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?