By Christine Hennebury
Have you ever confused negativity with just being realistic, believing somehow that seeing the downside of every situation is facing life as it really is? In truth, negativity is nothing more than a bad habit — and once you un-learn it, the resulting self-esteem boost and newfound ability to cope with the challenges in your life will convince you that being more positive is well worth the effort!
Choose your own perspective. We are bombarded with negative attitudes daily — so it’s no wonder that we internalize it. The danger is that we don't even realize that we have done so, and we start to believe our negative thoughts are “the way things are” instead of a mere interpretation. This reaction is so automatic that we don't even realize it has happened and we allow the negative interpretation to frame our reality. Instead of giving in to negativity, we need to learn to choose a positive interpretation of our lives and let that perspective guide us.
Be conscious. We often accept critique from ourselves and others without question. Before you accept self-critique or critique from others, put the comment in perspective. Would you let someone say that about a friend of yours? Could the speaker have their own agenda (conscious or unconscious)? Start listening carefully and assessing these comments before you accept them as truth, and make the decision as to whether you'll let them frame your reality rather than letting it happen automatically.
Use your subconscious. Your subconscious needs work to do, and unless you feed it lots of positivity, it will mull over all the negativity you have absorbed until you begin to view the world through the negative lens. Instead of being down on yourself —negative self-talk like “I can't boil water without burning it” — try re-framing your sentence: “I use some healthy convenience foods in order to create nutritious meals for my family, so I have lots of time to spend enjoying it,”' or “People always ask me to choose the restaurant because I have such good taste.”
Surround yourself with positive people. Try to find people who react positively to life and cultivate friendships with them. People who only see the downside are tiring and can drag you down. You probably can't avoid all the negative people in your life, but you can counteract the effects they have on your attitude by also spending time with positive people. And once you have your positive attitude firmly entrenched, you can respond to their negative comments by changing the subject or by saying “Let's not get into that — it's too depressing.”
Take positive steps
• Keep a compliments book. Every time someone gives you a compliment, write about it in a journal so that when you’re feeling low you can take a look and get a boost.
• Surround yourself with positive company.
• Write down an affirmative statement: “I am a physically fit, quick-witted person who loves to read and who cares deeply for my family,” or something similar that makes you feel good about yourself. Keep your affirmation somewhere where you can read it easily and often.
• Take time for yourself. Make a list of five small things to do that energize you and make you feel good about yourself. When you feel negativity overtaking you, try one of them!
• Exercise. Even small amounts of exercise help you to boost your endorphins and help you feel better about the world.
Cultivating a positive outlook doesn't mean you have to be a Pollyanna all the time — after all, bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes you won’t accomplish all that you set out to do. Just keep setbacks and failures in perspective, instead of imagining that negativity is a pattern in your life, and you’ll be able to keep a positive outlook throughout life’s ups and downs.
© Christine Hennebury
Christine Hennebury is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. More of her writing is available at http://www.mombie.com.