How Can You Stay Positive In Such a Negative World?
How do you do it? My husband asked me. I had just finished telling him about my day and about a particularly “character building” instance that had happened. He had told me about his day as well. “Your day SUCKED! How are you able to stay positive?”
That question started me thinking and has stuck with me for the past several days. It’s not something that I really break down into steps, I just DO it. But I wasn’t always this way. Honestly, sometimes I still have my days.
“I wish you could teach me how you do that.” He said.
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1) Envision Yourself As You Want to Be
I have not always been able to stay positive. It’s something that I decided to do because I needed to. Negativity is easy. It’s also a trap. Once you start down that road, you find yourself being swept right down the toilet bowl in no time at all.
For me, I noticed how miserable I was when my attitude was bad. So, like a flat tire, I decided to change it.
We can’t change the things that happen to us. A large part of staying positive is our outlook, which we can change. How you choose to view what happened (or what is happening) is a large determiner in our mindset. How do you want to be known? Do you want to be an Eeyore that is always negative about everything, or do you want to be a positive can-do person with lots of energy? Ti-double G-er! Those are rather extreme examples. Maybe your perfect mix is in between?
The most important thing is to just be the best, most positive version of yourself that you can be.
The brain is pretty amazing. To stay positive, start thinking of yourself as a positive person. The brain takes the input that it gets and tries to make it so. If you think of yourself as a positive person, you will be much more inclined to start taking the steps to live up to your own expectations.
2) Take a Step Back
Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone over something that really didn’t matter that much? When you are faced with an issue, try to detach yourself emotionally from it and think how much is this going to matter a month from now? What about next week? Is it really worth getting upset over? Try to take a step back and see what is going on. It is HARD to do this, I know. I am still practicing it. Don’t worry if you are not so good at it at first. I’m sure that you will have plenty of opportunities down the road! So often we react emotionally without thinking things completely through. You are responsible for your actions and your reactions. This is a huge help in the quest to stay positive, but it does require a lot of self-control. Thankfully, that can be gained with practice.
3) Laugh it Off
I am finding that humor is a really satisfying way to deal with things that frustrate me. Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I have to deal with a certain difficulty, I try to see the humor in it. As long as it does not go into making fun of someone, this can be a very therapeutic release of emotions. It takes a negative instance or difficulty and turns it into something where you can get positive feedback. I know why comedians do what they do – it’s very satisfying to get people to laugh. It has often been said that laughter is the best medicine and it certainly helps me to stay positive.
4) Keep the Big Picture in Mind
When you have a goal, you will have setbacks. However, it is entirely possible to achieve your dreams. When you do have a setback, take a look at the long-term goal. Sometimes it helps to remember that an annoying instance will have little effect on the long term. Remember the positive lesson that you want to achieve or learn from this setback.
When my kids spill something it is irritating. My first impulse used to be to snap at them. However, I have found that it is better, in the long run, to simply hand them a towel and say. “Oops. What do we do when we make a mess? We clean it up.” When they were little, it was really hard because I was the one wiping up the mess while they played in the water with the towel.
But now that they are older, when they spill something, they say “Oops.” And run to get a towel themselves to clean it up. The lesson of cleaning up after themselves was what I wanted to teach them. It took patience, and lots of repetition, but now it is very satisfying to see them cleaning up their own messes. I also unintentionally modeled to them to not sweat the small stuff. This tip for staying positive goes hand in hand with taking a step back.
5) Try to Analyze the Why
Sometimes understanding the “why” helps a great deal in learning to see the positive. When my oldest son was little, he was much more likely to follow directions if I told him my reasoning WHY we needed to do such and such (or not do it). Knowing why helps to calm our initial feelings and reactions.
For example, when I first started caring for my elderly family member, often she would say things that hurt my feelings. That was hard to deal with because I usually take everything to heart, over-think, and over- analyze. However, the more time that passed, the more I realized that some health issues had exaggerated certain personality traits and largely removed the “filter” between her thoughts and what she said aloud. It did not change what she said, but it did help me to take her comments more in stride. This, in turn, helps me to stay positive in the process of caring for her.
6) Give the Benefit of the Doubt
At first, I was skeptical of this. Why should I give the benefit of the doubt to someone that may or may not deserve it? The answer is simple: because you are the one that benefits. There is no need being upset about some imagined instance. Often people are not thinking what we think they are. Sometimes people do forget, sometimes they fail to follow through.
When you give someone the benefit of the doubt, it not only helps you to feel better initially, it helps to soothe your feelings when you are dealing with them later. It is very hard to stay positive if you are thinking about that time that they failed to do something they said they would do. When we are upset, our brains do not receive information very well. The feelings get in the way of reception. When you give someone the benefit of the doubt, not only does it help you stay positive, it helps you gather information as to what actually happened.
7) Don’t Overthink It
I call this “Ernie vacuum cleaner” because of this video clip that I ran across one time.
