The question of how much of our own happiness is within our control has been often asked. Nurture or nature? Circumstance or mind set? Why do different people react to the same situation in different ways? Why are some people negatively affected by a situation that doesn’t seem to even register with others?
The positivity trend, and positive mind set, have a huge role to play in helping us achieve greater wellbeing and happiness. Here are some practical ways to help cultivate a more positive outlook.
What we talk about grows
So it makes sense that if we switch from talking about what went wrong, to what went right, then we start to grow the positive and diminish the negative. The first step of course is to notice when you start, or participate in, negative conversations. The second step is to either excuse yourself from them or change their direction.
For example, we all know the person who can’t wait to tell you who’s died/become ill/ended up in hospital. Yes, there might be an element of care for those other people, wanting to make others aware so they can offer help and support, but these type of conversation also end up spreading negativity and making others feel down/bad. Notice how you feel during these conversations. If it’s an energy drain, then maybe turn the conversation around by asking what you can do to help. Taking positive action to help means you get to take back control of the conversation, it ceases to be gossip, a spreading of negativity, and instead starts to be a way to spread positivity.
What we think about grows
Just as above, if the conversations you’re having with yourself, in your own head, are negatively focused, then guess how you’re going to feel? These internal conversations can be far harder to notice and so change.
One tip is to write, or speak (say into a voice recorder), freely, without self censorship. This could be if you’re stuck making a specific decision, or if you feel ‘off’ but can’t quite identify why. Letting your thoughts out in this way not only allows you to see/hear them, but it also allows you to notice any that are particularly negative/unhelpful. Once they’re identified, it is far easier to question them. Again notice how those negative self talk opinions make you feel. Ask yourself if they’re really true. If they are, ask yourself what you can do to change that situation. And then do so. If they’re not, then call yourself out on it. Ask yourself if continuing to hold that opinion benefits you, and if it doesn’t, discard it. And then importantly notice when it comes up again (it probably will!), and laugh it out.
What we focus on grows
As above really, our focus can be in conversation, inner dialogue or external stimulus. For example, the news is pretty dire most of the time. You don’t have to watch/listen to it though. If it’s having a negative impact on you, switch it off. Or maybe actively read the positive news papers/articles available (e.g. http://www.positive.news). Social media can have a negative influence too, but often in a different way. Here the issue is often with negatively comparing yourself to others. If it’s negatively affecting you, consider leaving it alone, or vastly reducing your usage. There are many people whose entire presence on social media is to post positive and encouraging messages. Perhaps consider following these people/sites so your social media feeds become one long positivity boost.
In most situations, it is possible to find something to be grateful for. Recognising this can help shift the focus and bring in positivity. Documenting the things you are grateful for by writing them down can be a powerful way to shift your focus onto the positive. Maybe get a group together who you can share your daily gratitudes with. This not only helps you keep on track with documenting them (nothing like the accountability of others to keep you going!), but also increases the positive conversational interactions you have.
I personally feel that negativity stands little chance in the face of positive action. When you’re feeling down or in a situation that is making you feel down, ask yourself what you can do to change this.
Sometimes it’ll be self distraction, the technique parents everywhere deploy with toddlers. Get up and go for a walk, change the setting, find someone to share a joke with and have a laugh, book yourself a massage 🙂 , smile at someone, make a cup of tea, have a bath, put some music on and have a dance/sing along, start the next activity/thing on your to do list and revisit your current one later, read a book, have a lie down – whatever it is that at that moment is doable and will bring you joy.
Sometimes it’s recognising that the thing you’re worrying about you have literally no control over, so it’s time to lay that worry down. If it’s not something you have control over, then it’s not something to worry about. If it is something you have control over, then take the action required, and the worrying stops.
Daily life is full of choices, and how you view your life is a massive choice that many make unconsciously. From the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall back asleep, you have choices to make.
Many of these choices are practical, for example what to have for tea, when to cross the road, but all have a mental choice/attitude connected with them. If making the tea is a chore and a drag, for unappreciative kids, then it’s a negative experience. If it’s the chance to try new recipes and conjure up masterpieces (even if the audience remains unappreciative!) then it’s a positive one. The change from one to the other may well have a physical element (maybe making new dishes), but it also involves a mental shift (deciding and wanting to make new meals).
If a situation has negative feelings associated with it for you, then ask yourself what you can do to make that situation better. Where would your joy lie? A colourful pen to take notes with in the meeting? A vibrant design on your water bottle to help you drink more water? Skipping with your child on the school run? Some things we do sort of ‘have’ to do (whole different topic!), but the way we choose to approach it mentally makes the difference between the experience being a positive or negative one.
What works for one may not work for all
Finally I’d like to point out that all the ideas above are things that have worked for me, which is not to say they’ll work for you. If you find yourself feeling negative emotions, or no emotions at all, for extended periods of time, then please consider reaching out to a friend or getting medical advice and help.
If there are any topics you’d like me to cover in future blogs, please do get in contact, and connect with me over at Facebook, www.facebook.com/calmathome
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