Thursday, September 18, 2008

Staying Positive in a Negative World

So I have been working hard on my positivity. I have been listening to my thoughts and words, and watching my actions, squashing the negativity and turning it around with positive thinking. I have had many successes and occasional struggles. What is my biggest struggle right now? Staying positive in the face of others negativity! How can I stay positive when my partner, kids, neighbors, and others I come in contact with are exhibiting negativity? Time to brainstorm some solutions!

First I want to tackle my partner. She is not a horribly negative person. She struggles with many of the same difficulties I do, and she is trying to follow me on this journey. She does have some deeply ingrained habits of negativity though, and they inevitably pull me in. This of course doesn't help her turn her thinking around to the positive and can lead to a vicious circle of negativity that hurts our family and ourselves. How can I stop this cycle? First I need to recognize her behavior for what it is, a habit. In the types of situations that I am referring to here, she isn't horribly sad or angry, something has just annoyed her or she is tired, and she breaks out in negativity because that is how she has typically behaved in these situations in the past. Although it is OK for me to show empathy, these are not the types of situations where I need to share her sorrow. Instead, I can briefly express empathy while remaining my joyful self. If the mood is right, I can go further and attempt to turn the situation around through gratitude, humor, or an honest appraisal.

Next come the kids. A long time ago, I read Don't Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family: Simple Ways to Keep Daily Responsibilities and Household Chaos From Taking Over Your Life, by Richard Carlson. I don't remember most of the book, but one tip has stuck with me all these years. He said, we'd all be a lot happier if we didn't expect our kids to be happy all the time. Although positivity is a good thing, you can't control someone else's moods and feeling responsible for your kids is just going to lead to more of the negativity that you are trying to avoid. Unfortunately, this advice is not that easy to follow. I am going to make a more concerted effort in this area though. The truth is my kids are in general far more positive than I am! I do not need to get overly concerned when one of them is in a bad mood. The best thing for me to do is to continue with my own positivity being a good example for them.

How about all the other negativity out there? Extended family? Friends? People you see when you are shopping or driving or otherwise out and about? There are several things I can do to improve those situations retaining my own positivity while influencing others for positivity. First of all, I can spend as little time as possible with people who are frequently negative. Yes, this goes for family and friends too! If they are pulling me down, I can find better ways to spend my time. When I feel I need to be with them, I will work double-time on my positivity, switching conversation topics when necessary, and leaving as soon as I feel that my positivity is being compromised. I will refrain from talking negatively about others. In more casual situations, I will not take anything personally. If I see people acting negatively, I will assume that it has nothing to do with me, and I will be quick to share a smile and a kind word. In public, a sincere smile, often turns a negative situation into a positive one. I will be a force for positivity, pointing out the good points of any situation in the face of others negative reactions.

Through preparing myself for areas of struggle, I hope to be able to reach my commitment to a month of positivity this October. Developing a habit of positivity, will make these reactions second nature so that after awhile it shouldn't be a struggle at all!

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