How to Help Your Friends be Less Negative

It’s hard to blame anyone who’s been outwardly sad, angry or upset the past couple of years during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. 

But friends who are constantly negative can drain your energy and even influence your mood. Fortunately, there are different approaches you can take to keep bad vibes at bay. 

Help your friend and help yourself by practicing some of these tactics the next time you’re feeling like there’s room for positivity: 

  • Open your ears, let them vent: Venting can get personal for both parties in a hurry, so you may want to consider setting boundaries before allowing your friend to let it all out. Setting a time cap on the chat or putting a restriction on certain subjects are two possibilities. Venting is generally a good way to reduce stress, but while listening, don’t feel obligated to respond. There is value in being a quiet sounding board for a friend looking to let out some frustration. 
  • Empathize and relate: Empathizing with a negative friend can go hand in hand with venting, but this approach could help you formulate responses that can help them relate to you. Those responses don’t need to center around advice. If you have friends dealing with a difficult experience like a job loss, a family member’s illness or a breakup, and you’ve dealt with those same hardships, letting them know they’re not alone can go a long way. 
  • Keep conversation light: Escaping from some of life’s heavier burdens here and there is good for everyone’s mental health; that’s why so many of us like to get lost in sporting events or movies after work or on weekends. Apply the same thought process the next time you are around someone who’s down. Try not to prod at some of the major issues they are facing and instead joke about a TikTok you saw or chat about a new show on Netflix. Sharing common ground on something you both enjoy can only lift spirits. 
  • Hang out in threes or in a group setting: In a two-person setting, 100% of your friend’s negative emotions bounce off of you. But if you make a concerted effort to invite others along, it can be tougher for someone to maintain a negative attitude, usually because a group atmosphere has a fun, lively energy to it. Exposing a negative friend to more and more social settings may even chip away at their negative attitude so that your next one-on-interaction isn’t as tense or awkward as it’s been. 
  • Have fun: Having fun sounds easier said than done, but sometimes the simplest, most straightforward solutions are impactful. Think of this approach as putting those light conversations into action. Go see a movie. Go exercise together. Go out to eat. You never know, actively taking a friend’s mind off their troubles could quash those troubles altogether. 

A positive mental attitude can be rewarding for you and your loved ones alike. Nobody’s perfect, and negative bouts are inevitable, but your overall mental health will benefit from a generally positive state. 

Be sure to keep this Mayo Clinic checklist in mind the next time you or a friend of yours is in a rut. 

The health benefits of positive thinking 

  • Lower rates of depression 
  • Lower levels of distress 
  • Greater resistance to the common cold 
  • Better psychological and physical well-being 
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease 
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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