When I was 13 years old, I had an epiphany. While listening to my mom and dad bickering, I observed that my mom was a pessimist and my dad was an optimist. I decided in that moment to be more like my dad. I chose optimism, and pretty soon thereafter, it wasn’t a choice anymore. It’s who I became and it’s who I am.
I’m certain we all know people who come across as pessimists. You can call them glass-half-empty, or naysayers, or just plain miserable. They say things like, “with my luck . . .” or they cite the infamous “Murphy’s Law.” Regardless, it just rubs me the wrong way. And sometimes, just to balance things out, I find myself becoming Super Nancy Sunshine,likely to an annoying degree.
There are about a gazillion books, memes, websites, Facebook Groups, and Tweets devoted to positive thinking. Do we all really need constant reminders? Research shows that positive people are literally healthier, live longer, and bring joy to others. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is a direct link between positive emotions and lower blood pressure, better blood sugar levels, less risk of heart disease, and a longer life. If you believe, as I do, that positive thinking is a choice, why would anyone choose to be negative?
I know for sure that positive thinking contributes to my overall state of happiness. And while the word “gratitude” seems to be ubiquitous these days (I just love the word “ubiquitous!), there’s no doubt that being grateful for the people and things in my life contributes to the quality of my relationships.
I know, I know, some negative people prefer to label themselves as “realists.” I’m not buying it. What does that even mean? A realist might argue the point that bad things happen. Of course they do. And so do good things. Would you rather focus on the remote possibility that the airplane you’re about to board might crash? Or are you choosing to look at the overwhelming statistics about airline safety?
Have you ever consciously or deliberately switched the trajectory of your negative thoughts?
In my mediation practice, I often ask my clients to take an extra moment to choose the best words to convey their thoughts. The same ability to choose your words can apply to the words you tell yourself. Self-talk is how you can change a negative thought into a positive one. Using an airplane disaster as an example, how would you change the question, “what if the plane crashes?” into a positive statement? I would tell myself, “this plane has been thoroughly checked out, and I will be safe.”
If you are simply in the habit of thinking about what could go wrong or what is wrong, I wish you wouldn’t acquiesce to it. Even Dr. Phil suggests that we can replace bad habits with good ones. I trained myself a long time ago. You can too.