A couple of years ago, I posted a blog about having a positive attitude, and I think it’s appropriate to revisit this today. I previously shared an epiphany I had as a teenager when I realized that my dad was an optimist and my mom was a pessimist. I thought, way back then, that it was a choice and so I chose to be an optimist. I still think it’s a choice, and with so much uncertainty and unrest in the world, I’d like to urge anyone who’s reading this to make that choice right now. If you’re still skeptical, please keep reading.
I’m certain we all know people who we identify 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.
There are about a gazillion books, memes, websites, Facebook Groups, and Tweets devoted to positive thinking. Evidently, most of us need constant reminders about this, in spite of the fact that research shows 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 contribute to the quality of all of my relationships, whether personal or professional.
Some negative people prefer to label themselves as “realists,” and 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?
In my mediation practice, I often ask my clients to take an extra moment to choose better words to convey their thoughts. “Say it another way” is what I frequently tell them. The same choice 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? The words I’d choose would be more like “this plane has been thoroughly checked out, and I will be safe.”
Have you ever consciously or deliberately switched the trajectory of your negative thoughts? What triggered the flipping of your switch? And how did it work out for you?
Words absolutely matter! I wish we all (me, included) would take an extra moment to choose them.
As one of my students said, just get a smaller glass!
Smart student! Or maybe I should say smart-aleck student?
I really think some of it could be learned behavior. If you are in a family with negative thinking people and on a daily basis, it is hard to see that there can be another way to think about it. The cycle has to be broke at some point and it is up to each of us to make the decision to break it. “If you can’t change the people, change the people!”
Very interesting perspective. Step 1 would be observing the negativity. Step 2 would be to make the choice to either change yourself or “change the people.” Seems like it might be easier, in most cases, to change yourself.
I really enjoyed reading this article. Sometimes it’s difficult to be positive – especially nowadays. I just try to push the negativity and worry out of my mind. I am grateful for all the things I am blessed with. I remind myself everyday of the good things in my life.
You understand 100% how to flip the switch! Than you for sharing how you do it!