It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.” Robert H. Schuller
We’ve all heard the phrases, “stay positive” and “have a positive outlook on life.” Sounds great, right? What does that really mean? What does having a positive mindset look like, sound like, and feel like? And if it sounds so easy, why is it so hard to do? This blog post explores what it truly means to stay positive and why it matters in our lives.
First, a distinction: There is a difference between being positive and being happy.
Happiness is an emotion. It is a state of well-being and contentment when we are having a pleasurable experience. Eating an ice cream cone on a hot summer day can produce a feeling of happiness; so can receiving an award for winning the chess tournament. We are flooded with pleasure and feelings of happy joy. However, when circumstances change, the feeling of happiness evaporates.
Positivity is a way of being. It is a way of engaging with life’s circumstances knowing that no matter the circumstance, it has value and meaning. Positivity is engaging with life with the mindset that we can grow and learn from everything. No matter what life throws at us, we dive in knowing that we will emerge wiser, more alive, and more fully human.
Think about it. Would you rather go through your days wallowing in misery when life smacks you in the head, or would you rather use it to come out with greater capacity for living?
Research supports the benefits of approaching life with a positive mindset. According to the Mayo Clinic, staying positive boosts our health and resilience! Examples include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
- Now that you know being positive is a good thing, let’s take a closer look.
Positive Psychology is a field which studies the strengths and capabilities that enable us to not just endure, but to thrive. Some of these capabilities are “the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom” (Positive Psychology Center).
These positive traits are about how we view life, how we approach life’s situations, and our mental framework. It’s choosing to see value, truth, and meaning in everything that happens to us.
When we can find meaning and the opportunity to learn from our circumstances, we develop those traits that help us stay positive.
No matter where you are in your life, you can develop the capability to see things in a positive light. It goes without saying that some things are easy, and others are extremely difficult. It is important to acknowledge and honor your life’s journey so far. You are already a winner if you’ve made it this far! Go easy on yourself as you begin the journey to approach life with new (positive) eyes.
How To Get Started
Take stock of how you have approached things so far. Make a list of things that have happened to you recently, the “good” and the difficult or “bad”. Think back to your mood and your emotion, and write down what you felt. Write down how long it lasted as well.
We all experience emotions; when they become long-lasting, it’s a mood. If you remember the self-talk, note the things you told yourself (that’s an important one). Next, write down how you went through the situation.
Some examples of questions to ask
-become paralyzed with fear?
-power through it?
-talk about it with someone?
Reflect on what you have done so far in response to situations. After a while, you will notice patterns. Evaluate where you approached a situation with a positive mindset, and when you approached it with a negative one – remember to go easy on yourself and silence negative thoughts.
Choose one of the traits in the “positive psychology” section above that calls to you. Which trait would you like more of to stay positive? Don’t think too much or over-analyze; one will call to something inside you that says, I want more of that. You might also think of another approach that you would like to integrate into your life, such as seeing humor in situations or tapping into your spiritual belief. Start small with one trait, and add on when the opportunity presents itself.
Make a commitment to yourself. Write it down and say it out loud: “I commit to staying positive by choosing _______.” Review it every morning and again at the end of the day to keep it fresh in your mind.
Notice when a situation arises where you can put the positive approach to work. This part takes being in the present moment; see previous blog articles for more on this topic. When you notice a situation and your “old” response, call on that trait and deliberately choose to act from that place. Focus on your body, your mind, your emotions, and your intention. Take action from this new place and notice what happens.
Recognize, honor, and celebrate your positive approach. You did it! That’s a big positive that deserves recognition. Staying positive is an intentional, moment-to-moment way of being and living. It takes time to learn and put new habits into practice. Keep at it, and acknowledge your efforts. Staying positive builds upon itself over time. You will notice small gains at first; the more you adopt a positive approach, the more it will become a part of you.
Staying positive has tremendous power to improve your health, your well-being, and your quality of life. Tap into this power and reap the positive results!
For more information, and a step-by-step approach to becoming positive and filling your life with positivity, take a look at my book, Positive Thinking. I walk you through how you can completely change your life from having a negative mindset and seeing the glass half empty, to one that is fulfilling, and vibrant with a positive mindset. Click here to take a look.