A recent University of Notre Dame study of 103 pairs of room-mates found that negative thinking patterns can be passed from one person to another. Misery does love company! Just like the virus, negative thoughts can be contagious. It is called “cognitive vulnerability”. The mindset that the stressful life events which you are not able to change are all your fault, has become a contagious and often a lasting mental disease. Although we know negative thoughts are not good for us, yet we accept these thoughts as a part of life. We see difficulties in each opportunity and become depressed. How do we live without acquiring or absorbing these vibrations? A depression vaccine has yet to be discovered!

We can only fix ourselves. We cannot make someone else stop being negative. We need to turn within to check and change our mood and thoughts. We need to look after our feelings so that we are not infected by anything. Negative feelings are temporary. We can keep our awareness in the present; overthinking, a major cause of depression, will diminish and stop. As we spend such a lot of time with ourselves, it is a good idea to learn to love ourselves. Thoughts of self-criticism and blame, negative labelling of the self, eat away self-respect. The longer we hold on to a particular thought, the more power we invest in it.

The First thought of the day is very important. Meditation helps us to set the tone for the whole day. Reawakening our awareness of our true identity, that is a being of light, a being of peace, who can radiate that peace and love to others, is our most valuable resource.

Practise compassion. It has become human nature to interpret negative comments as a personal attack. Instead, we need to recognise them as a sign that the person making them is someone who is suffering. To encourage and empower the positive ideas and ways of others means we are empowering ourselves. Whatever defects we criticise in others can often indicate that we also have that weakness. We should never look down on someone – unless we are helping them get up! A gentle heart never makes others feel guilty about their mistakes.

Do not take things personally. To prevent ourselves from reacting, or overreaching, we can step back a little and become an observer. Emotion is a limited creation; it will pass.

Energy flows where attention goes. What we focus on grows. Seeing the beauty of life, we will see opportunities, not difficulties. Then we can start looking at life with joy and a big heart. When we generate just one thought of peace or love, that is what will come back to us.

Chirya Yvonne Risely is a Rajyoga meditation teacher based at the Brahma Kumaris Peace Village Retreat Center, USA.