We are all way too familiar with the term positivity and positive thinking. One can’t even see three pictures even on social media before bumping into dozens of positivity posts. It has become one of the trendy buzz words, hashtag, and a popular escape thing to say to people around us. We start conversations with things like:
“Things are not well, but I’m trying to be positive”, or console each other with “let’s have positive attitude”. Is there any truth in it?
We live in a world where the time is the most precious thing to have, and everything moves with the speed of light, one moment we are reeling from the devastating news of death, wars, and diseases, and the next minute we are happily engaged in the chitchat gossip of celebrity life, viral social media posts, and let’s not forget the adorable cat pictures floating everywhere. Who wouldn’t love those, after all they are the epiphany of positivity motivators.
But how easy is it to make our minds become positive? What is it anyway to be positive and think positively?! Is it even good, or helpful to have better attitude, better days, finding better solutions?! And if the answer is yes, then how do you learn to become a positive thinker?!
Let’s speak honestly though, we all are humans, and we all go through ups and downs of life, and we live in a society which constantly tells us that everything will be fine, that things happen for a reason, to get on with it, to be positive and if things are going wrong, then your negative mind is attracting negative vibe from the universe. We even scold our children with words like wipe off your nose, chin up, be a man, don’t be a girl, be a big girl, big girls don’t cry etc. so we teach ourselves to sink into denial of reality, to things happening to us and to people we love and care. We master the pretence of being ok and being positive that we ignore our true feelings, true emotions.
But what happens when the true feelings and painful emotions do not go away, that it becomes a struggle, and alienates us from our friends, families, and wider society?
We falter, because if we don’t deal with our emotional pain and push aside our human experience, we end up developing internal struggle to cope. So instead of dealing with an unpleasant situation, we spend all our energy pretending that the problem doesn’t exist.
Do you just pretend that things are great, or do you delve into the reality and find out what is happening around you and to you?
In truth, I often struggle with such beaming positivity, my hard-wired realist and slightly sceptical nature always weighs up the pros and cons, especially the cons. Leaving the comforts of my familiar environment at a young age made me rely on my meticulous judgment of situations, risk aversion plans and make my life as safe as possible. It made me a bit of an overthinker too, but it has always helped me to make more or less good decisions.
Popular myth, the idea of this holy grail that we all should strive to become positive, and happiness as a goal is not supported by research.
If we set happiness as a goal, over time it sets us to fail, because as it happens, the happiness is a bypass product, not an end goal. Striving to think positively do not heal the pain, nor does preaching to be positive can actually teach you to become one.
So, what to do then?! In reality ‘positive thinking’ does not and should not omit the acceptance of bad things or negative things happening in your life. But instead, it should include how to better cope, how not to lose faith in goodness in the world, and hope for change. And it takes hard work discipline and practice. There is no magic way of waking up in the morning as a positive person. Believe me! I tried and waited for that miracle…
Develop solid healthy habits
Mine is running, when I run, things immediately change in colour, shape, and nature in my heart. I also find that when my eating habits are out of control, somehow it really affects my mood negatively even more. But I will talk about it in another post.
Empathy is an important nutrient for your soul. Always practice empathy. For yourself and for other people around you. By using empathy, you will understand that you are not a lonely soul, nor is your situation the worst one. And there is always a way out even when it feels like you are in the eye of a tornado at the moment. No need to whip yourself out of guilt or shame, remember you can’t change the past. Don’t say things to yourself which you wouldn’t say to people you care about.
Like I said above, the good place to start thinking positively is to accept that there is nothing much positive about this certain stage of your life. Whatever might be your dilemma; family issues, broken heart, loss of a loved one, financial problems, health issues, workplace bulling, being stuck in a rut… Just by accepting that your situation is not ideal at the moment, that it feels like your world is falling apart, that you feel pain in the places you never knew existed before, you can stop being in denial. Blame, guilt, anger, and sense of unfairness, they all accompany the devastation of a bad stage in life. Once you accept that all, you can then make some head space to think what you can focus on, and which feeling should be prioritised. Keep busy, have your mind occupied with work, study, or whatever routine you have going. Do it with discipline, it still may hurt or feel uncomfortable, but the pain will slowly get duller, anger will subdue and so on. One day you won’t feel so negatively about that particular painful experience anymore.
Cut or reduce toxic relationships.
Well, this is a bit tricky, the advice is to cut friends who consistently pull you down, make you feel insecure etc. I once had to cut my best friend loose, because we were not on the same page anymore. It hurt like hell, considering all the breakups I had, that one hurt the most, because I really loved her. Of course, years later we rebounded again, although the quality of the friendship is not the same, the new boundaries keep our relationship healthy. So, you can permanently or temporarily cut them off, it won’t be easy, but it is doable. The hardest part is when the negativity and toxic relationship come from your own family. It is much harder to cut your mother, father, or siblings off. So, what to do then? According to my observations, of the worst mental duress and negative conditioning came from the closest family members. Especially almost all the women I met had some kind of negative baggage from their mothers, fathers, or siblings. Although many women still prefer not to share such experiences out loud for fears of stigma and embarrassment, worst of the mental, physical, and sexual abuse also were caused by close or more distant family members.
Of course, then, these events would shape their entire outlook in life, their trust, coping mechanisms, mental health, future relationships, and confidence. Those experiences cannot be easily brushed off with the breeze of positivity as they suggest. However, by actively choosing to move forward and choosing to be happy, one can find some level of peace. For those who are struggling to cope, I strongly recommend seeking help from mental health specialists. Moreover, if you can, use regular therapy as a maintenance, once you get to a good place with your recovery.
Practice Regular Meditation.
Meditation also has become an all too often repeated trend. But I swear it works. People who never tried it before, like me before I tried, might imagine it as something only regular practitioners of yoga, and bearded Indian gurus and Buddhist monks do it weirdly folded positions. No, it couldn’t be further away from the truth. Meditation has many levels and layers. The basic one is just to connect with your breath. We know that whenever we are emotional, our heartbeat changes, our breathing accelerates, the face gets flushed, and the muscles become tense. These are also the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks when we think we lost control of certain situations or of our lives. Just by connecting with your senses, breathing deeply in and out, focusing on your present surroundings, your sense of smell, vision, and touch, you can slow down the racing mind. Mastering the connection with your present is a great power and it gives you the biggest tool to take back control over your thoughts and emotions. And that is very important to change the course of your thinking from painful to pain free, from negative to positive to put you back to the present. The more you practice it, better you master the meditation.
Last but not least, being positive is not something which should force you to block your pain, your trauma, and your bad experience. It is a state of mind which gives you ‘despite things are not going so well right now, I will be alright, I can change this, I got this’ attitude. And believing that even when you don’t want to wake up to face the world or do some serious damage to everyone who hurt you, deep down you know that you can fix it, and choose happiness over and over again. To me, that is a damn good place of positivity!