at work, school, or even within our families, we don’t often realize how harmful their mindset can be to our lives.
Having negative parents can be the difference between a child living a full life or never experiencing new things.
A negative partner can hold you back from reaching your goals and achieving your dreams whilst a coworker can easily bring down your spirits and make you dread going into work.
Whoever it is, it’s important to identify them and then respond in a way that puts you back in control of your life.
Tips to protect yourself from negative energy
1) Focus on the positives
This might be an obvious point when dealing with negativity, but focusing on the positives really can make all the difference to your mindset.
See the two as opposing forces, we all go through them but it’s the one that has our attention which eventually wins.
Give more attention to positivity, and it’ll be harder for negative energy to influence you or drag your down.
According to MayoClinic:
“One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.”
So just as much as it can help with your stress levels, it can also counteract negativity – especially if you get into the habit of practicing positivity daily.
2) Set strong boundaries
Unfortunately, negative people have a way of bringing us down and holding us back from really living our lives the way we want to.
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague, you need to put clear and strong boundaries in place so that their negativity won’t influence your life.
The only way to get back in control is to draw lines and stick to them on anything which makes you feel uncomfortable.
I had a friendship dating back to my college days which I realized a few years ago needed some boundaries in place.
My friend was becoming incredibly negative and not just about his own life – also about mine.
I realized that I felt down in the dumps every time we hung out, and I knew that without some boundaries in place I was going to turn into a bitter version of myself, just like he had.
I told my friend that his attitudes were affecting me and that we wouldn’t be hanging out as much as usual, and if we did I’d appreciate less judgment and negativity.
It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow for him, and he resisted at first until he realized that I was serious. Now we still have a good friendship but one which is healthier and more manageable for my well being.
3) Start recognizing negative energy in your life
An important way to protect yourself from negativity is to first understand where it comes from. Just as I did with my friend, take the time to analyze who in your life is out to steal your sunshine.
So, stop making excuses for these people and start figuring out if their complaints and life attitudes all point towards being a negative person.
Once you’ve got this bit worked out, you can then find a way to manage this negativity so that you don’t have to deal with it more than necessary.
4) Ignore the perpetrator
As tough as this can be, sometimes ignoring the negative person in your life is the best course of action.
If you know you’ll be stuck with them for a family meal or office meeting, do your best to avoid even looking or speaking to them. The more you starve their attention, the easier it’ll be to stop them from focussing their negativity on you.
If you can, you can even go as far as pretending that they’re simply not there. It might come across as slightly rude but ultimately you have to do what is right for you and your mental health.
5) Focus on your personal power
Negative energies thrive off people who lack strength, power, and control over their lives. That’s not to say that strong people can’t also be affected by negativity, but they’ll have more skills and tools to deal with it.
I recently completed a free masterclass on Personal Power by the modern-day shaman Rudá Iandê, who helped me overcome limiting beliefs and approach life with a bit more enthusiasm and hope.
Iandê has a way of making us question what we thought we knew about ourselves, and this results in having a whole new perspective on life.
With this clearer image of myself and who I am in this world, I already feel more prepared to deal with those who want to bring my spirits down.
This sense of self-assuredness and confidence means I have more trust in myself and can deal with negativity in a way that suits me.
6) Be clear on whose energy you’re feeling
If you feel negative, make sure you haven’t absorbed it from someone else. You need to work out whether it’s your problem or someone else’s.
Whilst we try to be a good friend to others or be a shoulder to lean on, sometimes their negative mood can pass on to you without you even realizing it.
But, their burdens are not for you to shoulder so after offering support to someone who is negative, make sure you don’t let their energy ruin the rest of your day.
7) Remove yourself from the situation
If ignoring negative energy doesn’t work – take yourself away from it.
You owe it to yourself to be surrounded by positivity – to be around people who have a zest for life and love living.
Even if you feel awkward walking away from a group of negative people, what do you have to lose?
If their energy field is affecting you, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by sticking around and the longer you stay the harder it can be to leave.
8) Focus on solutions
Maybe you have a friend who is negative and rather than walking away, you want to be able to continue a friendship with them.
In this case, try focusing more on solutions rather than problems. Negative people have a way of complaining or finding fault in everything so try to counter these comments with simple solutions or positive comments.
You might face some resistance but it’s better than being dragged down into their hole of negativity.
And, with patience and encouragement, you might even help them have a healthier, balanced outlook on life, resulting in a better friendship for you both.
9) Practice self-care
Being around negativity can take its toll on your mental health – the type where you want to do nothing but lie in a dark room after being around such people.
After a solid week of negativity with a cousin who came to visit, I felt like my brain had been fried and my life as I knew it was one big failure.
Each evening after I dropped her back at her hotel, I’d come home and read my favorite books, take a long bath, have a glass of wine on the balcony – anything to help myself feel good again.
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It was so essential otherwise I wouldn’t have had the energy to go back each day and pick her up without becoming completely burnt out.
And since then I realized that this level of self-care (amongst other things, unfortunately, wine and baths aren’t always the solution for everything) is necessary whenever my body needs it.
Not just when I have time for it.
So, try getting into a good self-care routine and see how much more energy you have when it comes to dealing with negativity.
Some things you can try include:
- Do things you enjoy especially if they’re creative like painting or dancing
- Find ways to relax such as yoga, meditation, or getting a massage
- Practice good hygiene – your body and mind will feel better for it
- Have a healthy social life and surround yourself with good, supportive people
- Sleep and eat well so you keep your energy levels up
10) Take responsibility
There’s no polite way to say this, but if you’re stuck around negative people and it’s bringing you down, you do have to own up to your role in the relationship.
Yes, they’re negative and that’s their problem. But if you choose to stick around negativity, you also have a responsibility in the matter.
