“We can retrain our minds to become more positive, more forgiving, and more thankful for the beautiful opportunity that life is.”
-Social Psychologist Alison Ledgerwood-
Face it. Some of us are “half-full” kind of people and others are not. I know those of you reading this, who are in the camp of the “nots” are wondering where I’m going with this. You are bracing yourself for the “just think it and you’ll feel it” kind of crap that you’ve heard so many times before.
Those of you who are “half-full” might be wondering what “those others” are thinking? You might be assuming that they choose to be this way or that “all they have to do is just THINK POSITIVE!” Well it’s not that simple or easy, or perhaps even necessary?
Look we’re all born with different temperaments. Nature has a place in this conversation. It’s not simply how you were brought up. We’ll get to that next. Some people are just born with a certain amount of healthy skepticism and it might work for them. Why do we need to judge anyone with assumptions we have about what others should or shouldn’t feel or think?
Of course one’s upbringing, culture and experience cement our perspective. Trauma, experiences of scarcity, and other situations can change one’s natural viewpoint into a more survivalist view, which can impact our outlook.
What we know for sure from science and research is that those people who just thought being positive was the answer, failed to understand that Realistic Optimism was truly the key to success. Things are not just coming to you as long as you “think” they will, you must plan for and strategize how to succeed. You must plan for the pitfalls that come on any journey. That isn’t thinking negatively. It’s instead understanding that ALL JOURNEYS have stops and starts, mountains and valleys and we can keep moving forward optimistically if we can walk our journey with our eyes open.
We don’t have to worry about our “nature” in regards to optimism. We can choose to look at life differently if we are willing to do the work. You can actually do physical things to change your outlook. How about feeling more positive by asking your body to help guide your mind into this new way of feeling? In other words, don’t wait until you feel like it. Do something physical and sees if it changes your outlook! Walking with an upright attitude, exuding confidence does make you actually feel different.
Researchers know that smiling for 60 seconds does make you actually feel better. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/smiling-can-trick-your-brain-happiness-boost-your-health-ncna822591
On a Ted Talk video, I learned about Amy Cuddy’s Power Poses-think Super Hero stances for 2 minutes-made interviewees do better on job interviews than those applicants who didn’t engage in the poses.
If something unfortunate happens to you, I’ve never seen any evidence that negative, or “I knew this would happen” type of thinking has ever helped anyone, unless you get a certain satisfaction of “being right,” and some people do. But that kind of being right never made sense to me. It was like writing your own horror movie script including the ending. Okay, you knew this could happen. Does it help you feel better? Do you feel stronger now? You got killed off. What’s the sequel?
I remember very specific times in my life when I was finally able to realize that I had a choice. I could literally choose a path of suffering, depression, and the feeling of “stuckness” or I could make a small move towards some direction, just to move out of the a little off the path of suffering.
Slowly, life changed. My skills of forging my direction became stronger. I had more choices as I sought more support and solutions. It wasn’t thinking positively. It was taking one step, and then another, seeking support and seeing tiny moments of success. As these moments built, I began to see optimistically what was happening. I realized that if I could harness this understanding, I could build upon it.
I saw there were certain areas that optimism came more naturally and I built upon those first. I saw I was more optimistic when it came to my friendships for example. I was optimistic in my ability to grow professionally. Then I really started to understand that with each change I made, I felt better and the optimism grew. If I could incorporate optimism in these areas, then I could transfer it to other places.
Changes can be wretchedly painful. Which reinforces my intention to strive for optimism.
At times I do get discouraged and depressed. My tendency is to get lost in negative things that happen at work for example, which gets me off course. Social Psychologist Alison Ledgerwood shows how we have to be diligent to train our brains towards the positive in her Ted Talk, Getting Stuck in the Negatives
I have more tools of where and how to guide me out of dark moments. Simply remembering that I can do something to change my brain to feel more optimistic is the challenge. I sometimes can’t remember, so I have to practice power poses, gratitudes and smiling, even when I don’t need to, so when I need that help, it will be there for me.
Great article Amy. Thank you so much. I love how you put in all the reference material so we can go back and look at it if we want to.
many words of wisdom. always be aware of your surroundings. then you can act. ,love you Amy.
Right on the money! I enjoyed it. Well organized and composed. Lots of good information. Thank you.