That’s one of those bumper sticker pieces of advice that sounds simple but feels really challenging to do.
Everybody knows that thinking positive is a good thing but given the often negative climate we experience as we go about our day, lots of people seem to have a sense of irritation simmering below the surface that feeds negative thinking and eventually bubbles up into grumpy behaviour.
In part evolution is to blame for this. Human beings are instinctively tuned into negative situations. Scientists call it a negativity bias. Basically if you want to survive, you need to deal with threats quickly, so you have to be tuned into potentially negative outcomes so you can handle them.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome our negativity bias, it just means that we have to work at it.
Research has shown that in order to thrive, relationships need a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. Given that we are in relationship with everything – ourselves, our work, our social circle, our community, this isn’t just about cultivating positivity with your significant other.In order to thrive we need to cultivate positivity in all areas of our lives. Click To Tweet
In order to thrive, we need to cultivate positivity in all areas of our lives.
And there’s the problem:
Translating “thinking positive” into “being positive” seems like a chore.
The good news is that positivity exists on a continuum.
It encompasses everything from minor amusement to overflowing joy.
That means that we don’t have to wait for some flood of positive emotions in order to balance our negativity bias.
Instead we can collect up all the bits and pieces of positivity that surround us. Every day we have micro opportunities to capture positive experiences moment to moment.
Sure it’s great if you win the lottery or you get a raise or a grandchild is born.
There is power in simply paying attention to the things at the other end of the positivity continuum too.
Along with that, we can also do some really simple things that help us cultivate a greater sense of positivity.
- Read something inspiring
Take 5 minutes to read and think about something motivating. There are lots of books of daily inspiration which contain short passages to read and reflect on. Find the time that suits you best to sit quietly for a few minutes – first thing in the morning, after work or before bed. Or subscribe to a quote of the day. When it arrives in your inbox, take that as a signal to pause and soak up a little positive inspiration.
- Collect your positives
You don’t have to do a gratitude journal to capture and record positive experiences. When you notice a positive experience, write it on a small post it note and stick it on the wall. If you want, you can always jot them into a journal at the end of the day. Or write your positive on a little slip of paper and drop it into a jar on your desk or kitchen counter.
- Post positively
Social media is a hotbed of negativity. Make a conscious decision to not add to the ranting, raving, whining and complaining that happens there. Post something positive. Share a quote, photo or comment that inspires, encourages or uplifts others.
- Go for a walk
There are countless reasons why walking is good for you. Not just for your body, but also for your heart and mind. Walking boosts your mood and energy. You don’t have to go for a long walk unless you want to. Taking 5 – 10 minutes to stroll outside is a great way to pause and reset.
When you smile your body releases the neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These feel good neurochemicals help to relax our bodies and reduce stress. Not only does smiling make you happy, it’s also contagious. Smile at others and there’s a pretty good chance they will smile back at you. Not only do you get the benefit, they get it too.
We don’t have to make being positive hard or complicated.
Just like anything we do when we are living the mindful way, it’s all about pausing and paying attention. By focusing on small and really simple things we can do every day we can cultivate a more stable positive sense of being.
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