Life is full of challenges. Some we choose for ourselves, others are forced upon us. The difference between those who succeed in life and those who don’t, is how they choose to deal with these challenges. A lot of that will come down to the way each person thinks. This is where having a positive attitude comes in. I believe this to be one of the key contributing factors to living a happy, fulfilled, successful life. Let me try to tell you why in the most non fluffy and unpatronising way possible……….
WHAT IS POSITIVITY?
There are two aspects to this. What comes to mind first for most people on this subject are positive emotions, such as happiness, contentment, joy, serenity and gratitude. This is what creates many of the benefits that numerous research studies have shown can be gained from positivity. However what it means to me is a state of mind. It’s a whole different way of thinking and looking at your day to day life. It is not a fleeting emotion that lasts for a small part of your day when all things align perfectly. It is something that, the most of us, won’t come naturally.
Positivity is making the conscious decision to be the happiest person you can be in your life and then doing something pro-active about it. This means looking for the good in all situations, even when it’s hard. Try to accept the bad things that have happened and rather than dwelling on them, allowing them to fill your life with negativity, actively choose to move on. Find any small positive thing that can be taken from it i.e something you have learnt, a new friend, the kindness of others, experience. Take this thing and then close the door on the other bad emotions and focus instead on the future and what steps need to be taken to make life better NOW.WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Through a mixture of personal experience and research these are the commonly accepted benefits of positivity.
- Achieving life goals whether they are personal or career based.
- Accelerated learning levels and an increase in opportunities through opening the mind to the idea of new things.
- Health benefits such as lower cholesterol, stronger immune system, increased life span. There is a strong link between positive people and those who make the effort to look after their body with daily exercise and a balanced diet.
- Building better connections with others. A positive person will have relaxed and happy body language that subconsciously translates to a welcoming, open persona that others will want to be around.
- Greater levels of self confidence as positivity trains the brain to believe in your own abilities.
- Positive people will often prove the most resilient in tough situations. Positive thoughts are a direct counter to stress.
- This way of thinking allows a person to see the broader picture giving an increased ability to solve problems.
HOW TO BE POSITIVE
I am of course no psychologist, life guru or even wise person so all I can share with you here is a bit of my own advice. These are the methods I found useful when trying to train myself to think with a positive mindset.
The most important step is to identify what activities make you truly happy. This could be anything from running, hiking, socializing with friends, spending time with your kids, dancing, riding etc and make time for at least a little of these every day. It has to be something that makes you truly, joyfully happy though not just “ooohhh this is nice!” It is easier to build on positive emotions when you have an understanding and regular reminder of what they are and what makes you feel that way.
Take a moment from your day now to think about what is good in your life? What are you truly grateful for? Make a note of these ideally on paper or your phone or just in your head. When you start to get down and negative about life look back on this list and be grateful for a moment.
The hardest but most effective tool that I used was learning to control my mind from wandering to negative thought patterns. I did this building a selection of good things I could think about. So first I built myself a mantra, or saying that I would repeat to myself. Then I used my imagination to build a picture of myself in 5 years time where I wanted my life to be. This is, of course a totally personal thing, your image could be anything so long as it depicts what you are aiming for. e.g finishing a marathon, riding your mountain bike like a pro, on holiday with your friends, in a park with your family.The final tool is to have a plan for how to achieve your goal, with many small baby steps along the way. The baby steps are important, they must be relatively easily achievable so that atleast once a week you can realistically achieve one of them giving yourself a positive boost towards your goal. To recap my little, think positive pro-active, mind control process goes like this-
Negative thought – Repeat Mantra – Visualise my goal – Focus on the plan – Recap mini goals achieved so far – Aim for the next mini step.
WHAT POSITIVITY DOES NOT MEAN
During my research for this post I came across a good few sites down talking the benefits of positivity and whilst I entirely don’t agree, as when positivity is used correctly I dont see how it can be anything but a good thing in a person’s life. It did however highlight how, as with anything some people can manage to take it too far. So here are a few pointers of ways not to use positivity.
- You will not immediately be able to do anything just by repeatedly telling yourself you are great! To run a marathon you need to train, to do well at work you must work hard, to gain peoples respect you must earn it.
- Similarly you will not whizz that job interview or exam by believing you will. Preparation is still the most important factor.
- You cannot blithely ignore life’s dangers, you will still break and health checks are necessary.
- Positivity will not work for everyone, some people are just pessimists and that works for them. Respect that everyone is different.
I much prefer the advice of my old basketball coach Mr Yule –
” There is no such word as CAN’T”
I must have been around 13 when he first told me that and I have never forgotten it. He often proved me wrong and we won many a competition under his guidance so I can’t help but think he might have been onto something. The underlying foundation of a positive attitude is self belief. You have to believe in yourself that you can achieve your goals and then take that one step further by being proactive to strive towards making those dreams a reality. I have entered my first full marathon now and I just know a positive attitude is going to be one of the most important assets in getting me round that hilly Dartmoor course.
Don’t get me wrong here, I have by no means mastered truly being positive all the time. I still have negative days, I dont always achieve my goals, I have days when I just can’t be bothered with anything. I don’t think it’s a case of denying the fact that we will sometimes feel this way. The idea is simply to not let these feelings rule your life and prevent you from being the happiest person you can be. So try it, make today the day you work out what truly makes you happy.