In pursuit of positivity.
As a working, self-employed mother faced with some personal hurdles, life during lockdown quickly became challenging. I was determined to seek out how I could learn to cope better with our new normal.
Would it surprise you to know that no one is born more or less positive in their mindset? Even if you describe yourself as a pessimist, by having a more positive outlook or cultivating more positive emotions you can deal better with adversity, benefit from more stable relationships, and ultimately lead a less stressful, more fulfilled life.
Positivity by numbers
Positive psychology is only a recent development in the study of the mind. Previously, psychologists have analysed the louder negative feelings that have been crucial for our evolution, such as the fight or flight response triggered by the fear of threats or predators.
But what we do know is that in order to be more positive, quite simply you need more positive than negative thoughts, specifically three positive thoughts for every negative one. It’s common for us to experience 2:1, but 1:1 is when you will find yourself in a negative downward spiral. When a person is experiencing depression, that’s when they’re having less than one positive thought for every negative one.
There are a number of ways to enhance your positivity and improve this ratio. Here are a few that I use:
Get in the habit
Develop new habits that make you feel good, such as phoning a friend or taking a walk. When we feel good, we’re more creative and find solutions we might have missed. Identifying your positivity triggers will increase your resilience, making it easier to deal with adversity, such as a difficult break-up, the loss of a loved one, or navigating life during a global pandemic.
Write it down
There’s a clear link between self-knowledge and happiness. By noting how your feelings change throughout the days, weeks and months, you can better understand which experiences emote which responses. Avoiding or overcoming negativity-triggering people, places or activities sets you up for a better positivity ratio.
Be in the moment
During daily tasks, think about and appreciate the moment. For example, instead of rushing through lunch in front of your computer, take time to consider the care and attention that has gone into making it, and recognise the different tastes and textures. That doesn’t just mean only thinking about the positive. If you miss your bus, reality-check your exaggerated frustration to help dissipate it, and then refocus on the positive.
The art of distraction
When negativity hits, you might find distracting yourself with something productive and positive helps to dilute the feeling. If you get into a confrontation with a colleague, rather than rehash what was said over and over, focus on catching up with your emails or another task that takes your mind off it.
Make some head space
Meditation helps you slow down, live in the now and become more aware of the positive moments in life. It can also reduce pain, stress and anxiety. Studies have clinically shown that mediation increases the activity in the brain’s left hemisphere, which is involved in more positive emotions. To make meditation part of my daily life, I use the Headspace app.
Remember, what works for one person might not work for another, so this is certainly a path of self-discovery. But it is possible to find techniques or activities that will work for you. If you make them into habits, you can build a more resilient nature and positive outlook, and feel far better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at you.