The Super Power of Positivity

It has been a rough spring for me so far, but I'm still smiling and focused on the pot of gold at the end of this flu season. Many of you can likely attest to the fact that it has been a rough winter for viral infections. I managed to avoid the viruses and flus enough to take care of my family members as they survived their turn in bed, hacking a lung. I said a little prayer each week: "Please let me just get through ..." each week. About a month ago, my luck ran out, and I've been fighting flu or cold/sinus symptoms off and one for a good 5 weeks now.

What does that have to do with staying positive? Everything.

I could choose to wallow in the sadness of my isolation and symptoms. Or I can focus on what is going well and focus my energies on healing. It is hard work to sit still for a day let alone weeks! How did I do it? One day at a time. One thought in each moment.

There were definitely moments where I wanted to sit with the negativity and frustration of not healing on my preferred timeline. Ever time I thought I was good to resume normal activity, I would head to the gym or go for a walk, and then my body would gently let me know that my job was to be still. I missed a group bachelorette celebration at the beach that we had all planned months in advance - it killed me to sit at home and yet it also brought me great joy to read the silly group texts and see the fun pictures from the weekend, even though I wasn't there. It was no longer about me - it was about finding the joy in my circumstance. Where is the morsel of joy or gratitude that I can find?

The past week, I read Jane Brody's article in the The New York Times "Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones" and it really resonated with my personal gratitude practice that I began about 18 months ago. I particularly enjoyed reading about Dr. Barbara Frederick's and Dr Richard Davidson's work on fostering positive emotions. We now know that the brain is itself more elastic that ever imagined, and the idea that positive thinking can be developed like a muscle is one that resonates with me both personally and in my coaching practice.

When you are wired for negative thinking, it can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole or complaining and wallowing in what is going wrong in the world. Turning that on its head and finding what is going right in the present moment is the best workout there is for fostering that postitive attitude. Whenever I find myself in the negative space, here's what I find has made a huge shift in my own attitude:

  1. Notice the feeling. Sit with it. Feel it. Accept it, without judgement.

  2. Take a breath.

  3. Ask myself how that thought is serving me or others in that moment. Do I like the way I feel? Am I where I want to be emotionally, mentally, physically?

  4. Find the diamond in the rough. Even if a situation is just plain awful no matter which way I slice it, what can I learn from it? What can I take away? And despite it, what is truly good in the present moment? 

I started keeping a daily log of things I'm grateful for, from the blue sky, to a smile from my son, to the floral beauty that would come from 5 straight days of rain...My glass is full. The negative space in the world phases me less and less. And I cultivate joy much easier.

After reading the article in the Times, I am now also curious to learn more about Dr. Frederick's work in the area of "loving kindness meditation". That might be my next journey in my gratitude practice - fostering positive emotions for others resonates with me as I prepare to send my oldest child off into the world.

What sort of things do you find help you move into a more positive mindset? I'm always curious to hear how others make this a part of their day.

As the rains have stopped and my sinus infect has begun to clear, I find myself looking forward to sunshine and one day being able to smell those blooming flowers in my garden. May everything start coming up roses for you as well!