How many times have you decided to be more positive in your life and after a while given up as it seems incredibly difficult?
What does it mean to be positive?
Positivity has been defined as “being optimistic in nature“. This gives us a fair idea that there is MORE to being positive than just thinking positively. It’s a way of being in life which, if cultivated and nurtured, will grow and flourish – given the right conditions.
Being positive all the time is a challenge for most and might seem impossible. What is realistic and achievable is to increase the amount of positivity in your life.
This improves health, well-being and how you relate and perform in the world. Being positive, expands your vision to see life from another perspective which creates new opportunity.
Why we default to negativity?
Why do we default to negativity? One of the reasons is that we are designed to identify and focus on potential threats to protect ourselves. This survival mechanism (the fight and flight centre in the brain) serves us when there is actual danger. When this isn’t the case, such as trying to meet a deadline, the mechanism can go into overdrive. This results in negativity, pessimism and health related issues such as stress, anxiety or irritability and impacts on performance in life. As it narrows your focus, vision and perspective it is often difficult to make positive choices in this state.
The good news is there is always a way to move from a state of negativity to being more positive.
There is a part of the brain called the ventral striatum. Research indicates that the ventral striatum directly links to sustaining positive emotions and reward. Activation of this part of the brain CAN be in your control like an on /off button. Research indicates that people with more sustained levels of activity in the ventral striatum reported higher levels of psychological well-being and had lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
The trick is to cultivate ways to activate this centre in your brain. This can be through choice or using gateways to help increase positivity.
Gateways to Growing Positivity
Sometimes when you are in a negative state, or even depressed, it is difficult to make a choice to be more positive. Try the activities below. They assist you in moving from a state of narrow, negative perspective to a being in an expanded, positive expression of yourself. Each activity has been researched to do this in different ways:
Connecting to nature
Connecting to nature allows you to be in awe which creates a sense of expansion. This can assist you to perceive life from a different perspective , see greater clarity, ultimately helping you to make new and positive choices. The negative ions in nature also naturally help the body to harmonise, which is why you feel more uplifted after being in natural surroundings. Sometimes even connecting to a picture or video of an aspect of nature can be uplifting and promote a more positive outcome in life.
Mindfulness brings one into the present using all senses. Negativity stems from connecting to past experiences or worrying about the future, so practicing being present assists to eliminate those thoughts. Practicing mindfulness also helps to decrease rumination, anxiety and depressive states. It provides the tools to step back from negative emotions and accept them, rather than fighting them. By doing this, one is able to manage them differently and increase positivity into your life!
Meditation helps the mind to be calm, bring more clarity and relaxation which all assist when you are in a state of negativity. The practice of meditation assists energy levels to vibrate at a higher level which helps to reduce the roots of negativity of fear, anger, stress and jealousy.
Exercise/ movement / yoga
Exercise/ movement / yoga – “the link between exercise and mood is pretty strong” says Otto ‘usually within five minutes of moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”The statement above is confirmation that any movement will shift your state of mind from negative to positive. Choose any activity you love be it dancing,swimming, surfing, gyming or walking in nature – get moving you’ll feel the difference!
Gratitude is expressing appreciation for all the good in ones’ life. It also brings the realisation of something greater than self. Research at Harvard Medical School indicated that participants that wrote about what they were grateful for, were ” more optimistic and felt better about themselves.” As expressing gratitude is a positive emotion writing a gratitude journal or extending gratitude to those around you, will assist to enhance your positivity within.
Social engagement, particularly face to face interaction with people, is a catalyst to enhance positivity in individuals. I think this statement really says it all “The daily moments of connection that people feel with others emerge as the tiny engines that drive the upward spiral between positivity and health,” Fredrickson explains.
By understanding what is happening in the brain and using the gateways to positivity you CAN shift to grow more positivity in your life. Use the steps below to guide you on your journey…….
5 Steps to growing Positivity
Start becoming aware of your negative thoughts, what is their origin and decide whether they are fact or fiction and how they are impacting on your life
- BE BOLD
What do you want for your life, to live life constantly focusing on the negative or to embrace the positive into your life?
(Stop here and spend some time on this exercise: Imagine living a positive life full of optimism. How would it change the way you view yourself, those you interact with and what you do in the world?)
This is the easy part: make a choice. This will be your guide as to how YOU decide to live your life – in positivity or negativity. Making this choice and setting an intention acts as your guide going forward. Sometimes it helps to actively write something down making a commitment to yourself about your choice.
- DO, TAKE ACTION
As without action nothing changes in life. Each time a negative thought comes into your mind, actively choose to re-frame it into something positive. Think about the on/off button. Activate the ventral striatum with a conscious choice to enjoy positive thoughts and emotions. Eventually this becomes self-fulfilling. The more you do this the greater the reward. This stage takes time, patience and kindness towards yourself. Like a muscle, the more you put it into practice the more positivity floods into your life!!!!!
Note: If you are depressed or find this difficult, try use the gateways above to help you develop more positivity in your life
Enjoy the beautiful, positive, good things in the world around you they abound, when you look for them.
I look forward to hearing about the steps to you have taken to growing positivity in your life!
Need assistance with this?
Moira Burmeister is a Life Coach / counsellor enabling individuals to make shifts happen!