It has long been known that individual perspective shapes how we feel about the world around us. In other words, we can choose to see the glass half full or half empty. An interesting recent study suggests that you can actually get stuck in your negative thoughts. Meaning, once you understand or process information with a negative filter, it can be physically harder to change your mind and think positively. For example, this study led by Alison Ledgerwood, Associate Professor at UC Davis, told participants to imagine there has been an outbreak of an unusual disease and 600 lives are at stake. One group was asked, if 100 lives are saved, how many are lost? And another group was asked, if 100 lives are lost, how many are saved? Both groups were tasked with a simple mathematic equation (600-100=500) but interestingly, it took the second group, those converting from lives lost to lives saved (from a negative frame to positive) longer to solve the equation on average. This suggests that once we think about something as a loss, it tends to stick in our heads and resist our attempts to change it.
Speaking from human experience, I think it’s safe to agree that on average we have a tendency to get stuck in our negative thoughts. We keep thinking about that rejection or missed opportunity even if a new, better opportunity shows up. We can be happy about the new opportunity but our minds may wander back to that initial rejection. We just can’t shake that negative feeling. God doesn’t want us to stay stuck in our negative thoughts (and frankly we don’t want to stay stuck our negative thoughts either), it can make us more vulnerable and weak when the enemy comes to attack.
So what can we do when we are stuck in a rut or dwelling on a past failure? There are several options and all of them include your Heavenly Father. Trying to handle this without God is like going to battle without any armor.
- ASK GOD: We can call on or cry out to God and ask Him to fill us up with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power to fight the enemy and shake yourself out of this rut. The power to fight back with joy.
- LISTEN TO GOD: We can turn to His Word to lift our spirits and change that initial perspective that is shaping how we see and feel about our situation. There is nothing like the gospel of Jesus Christ to put our life and situation in perspective! I also love Paul’s outlook in 2 Cor. 6 on his situation (a situation most of us would consider a negative one).
- LEAN ON GOD: God has placed every single person in your life for a reason. Turn to a friend, a fellow church-member or brother/sister in Christ. Instead of “venting” though, try bringing up up some positive things that happened during our day or week. You may find that your day, your situation isn’t as bad as you initially thought.
Remember, in every situation, God is with you. In prayer, in His Word, and in the people he put in your life. You do not have to go at this alone. It is also important to remember that “stuck in a rut” is exactly where the enemy wants you to be. So you will have to make an effort to change your mind frame. It may be difficult but it is not impossible. Let us put on the armor of God and fight back!
 Ledgerwood, A., & Boydstun, A. E. (2013, March 25). Sticky Prospects: Loss Frames Are Cognitively Stickier Than Gain Frames. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0032310