Being Positive: The Real Deal
Finding a positive perspective when negativity is getting you down.
Posted Dec 30, 2020
I'm not really a fan of the "positive thinking" movement. Which is ironic given that I'm a psychologist. But the thing is...you can't manufacture positivity. Inserting more positive thoughts for the negative ones you've been chewing on doesn't work. Believe me. My patients tell me every day. They try really hard to do it. We live in a culture where we're supposed to buck up, harden ourselves to the stressful world, and get positive somehow in the face of adversity. Congrats if you can do that, if you're one of those people who can overcome years of engrained emotional patterns and have total command of your thoughts. If not, and you're like most people, read on.
So, here's the read deal. Positivity cannot be manufactured, it has to be found. You have to have a compelling reason to change your belief system. Otherwise, you won't hang on to it. It has to feel real. And switching out positive thoughts for negative ones does one thing for sure- it causes your mind to fight back. You try really hard to "get positive" and your mind throws everything it can at you to disagree. Or you gain a little traction with your positivity for a few days by gathering up and expending a bunch of energy on your 'new mindset". But after a while, old patterns settle back into your mind. Things seem less rosy, and the old thoughts creep in and discourage you once again.
My take on positivity, therefore, is to find it authentically. You don't need to make it up. The potentially counter-intuitive solution is to get out of your head altogether. Getting around your thoughts makes it easier to authentically see more positive perspectives and potential solutions to whats getting you down. So, next time you want to get positive, try this:
1. Deal with the emotional turmoil that getting in the way of your positive mindset by riding the waves and staying centered.
2. Get out of your head by doing something mindful and grounding: meditate, do something creative, or do something body-centered (exercise, yoga?).
3. Let new solutions pop up as you shift your perspective by getting out of your thoughts and emotions. Get quiet, let your intuition speak to you- it had the answers all along.
You see, it's your thoughts that are likely getting you down in the first place. We think our problems are outside of ourselves—and granted, they may start there—but it's our reactions, our worn-out negative narratives that are really keeping us down. So, we can't get positive by staying in our heads where all the mess started in the first place. Try this new way: Get out of the boxing match with yourself and watch your struggle from the sidelines for a moment. You'll see it's much calmer there; there are no punches to duck. There's just perspective.