Updated: Oct 8, 2018
A great blogpost from a NYC pastor’s wife struck a deep chord with me. It made me think how negativity and a critical attitude is like a poison. It colors every thing we think, say or do. It can be a controlling, unseen force that we don’t even realize. I’ve noticed more and more how prevalent it is in our society today. Snarky cynicism seems to be the lay of the land. I find I can sink down into it like a comfortable chair and just commiserate forever. How can a girl stay positive?!
Why does it take such a conscious effort, to choose to say no to negativity? Listen, no one is perfect. There are people I know who have been through hell and back and still move forward with a hopeful and grateful heart-attitude. There is concrete, scientific evidence how our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative experiences. It’s a mechanism the brain uses as self-preservation.
Throughout the years, I’ve met folks that were upbeat, positive people. Being around them, showed how I saw life through a negative lens. Native New Yorkers that we are, can be a disadvantage. Between the stressors of busy lifestyles to living in overpopulated areas to economic pressures, we have a lot to be stressed and negative about.
People who flourish are those that can create positive emotions from everyday activities. Repeated, brief moments of positivity can shield us from depression and foster a healthy physical and mental state. It’s impossible to remain upbeat on a consistent basis. Chronically viewing the glass as half-empty is not only harmful, it can affect one’s ability to rebound from the inevitable stressors of life.
I read that we can retrain the brain to scan for the good things in life - to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy and to succeed at higher levels. I read in a NYTimes article that the brain has been proven to be able to rewire it’s circuitry to have more positive responses. A person can become more aware and actually learn to look for positive aspects in life, fighting off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for and spot the negatives. We can practice certain skills that foster positivity. I love that!
Here are some ways described in the article that can foster positive emotions:
Do good things for other people. It not only makes you feel good, but you are making others happy as well. It always feels good to help my little elderly neighbor bring in her groceries or take her to the doctor when she needs a ride.
Learn to appreciate your surroundings. Nature, whether a walk in the park, bird-watching or a beautiful sunset, can lift your spirits.
Develop closer relationships. We were not made for solitude. Loneliness factors greatly into physical health. Building strong connections with friends and family members helps with feelings of self-worth.
Learn something new. I love people who broaden their horizons. Whether it is taking a painting class, a creative writing course or learning an instrument, trying something new can bring a sense of great achievement and self-confidence.
Be kind to yourself. Self-care is a huge deal. Take care of you: a massage, getting your nails or hair done, resting and re-creating. Listening to favorite music can also put you in an upbeat mood. Prayer and meditating on scripture can do wonders to change an attitude.
Become resilient. I love this verse in the Bible. It shows how to make lemonade when life hands you lemons. It’s what I rely on when the “going gets tough”. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling short-changed. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (The Message Version)
Try any or all of the above suggestions. I have found them to be invaluable when I need an “attitude adjustment”. Staying positive is not only good for your health but it’s wonderful to be around people who are positive. Another version of the passage above says the inevitable outcome produces hope in you. Boy, we need a little hope in this world right now, wouldn’t you agree? 😉