Are you a ‘glass half full’ or a ‘glass half empty’ person?
If you answered ‘glass half full’, congratulations!!
You are a positive person - possessing a crucial ingredient for happiness and productivity.
Positivity is believing in good times during bad times.
It is acknowledging all the good things in your life rather than obsessing over things that are not up to your expectations.
Positive people often take charge of the narrative and enforce a positive twist of perspective into negative experiences.
Positivity is the ability to manufacture positive actions and emotions. It is the acknowledgement that you are in charge of your feelings, no matter what the outside stimuli is.
I know, by now you are thinking, “If only I had a penny for every time someone told me to be ‘Just Positive’!!”‘
Be positive’ seems just the kind of fluffy feel good advice new age gurus give out every day. But this advice has sound scientific basis.
Through MRI imaging, researchers have proven that positive thoughts set off a cascade of positive hormones throughout the body that results in feelings of calm and peace. Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory holds that, positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking.
Trying to be more positive seems like a worthy goal to pursue, considering the benefits. But the game is rigged against you -from genetics to the world around us, we are drowning in negativity.
Biologically, negative stimuli produce more neural activity than the equally intense positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly by our brain.
Thanks to the ‘negativity bias’ in our brains, we focus our energies into avoiding negative experiences rather than seeking positive ones. Our positive experiences are momentary but negative experiences tend to spill over into days and weeks.
The average person has about 70,000 thoughts per minute, according to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California. On average, 70% of this mental chatter is overwhelmingly negative.
Media studies show that bad news far outweighs the good news by as much as seventeen negative news reports for every one good news report.
Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals contends that “profound anxiety” results from following the daily news because of its predominant focus on negativity.
Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that companies lose $3 billion a year to the effects of negative attitudes and behaviors at work.
So, keeping a positive state of mind becomes much more crucial in the light of the negativity around us. The good news is that you can teach yourself to be positive.
Here are 5 easy techniques that will infuse you with positivity in the midst of negativity.
1. You are what you say to yourself - use self-talk to uplift yourself
The most important opinion you have is the one you have of yourself, and the most significant things you say all day are those things you say to yourself.
Self-talk is the internal conversation wherein you provide opinions or evaluations about yourself. Sometimes it is automatic, sometimes it is deliberate to influence our actions. Positive self-talk can inspire you and stimulate you into action. Negative self-talk has the potential to undermine your confidence.
The inner dialogue that you attach to any situation makes it a reality in your mind.
When you are aware of your self-talk you can edit and revise the message so that it works in your favour.
So, how to change your self-talk?
Positive self-talking is a learned skill.
The University of Lethbridge Study into positive self-talk has proved that, even very young students can learn to control themselves by consciously feeding their minds with positive empowering self-talk.
The Art of positive self-talk is surprisingly simple. Here are 3 strategies that can help you change your inner dialogue -
1.What you say- Your words have real power. Your subconscious will act on what your conscious mind believes. Be careful about the negative words seeping into your self-talk. Use positive affirmations like adventure and opportunity instead of problem and struggle.
2.How you say it - Psychologist Ethanol Kross of Michigan University found in his ‘self-control study’ that addressing yourself by name rather than saying ‘I’ helped to change the way we feel and behave. Talking to yourself in third person made you more compassionate and less judgemental hence, paving way for self-love and positivity.
3.How often you say it - Rick Hanson describes the brain as "Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones." Positive thoughts need consistent and constant affirmation to make an impression on the mind. So, make it a part of your daily ritual for getting results in the long term.
2. Refuse misery’s company - avoid toxic people
People inspire you, or they drain you—pick them wisely.
Our moods and attitudes are influenced by people we regularly interact with, to a greater degree than we realise.
According to Yale University professor Dr. Nicholas Christakis, our behaviors are highly contagious and we are unwittingly influenced by those well beyond our social circles.
This phenomenon of contagious feelings poses a greater danger to our positivity in the age of all-pervasive social media.
Researchers from University of California analysed over a billion updates from Facebook users and found that negative posts had a domino effect, causing similarly downbeat posts from others.
You are surrounded by negative people even at your workplace. Consider the Gallup Poll into employee engagement, which shows that organizations typically have 1 in 6 employees who are actively sabotaging the functioning of others in their workplace.
Misery loves company - toxic people infuse your life with their own brand of negativity. Dealing with the cruelty, victim syndrome, jealousy and the like can trigger a massive stress response in your brains. This can add up over time to make you feel powerless and pessimistic.
You will not always have the option of cutting off toxic people from your life (for example at your workplace). So, it is important that you learn to handle their drama and manage your emotions around them.
Here are 5 simple techniques than can help you deal with negative people -
1.Set boundaries - It could be as simple as not taking calls after 10 pm. Set clear cut boundaries that limit your exposure to toxic people. Be precise in your wording and don't leave wiggle room.
2.Speak up for yourself - Keeping silent to avoid conflicts may not be the best course when it comes to negativity. Put your foot down when others start to encroach on your emotional space and cause you distress. Be polite but firm in conveying why a particular behaviour will not be tolerated.
3.Don’t gossip - If they gossip to you, they will gossip about you. Workplace gossip can seem like a harmless timepass. Don’t be fooled into thinking that people gossip with you because they trust you or like you. Don’t share confidences with people who betray confidences of others with you.