It’s pretty funny with Ernie imagining all these things that might happen if he knocks on the door to borrow his friend’s vacuum cleaner. Then, yelling at his friend and leaving when his friend comes to the door. However, I hate to admit it, but I am a champion at this as well. (Though I still think Ernie holds the world title). As funny as it watching someone ELSE overthink things and what MIGHT happen, it’s not so funny when it’s me. I have to very sternly tell myself I am overthinking and put in a conscious effort to rein in my over-active imagination. When you imagine all the things that could go wrong, it puts a huge damper on being positive. It just makes you feel rotten instead for no good reason.
When I start worrying or I feel my imagination running away with me, sometimes it helps to stop and breathe. Deep breath in, deep breath out. As I breathe, I try to imagine all the negative feelings, anxiety and worry being exhaled and breathing in peace, love, and joy. That is meditation in a very basic form. It helps you to be aware of how your body is feeling. Try to name the feelings that you are feeling. When you name the feelings it reduces the amount of anxiety that you feel. When you take time to breathe, you are consciously calming yourself down and you put yourself in a better state of mind to analyze what is really going on. It is hard to stay positive when you are consumed by the emotion of the moment.
9) Don’t Worry; Be Happy Now!
This is more than just a Bob Marley song, it’s really great advice for trying to stay positive. Worry is like a parasite. It sucks all the joy away of “now” and consumes you with what might happen in the future. Before, I didn’t see what was wrong with worrying. I thought that it just showed that you cared. The problem is that it does not help. It has negative mental and health effects on you and it does not change whatever you are worrying about. Worry just causes you anxiety and it takes you away from what is happening in the present.
While we were out celebrating for Mother’s Day, we were on a day trip. I tried to breathe and just enjoy the moment. I did pretty well, but there were a few times that my mind strayed and I started worrying. This affected not only my enjoyment of our outing but also my husband’s and kids’ enjoyment of it. I tried very hard to breathe and push the worry to the back of my mind and enjoy the moment. As I watched my kids explore, I noticed how good my husband is at being a dad, and I thought of how blessed I am.
10) Count Your Blessings
We tend to find what we are looking for. My youngest son can never find his shoes. He will wander all over his room and waste 10 precious minutes before we head out the door and say that he can’t find his shoes. When questioned, “Did you look under the bed? What about the bathroom? Could they be under the table?” His answer will be “No” or “ I don’t know!” to all of them, yet when I go look I will usually find his shoes in one of those places. He was not able to find his shoes because he wasn’t really looking for them. I found them because I was!
When you stop to count your blessings, you start to realize how many you have. What are the positive things in your life? The more that you look for them, the more of them you will see. The list seems to go on and on once you really start looking for them.
Unfortunately, the same is true for negative things as well. Which do you want to look for?
I love writing things down in a gratitude journal. It helps me remember them longer when I actually write them on paper.
11) Take Care of Yourself
I wrote another post on self-care that was mainly aimed at Moms, but self-care is important for all of us; not just Moms. When you take time for yourself on a regular basis you are more mentally and emotionally equipped to handle challenges when they come. We all have a figurative “bucket” that we give from. We give emotionally, physically, and mentally. It’s very hard to pour from an empty bucket. When your bucket gets low, it affects your mood and your mindset. When you stop to refill your bucket at regular intervals, you feel happier, thus making positive thoughts come more easily.
For example, when I am tired, I get very cranky. My Mom laughs at me for this particular trait and tells me that I have not changed much since toddlerhood. It’s true, though! If my energy level gets very low, I am cranky! Nothing seems to go right, I fuss about everything. Getting enough sleep is one of the things that I have to watch closely to help ensure that I am in a positive mindset.
12) Talk to a Positive Friend
Sometimes nothing recharges you like being around a positive friend. Attitudes are contagious. This applies to both negative and positive attitudes. Sometimes there is nothing like talking to a positive friend to lift you up. It’s so good to know that someone supports you and is in your corner. Celebrate the good things in life together. It is incredible how just going for a walk with a friend or having a cup of coffee can recharge your batteries. Sometimes you need a positive friend to help rekindle your own spark and to help you stay positive.
Staying positive does not just naturally happen. You have to first make the decision to stay more positive and then take action. The biggest thing is just the determination to see it through, however, there are some things that you can do when things get rough. The first is to envision yourself as you want to be. Start thinking of yourself as a positive person. The brain is quite remarkable when it comes to things like that because it takes the input that it gets and tries to make it so. If you think of yourself as a positive person, you will be much more inclined to start taking the steps to live up to your own expectations.
When you feel yourself starting to slide back into negativity, take a step back. Try to see what is really going on and remember that you are responsible not only for your actions but your reactions as well. Sometimes humor is a very useful tool, sometimes the best way to deal with things that come up is to laugh it off and try to find the humor in it.
Keep the big picture in mind when you are faced with challenges. Try to analyze the why, and give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t overthink things. (I have trouble with this one! I am a champion over-thinker, but I am getting better.) Take a few deep breaths. Imagine yourself exhaling all that frustration, anger, and negative feelings, and breathing in love, joy, peace, and contentment. Try to let go of worry and count your blessings. Remember what you are grateful for. Practice some self-care or go for a walk or cup of coffee with a positive friend. Our attitudes are contagious. What kind of attitude are people going to catch from you?
If you would like to be reminded of these tips, I have a printable for you in the freebie library to hang where you can see it.