How to Find Our Way Through the Muck of Negative Thoughts and Emotions

This is the time of year when I write about the messages and metaphors of Spring as they relate to our new beginnings, and there are many.

All one needs to do is look around and notice how everything is coming alive again, rapidly and undeniably, in glorious colors. The barren landscape of winter is giving way to life and new growth. In my garden, the trees are leafing out, and something new is blooming every day. The birds and the squirrels are keeping busy preparing for the months ahead.

Every day, at 05:32 a.m., the birds begin to sing, announcing the beginning of a new day and urging me out of bed. I am not going to lie. I don’t jump out of bed right away. I linger, listening to their song, feeling grateful for the new day, and often falling back asleep for another hour.

Like many of you, though, I am simultaneously aware of and deeply affected by the chaos and crises that seem to accelerate daily.

We live in a time of intense conflict and uncertainty. When confronted with a daily tsunami of bad news, it is easy and natural to focus on the harshness of our reality and feel helpless and ineffective.

It doesn’t help that, as Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, says, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”

I want to believe that these traumatic moments we are experiencing will eventually lead to positive growth and change.

I wonder what it will take. Where do we begin, and how can we overcome our feelings of helplessness?

Dr. Maya Angelou reminds us:

“The idea of overcoming is always fascinating to me. It’s fascinating because few of us realize how much energy we have expended just to be here today. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the overcoming.”

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”

“In a world so rife with vulgarity, with brutality and violence, love exists. I’m grateful to know that it exists.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

Today, her words soothe my troubled heart and take my thoughts in a whole different direction.

We can always do better … better by the world, better by each other, and better by ourselves.

We begin where we are and do what we can.
We set our vision, prepare the soil, plant our crops, and tend to them as best we can. We move forward!

We do not know what kind of weather will come our way this growing season or what kind of storms will threaten our gardens. But look around. Nature is coming alive despite us humans throwing tantrums every other day.

What seeds will we sow in our small parcel of earth?
Will it be the seeds of fear, anger, anxiety, and doubt? OR,
Will it be the seeds of hope, love, joy, appreciation,
kindness, and full participation?

Finding and cultivating goodness is a skill and a practice. It is a muscle that strengthens with use.

We have the freedom to choose where we rest and invest our minds, hearts, and eyes. We can resist our minds’ tendencies. Our brain may have a “negativity bias,” but research shows that we can counteract that natural “negativity bias” by choosing to focus on our positive experiences and keep bringing our awareness back to them.

We all have our preferred and time-tested ways of overcoming negative thoughts and bringing light and peace to our cloudy hearts. When we become overwhelmed with negative thoughts and emotions, the practices and daily rituals we favor will help us.

I find support, comfort, and inspiration in my meditation practice, poetry, my garden, working with my hands, being outside in nature, watching the sunset, cooking yummy and nutritious meals for my family and myself, reading a good book, writing down my thoughts, connecting with friends, and sitting down to share my thoughts with you.

When negative thinking takes over my mind, I take some time to myself to:

Recognize and accept the negative thoughts and emotions I am experiencing. It is of no use trying to deny and push them away. It is what it is. Instead of picking up a fight and giving them more air time than they deserve, I let them go through me, name them,  and remind myself that they are temporary. This way, I can …

Relax and redirect my attention to the goodness and beauty that are also present. I focus on the breath and bring to mind something positive … It may be a warm memory, an affirmation, an experience or interaction, a poem, a song, or a vision. I try to …

Rest in that awareness for a few minutes as I recover my sense of self, peace of mind, and connection to something bigger and more powerful than the headlines.

Feeling grounded, I can now reorganize my thoughts and focus on what I can do, no matter how small. I know my limitations. My impact is minimal, and it begins with me. Positive change and growth begin right here, where I stand.

This is the one lesson I take with me this time of the year: Despite the darkness and craziness that have taken hold of our days, Spring has arrived, the trees are leafing out, and what is meant to blossom is blossoming. There is goodness and beauty in the world around us. It is an invitation to pay attention and participate.

What about you? How are you feeling these days? What kind of support do you need to help you tend to your life’s garden?

If you would like to explore how I can best support you through this time, reach out, and let’s set a time to talk.

As always, thank you for being here and reading along.


  • Linda Samuels

    As always, your reflection is so clear and deep. You have magnificent tools for honoring the darkness and refocusing on those experiences and feelings that bring you peace and joy.

    It’s so easy (because of our Velcro-proclivity) to live in the land of negativity. But instead, you show a beautiful way to honor and allow those feelings and thoughts. See them, feel them, and let them pass. You then refocus to the positive memories, thoughts, and feelings which shifts your mood.

    These days, I’m in constant awe of all things growing. This season our grass is growing like I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure if it’s all the rain or the grass seed Steve planted in the fall. But the grass seems to grow overnight with an energy that speaks life. I also notice new flowers blooming each day. The pink weigela just started to bud, and soon the hydrangeas will appear. For me, these colorful sightings lift my spirit and exude hope.

    It’s hard to dampen the noise of the world. And I don’t want to completely silence what’s going on. I need to know. But I also recognize that I need to balance that with positive activities and feelings or my internal spring will become one muddy mess.

    Thank you, dear friend, for helping us navigate a path forward during these uncertain times.

    • Yota Schneider

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for stopping by to share your reflection. So much of what you wrote resonates with me. I love the idea of protecting your internal spring so that it will not become a muddy mess. It’s a vivid image and a fair warning, indeed.
      No, we don’t want to disregard whatever is going on, but we have to be vigilant and hyper-aware of our internal need for balance.

      Isn’t it wonderful that as you look around, you feel the power of nature and give yourself a moment to be in awe? It doesn’t take much to get in touch with this feeling, does it? Something feels different for me, too, this time around. Suddenly, everything is growing in leaps and bounds.

      Yesterday, I was at the bridal shower for my daughter’s good friend and college roommate. It was a long drive, and it rained all the way there and back. But being with these young people who were there to celebrate their friend and her new beginnings filled me with hope and joy. Life goes on. Sometimes, it follows a rocky road, but you never know what the next mile will look like. And, then, we get there, and the rain stops, the clouds part, and the sun is shining upon us again.

  • Kathleen

    I’m very moved and inspired by your words–we have so many moments every day to decide to throw a tantrum or choose another path. You mention kindness, and I’m imagining that planting seeds of kindness would be the most revolutionary action we could take. When feeling joyful or hopeful feels entirely too much, I can still do a small act of kindness. I think we have no idea how powerful kindness can be.

    • Yota Schneider

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Kathleen! I am glad that this post resonated with you. I am with you in this …. sometimes joy and hope are hard to find, but finding a thread to pick up and let it guide us further … like a small act of kindness … can make all the difference. I think kindness gets drowned by the noise these days. Here’s top small acts of kindness then! 💖

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