Learning to live positively

At the beginning of 2017, I wrote a post about trying to have a more positive outlook on life. It was something that certainly pushed me to try and be a realist optimist. It was definitely a goal of mine last year – did I achieve it? That’s highly debatable.

Living life on the positive side of things is an incredibly difficult task to accomplish and yes you do get people who are just naturally positive all the time but they are a rare breed nowadays. When we are little kids we almost never think of the negative, everything seems like it could go in the best way possible.

As we get older and sad things happen and we are let down more often this positive outlook tends to fade. It can be hard to look at things with a light and hopeful mindset when each and every day we struggle to deal with the weight of our responsibilities but we are also constantly surrounded by negativity. We have become so good at letting things get to us that we can’t seem to stop and look up to gaze at all that is around us.

It is easy to mistake positive thinking for worst-case-scenario thinking, which, is something that I discovered last year. It’s very easy to say that at least something is not something worse but this isn’t positive thinking in the slightest. You’re simply replacing a negative outcome with something with even worse, this feeds our mind to look for the negatives in every situation. This is a mechanism which we use to try and protect ourselves from disappointment and not hold our expectations too high.

I’m not saying you must have blind optimism to every situation. That’s not being positive, that’s just being ignorant. Things will go wrong, you are going to be let down, it’s going to be hard at times and you’re not going to know how to cope but that’s okay. Living positively is understanding that things are going to happen – not necessarily in the way that you expect – it’s knowing that you’re going to have bad days. However, it is also knowing that there is something positive in every situation and every day, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

It can be really hard to pick out the positive things but one of the most efficient ways is by trying to be grateful.  Gratitude is a wonderful thing and I’m not just doing this to sound textbook but I actually mean it. It has changed the way I see the world and made me much happier.  Let me explain how:

In January I read a magazine that talked about the newest craze: List making. This isn’t your arbitrary to-do list but rather list of more abstract things. Such as; achievements, things that made you happy that day, things you were grateful for that day, etc. I thought I would give it a go because it sounded like a good idea and I thought it was a clever way to journal your life without sounding like a bad romance movie.

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I started by creating three sections: Achievements, gratitude and then the regular day-to-day sort of stuff. I’ve really enjoyed making it and it’s quite a meditative activity. Sitting in bed at the end of the day and going through what that day and its events really gave me the time to collect my thoughts and take in what happened. It can be really good on bad days as well as stressful ones. It shows you that you did complete something that day and it shows that there were some happy moments that day.

The gratitude list has been the most interesting experience. Not even a week after I started I was already starting to be more positive and I was certainly happier. I started to find myself thinking to myself that I could be really grateful for that current thing or experience and to remind myself to write it down. It could sometimes be a little repetitive but there were days that I just needed to remind myself how much I actually have. I also started judging people and situations less before it had happened or I had met that person. Judgementalness is an awful side effect of thinking the worst of people and things.

Of course, there were hard days, days that I just simply couldn’t stay positive. Days when I would get really angry easily. Days when it just felt a little too claustrophobic. But there wasn’t a single day where I could not write down at least one thing that I was grateful for. Some days I could write twenty things and other days I could write two. Some days it was easier and some days it was harder. Somedays I was happy and some days I wasn’t. It doesn’t mean that something was wrong with me it just means that on that particular day I couldn’t really think of something or I didn’t feel the need to write it down and that’s okay.

Positivity is a weird and difficult thing but sometimes all we need to be is grateful and the world will begin to shine with a glowing light.

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