How to Be Positive (or Give It a Damn Good Shot)
Since I wrote my #BellLetsTalk post the other day I've had tons of people reach out and share their experiences with me - largely stating that they, too, struggle with feelings of negativity and often have a hard time not getting overwhelmed with negativity.
I really, really struggle with negativity. I'm was raised to be a pessimist and to always look on the bad side of a situation. My first reaction to pretty much anything that stresses me out is to get my back up and start spiraling mentally into a black hole of what if's and this is terrible's.
So as a bit of a follow-up to that post I wanted to share a few of the steps that I've taken (and currently practice) to try and cope with my negativity and be more positive.
I remember dating a guy who, years ago, went on a huge rant about how a friend-of-a-friend changed his whole outlook on life because he made himself smile all the time. I thought he was a total whacko, and while his story might be a slight exaggeration, there's science behind the fact that smiling makes you feel happier and I can personally attest to the fact that smiling, even when I'm sitting around and typing something makes you feel happier.
Focus on positive speech
I wrote a post a few months back about my efforts to remove negative words from my vocabulary and I'm happy to report that not only have I been successful, but that I've been able to encourage other people in my life to start curbing their use of hurtful words as well.
However, because of my anxiety I still routinely refer to myself as being "stupid" - as in "I can't believe I forgot that, I'm so stupid!" which has got to stop. I know it, I'm working on it, and if you find yourself doing the same thing, try and catch yourself when you think it or say it aloud.
There are enough people in the world who are going to put you down, there's no need for you to help them out.
Additionally, try to focus on talking about positive topics and ideas. Venting about your tough day or that thing that your partner did that pissed you off might feel good in the moment, but vocalizing it adds more value than it probably deserves, and only serves to reinforce the negative things that you feel.
Focus on the good around you
A lot of advice of this nature will tell you to keep a journal of things that you're thankful for, but if you're like me and feel a bit silly doing it, just make a point to try and find things that make you smile, or small positives throughout your day.
For me, a big part of being able to maintain this kind of thinking is my partner, John. We both vocalize the good things in our lives often, and probably say things like "I'm so lucky for XYZ" a few times a day. Personally, my Instagram #Project365 is also making me take a more critical look at the world around me - instead of going to and from places, I'm actively looking for things to photograph and admire and share. It's been a lot of fun, and it keeps me mindful of my surroundings.
Ditch the cynics
Do you have friends that just love to sit around making super-snarky comments about how awful the world is, how much their life sucks, and how nobody "gets them, man"? Yeah, we all have at one point or another, but in order to start leading happier, more productive lives we need to rid ourselves of those bad influences.
This can be incredibly hard to do, especially if you've got a super-tight circle of friends. I was fortunate in that I lost almost all of the negative people I knew as the result of a breakup, which forced me to take a long, hard look at the attitude and lifestyle habits that I had developed as a result of those influences.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am, and it can be hard to start putting distance between yourself and those negative people, but once you start spending your time with more positive, energetic, driven individuals you'll find that your attitude changes naturally over time. It can seem intimidating at first, but actively making an effort to hang out with more positive people will result in a more positive you.
Sweat it out
I'm not saying start drinking protein powder for every meal and putting on massive gainz at the gym, but exercising releases feel-good chemicals and makes you happier, it helps relieve stress and your body will look smokin' hot if you keep at it long enough.
If you're like me it can be hard to find exercise that doesn't feel like a drag after the first 30 seconds (I lift weights, mostly, because cardio gets boring fast). Most people just default to cardio because it seems like the go-to exercise, but there are so many other ways to get your heart racing - check out your local gym for classes, cycle around outside, go swimming, whatever!
Pay it forward
Being nice to other people makes you feel good. I'm not saying that you have to volunteer at a soup kitchen every night of the week (though if you want to that's cool, too) but doing small things like smiling at people on the street or holding doors open for strangers really make a difference in someone else's life and make you feel fabulous as well.
One thing I always make a point to do it thank my bus drivers. I commute via transit during the winter months and always make a point to thank the drivers if I'm exiting the bus at the front door. Think about it: these people basically drive in giant circles all day so that you can go to and from where you need to be. It's a pretty important job when you think about it, so I always let them know I appreciate it.
Remember, it takes time
These tips won't always work. There will be days when you feel blue, get the Mean Reds, or just need to bitch it out over a cocktail with friends. That's totally okay. Becoming a more positive person isn't going to happen overnight, and the effort and things you learn as you grow will help contribute to long-term happiness. Give yourself a break and smile.
What about you? Do you have any tricks for staying positive? Let me know!