I know what you’re thinking… “Oh goodness, another blog all about ‘wishful thinking.’” Or maybe you’re assuming positive people are simply in denial. To be honest, there was a time in my life when I felt like that too. I felt like, any given day, everything could go wrong, no matter how “positive” I pretended to be. It had to be true–I experienced it firsthand!
Within a three month span in 2010, my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), my grandfather and my dog passed away, a few relationships in my life were on the rocks, and I felt absolutely helpless. I kept thinking, “Why me?” and “Why now?” It seemed like negativity was a dark cloud following me like a shadow, just itching to push through my seemingly unstable positive attitude. To make things worse, I told everyone “I’m fine.” But it was way too obvious; between my academics, work, and sports, everything around me was suffering and my friendships were far from perfect.
Finally, a close friend sat me down and said, “Brooke, can I ask you a question?”
“I want you to know that I’m saying this with love (that made me nervous!). Please tell me how being negative is going to help your mom? Do you think being negative will bring back your grandfather? Or your dog? Do you think that being pessimistic about everything is going to help your relationship with your boyfriend? Or with me? I love you too much to let you ruin your life by focusing on the negatives. You are the only one who decides what is “negative” or “positive” in your life. You seem to be forgetting about all the things you are blessed with every single day.”
I sat and stared at her quietly… my life had just changed.
Today, I try to connect with people who are stuck in my 2010 mindset. I want everyone to know the freedom that comes with a positive outlook on life. If I’m able to help even one person the way my friend helped me, I would feel a great sense of fulfillment. In my opinion, that’s how to live a life worth living.
We’re Wired for Negativity… What Gives?!
I understand that our brains are “wired” towards negativity; we’re built for survival. If our brains weren’t built this way, we wouldn’t have made it this far as a species. Can you imagine our ancestors looking at a saber toothed tiger in the distance and thinking, “Oh my, what a pretty cat. I think I’ll try to pet it.” NO WAY! Instead, their brains said, “That thing is going to kill me… I need to run or I’m going to die.” Heck, they ran if they “thought” something was a threat–that’s our basic human instinct. It was an error they couldn’t afford to make.
Unfortunately, our brains still work this way. We tend to focus on negativity for survival; but now, it’s just emotionally draining. Yes, we’re wired for negativity, but that simply means we have to put a conscious effort into breaking that pattern in the right circumstances.
Train Your Brain to Stay Positive
At the end of the day, you have to make a conscious effort to live a truly positive life. Recognizing when you are experiencing negative thoughts or emotions is very important. Without judging your thoughts too much, let them come and go, and learn to understand what makes you think negatively. You’re not going to eliminate negativity from your life altogether–having bad thoughts is part of the spectrum of emotions we all experience. But you don’t have to let that negativity dictate your life so much.
Consciously catching yourself in a negative state and being aware of this creates mindfulness. Being mindful with intent is a powerful tool to create a healthy emotional environment for yourself and those around you. Here are some things I do–and would suggest you try–to stay mindful and create positive environments in my life.
- Make a list of things that bring you the MOST joy or happiness. Also, ask yourself how much time you spend doing that each day/week. If you’re spending less than one hour per week doing those things… make the time! It’s important to put yourself first sometimes.
- Keep a “Daily Gratitude Journal” – This could be anything… I love tracking the little things, for example. The first snowfall of the season, a genuine smile from a stranger, being appreciative for your job or the roof over your head. It does not have to be anything massive; small, joyful things happen to all of us every day and we often fail to recognize them. If you wait for big events or accomplishments to happen to be happy, you’re unrealistically setting expectations. Learn to take joy in everyday things, and you’ll start to feel that appreciation on a more consistent basis.
- Find meaning in your life and in your work. Why do you wake up every morning? Try to refrain from negative thoughts at work and understand the importance of sharing joy with those around you. It might take some time, but I believe what goes around comes around; you are going to get this back if you are persistent!
- Say goodbye to “what if” thoughts! Why waste your day thinking “what if?” Revise that question to be “How can I?” Altering the way you ask a question can have an enormous effect on the way you approach a situation and, at the end of the day, can have a tremendous impact on the end result.
- THE GOLDEN RULE – Be kind to others. We’re all in this together, so even when you are going through personal loss or pain, you must concentrate on helping others, giving, or radiating positivity to those around you. You never know what someone else is going through, so if you’re able to say or do something positive for someone else, you never know the impact that will have on them. This will also help keep your mind occupied and bring you happiness because of the gifts you are sharing – I think you’ll find it starts to become addictive 🙂
This is by no means an “All-Inclusive” list. There are countless things you can do. Trial and error is great. Find what works for you and stick with it!
Wrapping It Up!
Trust me, I know these things are not easy… but they can be life-changing. Just like establishing healthy fitness and nutritional habits, being mindful takes a consistent, non-judgmental effort. Your thoughts become your reality, so as long as you can consistently put your thoughts in the right place, your reality will follow.
Although I still have SO MUCH to learn, I have learned that I control me. I control my thoughts, actions and reactions. Owning this has empowered me as an individual, and I want that for each and every one of you. Life is too short to let negativity fog your mind so often. Live, laugh, love, and be grateful!
Applied Fitness Solutions