I used to be extremely positive. Annoyingly so. I think I even listed it as one of the top three personal assets on my CV. "She's too bloody optimistic" they would say. "How does she always stay so upbeat?"
The answer is that I found it easy to be positive because it honestly came naturally to me. We're talking about my 20 to 30-year-old smug self here. Pre-kids, pre-financial dependency, pre-house renovations and pre-self employment. I didn't have to try to be positive back then, I just was. I loved life, my job, my friends, living on my own and not having much at all to be negative about. Plus, there was no social media obsession back then. It hadn't yet gained it's momentum.
Fast forward 10 years and my just-turned-40-year-old self has to try MUCH harder to be positive. People still comment on how positive I seem, and in some instances it's true, yet what they don't know is that, in fact, it takes continual daily practice to be positive, just like brushing my hair or flossing my teeth.
Humans have evolved with a negative bias. It's a fact that we are way more attuned to negative thoughts, events, or experiences. This was helpful once upon a time for our caveman ancestors as it helped them to stay alert to potential dangers i.e. an incoming sabre-toothed tiger, but today it just means our battle to stay positive roots from an in-built genetic struggle before we even get into the other factors involved.
Social media, toxic news, politics and the behaviour of other humans all have a negative effect on a truly positive mindset. Not to mention the grim British weather! We are constantly comparing ourselves to others with feelings of inadequacy and envy, making it challenging to be positive about our own life. For example, just today I've been scrolling through Instagram images of Vogue Williams prancing around on a beach in a skimpy bikini with her annoyingly inverted washboard stomach, gloating about all the free merchandise she's managed to blag for her holiday from willing designer brands. So, do you know how hard it is for me to try and stay positive whilst sitting in an office, by myself, watching the rain fire down out the window, with my not-so-inverted-washboard stomach hiding behind a thick wool jumper, in the middle of August FFS! Get my point?!
Our life choices and past life experiences also play a big part in our pre-disposed positive/negative scale rating. Previous negative experiences or traumas can leave lasting impressions on our thoughts, opinions and emotions, making it harder for us to remain positive in the face of new challenges that we face. If we've previously started a new business that failed badly, then finding positivity and optimism to start another new business venture is going to prove even more of a struggle for us.
So, as you can see, the struggle for positivity is real. And this is only me literally scratching the surface of all the things that could contribute to negativity and self-doubt.
How, then, in the face of these adversities and pre-programmed negative biases are we supposed to stay truly positive? Trust me, I have pondered the subject more than you think. I've tried all sorts. From the mainstream basics to the downright bonkers. But the things that have worked the most? Honestly, they are these things...and they don't cost a thing.
Accepting existing life choices
When I think about a lot of the things that annoy me, worry me or bring me negativity, I notice that a lot of these things have stemmed from my own life choices. And, when I think of it like this, I naturally feel a lot less hard-done-by. After all, removing blame can remove a lot of negativity associated with it.
I've spent the last two years in this absolutely negative mindset about the house buying, selling and renovation process, because, unfortunately, we've had such a bad experience with it all. But did we have to sell our house? Did we have to buy this house and renovate it? Did the builders have a gun to my head telling me I had to add on an extension? No, of course not. It was a choice I went along with. Not totally willingly, I might add, but consensually, nonetheless!
There are other things too. Having a child. And then another one. Starting a business. And then another one. These are things that have caused me pain, anxiety and a battle to stay positive, but they are also things that I have knowingly entered into with a sober mind. Therefore, finding a route to positivity from the decisions I've already made seems the only possible and logical option.
Making good decisions
With the above point at the forefront of your mind, one of the main ways to find positivity in the decisions you make is to try and make good ones from here on.
Will eating that Mcdonald's meal on the drive home fill you with positivity later when it's all eaten and gone? If it will, or if it won't bother you in the slightest, then go for it. But, if, like me, past experiences show that you will probably feel a bit guilty, dehydrated and bloated, then make the good decision and drive straight by without stopping.
This is a small minor example for the sake of simplicity. But, of course, the same goes for career choices, relationship choices, financial choices and every other choice you willingly make. If any alarm bells are sounding whatsoever as you enter into unchartered decision territory, warning you that you don't feel comfortable with the decision in hand, then nip it in the bud immediately before it has a chance to manifest into something greater and more destructive.
Limiting exposure to negativity, at all costs
This goes in hand with good decision-making. By making the decision to reduce your exposure to negativity i.e distressing news, envy-inducing influencer images, toxic environments and unhealthy relationships, you are positively making a huge step toward enhancing your mood and mindset in a positive way.
I can't stress enough how to be mindful of the content you consume regularly. It honestly does have a massive effect on your positivity. Delete those apps that stress you out. Unfollow that person who makes you feel negative about your own body. And, never EVER read the Daily Mail. Promise?
Setting an intention before you get out of bed each morning
I always encourage my yoga students to set a personal intention at the beginning of every yoga lesson I teach. I recommend that they either think of a one-word goal or outcome that they are working toward today, or a short sentence starting with I am, I can, I have or something similar.
Being a long-time lover of positive affirmations, I have found that, with a lot of practice, I can challenge my own thoughts and, in most instances, overcome certain negative self-talk. But, it doesn't come easy.
Every day is an evolution from the last, so your intentions and affirmations won't be the same from one day to the next, but each morning when you wake up and before you rise from bed, think about something you really want to be able to say with confidence and positivity. Then repeat it 3 times either out loud if you are alone or whisper it quietly if you're not. Remember that the affirmation has to be said in the present tense, as if you have already achieved it. This way, you are manifesting it into a reality from the outset.
I am a kind person. I have a great life. I am a successful businesswoman. I am a patient parent. I have confidence. I am feeling at ease and calm. These are all possible affirmations you could choose to make. They don't always have to be perfect ideals either, they could be markers of improvement or change. For example, I am getting better at challenging my boss, I am improving my listening skills. And so forth.
Repeat that same uplifting statement throughtout the day at varying intervals. Try for a minimum of 3 more times. Over time, this will reinforce positive mindsets you have about yourself and your abilities, which in turn will build self-confidence and optimism.
Yes, the struggle for positiveity is real. Life is tough and there is no denying it. It's completely unrealistic to expect that you can remain positive at all times, BUT, if you're currently stuck in a particulalry negative rut, then practising your positivity skills mindfully and CONSISTENTLY may mean that soon you can begin to feel a little lift in your mood, which you can in turn use for more positive manifestations to come.