4.Take time off - Being a rational adult with toxic people can be a drain on your mental resources. Take regular breaks to relax and recuperate. Spend time with people who make you feel upbeat.
5.Take control of your own emotions - Don’t give off the cuff reactions to comments or activities of toxic people. Don’t take them personally. Maintain your objectivity. Don’t let someone else manipulate your emotions to get what they want.
3. Thou shalt not compare thy virtual reality
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.
Comparison robs the joy of life - it is not just an old wives tale.
Thanks to the virtual reality we live in, you are constantly bombarded with images of people living perfect lives. Our online lives are essentially becoming cycles of compare and despair.
The study into Facebook use and Depression in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that Facebook use triggers “social comparison.” In other words, heavy Facebook users are comparing themselves to their friends, which in turn, can make them feel more depressed.
Hanna Krasnova of Berlin’s Humboldt University investigated the social media use, and discovered that one in three people surveyed felt worse ("lonely, frustrated or angry") after spending time on Facebook.
The most common cause of Facebook frustration came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers, while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends
Reality is, we often see only the sanitised side of happiness and success. Further, we misinterpret this partial information adding to our misery.
The study into erroneous perceptions of negativity in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin confirmed that people tend to overestimate the presence of positivity in the lives of others, while they misinterpret or fail to detect negative feelings present there.
As long as you strive to reach benchmarks set by other’s lives you are doomed to live in misery.Understand that your journey is different.
The easiest way to escape the cage of comparison is to limit your exposure to social media. Consider a social media fast - spend at least a chunk of your day without distractions like notifications and browsing.
Watch what you are posting and become aware whenever you airbrush your online image. Next time you are feeling down in the dumps turn to your friends/loved ones for affirmation.
4. Start a Journal and write your way to positivity.
We are biologically programmed to focus on negative experiences and their memories.Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman defines this tendency of mourning loss more than enjoying benefits as ‘loss aversion’.
To rewire our brain to focus on positive experiences, we need to consciously bring the positive experiences to the forefront.
The easiest way to do this is by journaling about the positives in your life. Keeping track of compliments you have received and achievements that made you feel proud can help you overcome the after-effects of negative experiences.
Gratitude journaling can help you magnify the positives in life and help you plough through the negatives that are happening right now.
Journaling will help you clarify the thoughts and feeling that you are attaching to a particular event. It can even help you process the negative emotions arising from setbacks and unpleasant events.
Journaling can reduce stress and improve your mood. It is not just good for you personally, it can even boost your productivity.
Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino found in a series of field experiments that, journaling employees had a 22.8% higher performance at work.
How long do you need to spend expressing your emotions?
Not a lot, apparently. Writing about intensely positive experiences for as little as 20 minutes every day is associated with enhanced positive mood.
How to journal ?
First and only rule of journaling is that, there are no rules. You can use the traditional pen and paper or a diary app, whatever makes you feel comfortable. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation and go with the flow.
Safe space - Make sure to keep your journal private. This will help you write freely without self-consciousness about judgements.
Choose your moments - Focus on writing about positives rather than negatives.
I'm not even convinced that people should write about a horrible event for more than a couple of weeks.
5. Exercise your body and Rest your mind
We have all known that, exercise is a key ingredient for physical health. What we may not be aware of is that, exercise has numerous benefits for our brains also.
Physical exercise releases chemicals called endorphins which are associated with positive emotions and mood. Exercising for as little as 30 minutes at moderate intensity can boost your overall mood.
The University of Toronto Review examined 25 studies and found definitive proof that physical activity boosts happiness and reduces risk of future depression.
Rather than exercising strenuously whenever the schedule allows, aim for working out for 20 to 30 minutes every day. It could be as mundane as a brisk walk or a bout of gardening. You could even play a sport you enjoy like tennis or do some dancing. The point is to get moving.
Meditation can be a powerful weapon in your positivity toolkit.
Everyone from Marine Corps to NFL Footballers are trying it. This ancient practice has been proven to reduce pain, increase positive emotion, decrease anxiety, reduce stress and improve ability to regulate your emotions. That is the laundry list of all the ingredients for creating positive vibes in your life.
Frederickson's ‘Open hearts build lives’ study found that, people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not.
We have certain misconceptions about meditating like - you have to wear certain things or chant in a foreign language or have to do it for hours and so on.
The only skill you need to meditate is the ability to close your eyes and observe your thoughts. And you can begin by doing it for just 5 minutes.
For starters, why not check out these 20 practical meditation tips for beginners?
The biggest challenge with positive emotions are that they are fleeting.
They also are less intense than negative emotions and make diffused impressions on our psyche. So, maintaining positivity is a daily challenge that requires focus and attention.
You must be intentional about staying positive if you’re aiming to bypass the brain’s tendency to react to negative stimuli. It won’t happen by accident.
Constantly adjust your view to pick and focus on positives amidst the sea of negatives. Watch what you say - to yourself and others. Take up habits like exercise and journaling that help you stay on the positive course.
Positivity will be a hard fought battle, but definitely a battle worth fighting.
Why not begin by trying this Happiness Test and find out how optimistic you are?