Of course, for some people, it’s harder than others to remove themselves from negativity, but they can still find ways to manage it.
Ultimately, your happiness and well-being is no one’s responsibility except your own, so start facing the facts and acknowledge areas where you might be letting negativity in.
We all make this mistake so don’t feel like it’s your fault, but once you’re aware of it it’s best to act quickly, own up to your misgivings and then create a plan to pull yourself out of it.
When I complained about my negative friend I was asked, “So why don’t you just stop seeing him?” and eventually it sank in – it’s up to me to take that first step and control how much say he had in my life.
11) Try meditation
Meditation can have a profound effect on your life. How often do you simply sit and be at one with yourself?
Probably not much especially since our mobile phones are constantly pinging, but taking some time out for yourself can do a world of good.
Even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day, getting into the habit of meditating can help you channel through positive energy and shut down negativity.
It’s also a great way to relax and close off from the outside world for a while, focussing on nothing but what’s within you.
12) Use imagery to detach from negativity
Our imaginations are an incredible tool so learn to make the most of it.
Using imagery might look like a force field or something protective which blocks negative energies from reaching you.
Or it could be imagining yourself as a super-strong version of yourself, capable of breaking through any blocks holding you back from being positive.
Whatever you decide to imagine, let your mind wander enough to completely block out the negativity around you, and you can even have a little fun and creativity with it.
13) Do things to lift your spirit again
Whether the negativity is genuinely yours or passed onto you from someone else, distracting yourself with something fun can be a great way to overcome it.
We’ve all had days where we’ve felt a bit blue and the desire to complain about everything runs strong, but rather than give in to it, keep yourself busy and do things you enjoy.
Take a walk, watch a lighthearted film, or put on your favorite album and dance along – a few hours of distraction might pull you out of your negative funk without you even realizing it.
14) Change the subject
If the topic has turned sour – change the subject. Some things are naturally easier to be negative about so the key is finding a neutral subject that can be kept light-hearted.
If you know the person well, try bringing up things which you know they like and may have a better attitude about – it’ll make the whole experience much more enjoyable for you both.
15) Pay less attention to other people’s opinions of you
I know how tough this one can be especially if you’re a sensitive soul like me, but growing a thick skin and ignoring other people’s opinions is a sure way to overcome external negativity.
People are always going to have an opinion and you’re never going to please everyone, so focus on nurturing your own self-image rather than letting other people dictate it.
Without this, you’ll forever be at the mercy of other people’s opinions, even if what they say has no base or substance to it.
The way I like to think of it is that their opinion of you is none of your business. Once you master this, you’ll rarely be dragged down by negative people.
16) Know when to stop helping negative people
As much as you might want to help the negative people in your life, it’s important to know when to give up.
The bottom line is that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped, and all you’ll do is face continuous disappointment and the risk of absorbing their negativity.
Sometimes, it’s better for your mental health to love someone from a distance, and to not allow yourself to get dragged down with them.
17) Live a fulfilling life
Just as building your personal power is important, so is living a fulfilling, enriching lifestyle.
The more you inject fun, hope, passion, and positivity into your life, the less space there’ll be for negativity.
Ways to have a rich life include:
- Spending time with friends who are good for your wellbeing
- Exercising and having plenty of fresh air
- Following your hobbies or passions
- Having a healthy work-life balance
- Setting achievable goals
Live the life you want to live, and you’ll find that it becomes harder for others to pass on their negativity. In essence, you’re creating a real-life forcefield around you to protect yourself.
18) Send negative energy away
If you’re stuck with someone who is unloading their negativity onto you, try visualizing it and sending it back.
Here’s how I do it – I imagine the negative vibes as smoke, which has traveled from them to me, and internally I have to collect up that smoke and push it back out until it goes back to the other person.
This can be a great way to help you distinguish whose energy you’re feeling and to stop absorbing other people’s negativity.
19) Keep things in perspective
Sometimes, after being with a negative person for too long you might lose track of reality.
The life you were once content with seems dull and full of misery, simply because that’s how your negative companion views life.
It’s always a good idea to remind yourself of your blessings and accomplishments so that you can keep a balanced overview.
Also – this is, in a way, an act of gratitude and positivity, because you’re focusing on the good in your life.
As explained by PsychologyToday:
“Studies show that practicing gratitude curbs the use of words expressing negative emotions and shifts inner attention away from such negative emotions like resentment and envy, minimizing the possibility of ruminating, which is a hallmark of depression.”
Practicing gratitude regularly can stop negativity from influencing your mindset and you’ll have a new appreciation for your life.
20) Silence your ego
I know how tempting it can be to join in a negative conversation to argue your point or to defend yourself, but sometimes staying out of it is the best thing to do.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t offer your opinion, but know that it’s very hard to argue and be understood by someone who is highly negative. If anything, it’ll just be adding fuel to the fire.
In the end, you’ll be left feeling frustrated, and whilst you might have pleased your ego, you’ll leave feeling mentally bruised and defeated.
In such situations, it’s best to ask yourself whether you’ll gain anything through responding to this negativity, or whether it’ll be a waste of your energy and time.
You’ll never be able to avoid negative energy completely, but using the tips above will help you get through the experience and keep your positivity intact.
I’d also like to add that by being the best version of yourself and spreading as much kindness and positivity as you can, you may find that the negative people in your life take a leaf from your book and one day change.
But until then, being your best self will keep you progressing forward in life, and leave little room for negative energy to seep in and hold you back.
Ultimately, negative people deserve our compassion because they’ve probably faced difficulty in life which has led to their sour outlook and lack of hope for the future.
But, that shouldn’t come above looking after yourself first, and if their negativity is too much to handle, removing them from your life might be the best option for your well-being.