Sunday, 27 September 2015

POP Part Two: Using Positive Statements

Last time,we talked about the importance of positive thinking. This post will be about specific thoughts or strategies that we can use to think positive or be optimistic.

Of course, some of us have difficulty imagining that we will be 'talking positive' to ourselves. But it really isn't all that strange - you need not say these things out loud. Sometimes, even silently thinking to yourself can be a major mood-booster.

I'll give you an example. Last week, I was extremely frustrated and overwhelmed. I was busy with exams, classes, gatherings, friends, meetings, and more. And I wanted it all to just STOP. I wanted to run away from everything. For everything to just stop being loud, busy, and hectic all the time. I wanted to quit everything.

What kept me going? After I vented my feelings to my family and close friends, I realized something important: I was busy. Yes. But I was doing what I loved. I was busy with things that I loved. I was busy achieving my goals and dreams. Despite the challenges, I knew that I was working hard for a purpose. And I realized that I was not alone. I had support. I had love. I had passion, strength, and motivation. I had dreams. I had hope.

The next thing I knew, I was saying positive thoughts to myself in my head.

'You can do this".

"You have done hard things before".

"You are strong. You are not alone. You have the love and support of family, friends, and God".

"You will get through this, just like you have done before. And this will make you stronger. You will learn so much. You will look back at this and see how much you have achieved".

"This is hard. But it will end. Tough times never last".

And so on. At first, I did not feel significantly different. But after a couple of different thoughts, I felt...motivated. I felt less stressed. I felt like a small burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt as though I could do this. I could survive. I WOULD survive.

And I did. I am still super busy. And sometimes, I still get overwhelmed and feel stressed all over again. But thinking the positive thoughts make a big difference. They help me realize that tough times truly never last, and that I will get through them. Positivity reminds me that life is not all negative, that there are happy moments full of smiles, dreams, and hope. Optimism reminds me to slow down, to take time to breathe.

Try it out! Think positive thoughts when you are feeling down. Allow yourself to express your difficult emotions, but then talk to yourself - help yourself see what is good about your situation, you support, your personality, or your strengths. Remember that you are not alone. You WILL get through this. Think positive....that is POP!


Monday, 7 September 2015

POP! Part One: Think like a proton and stay positive!

This post is going to be the first post in a series I've decided to call 'POP' - The Power of Positivity.

Why POP? Well, honestly, it's an easy acronym to remember. But let's just say that when you think positive, you'll feel more happy and motivated - and this will make you POP with energy, ready to face whatever life throws your way!

(Corny? Yes. Catchy? Yes. Will you remember it? Yes. I rest my case).

"Be positive! Think positive!"

Two commonly said phrases that are meant to encourage us to remain optimistic as much as possible. I'll let you in on a little secret: when I feel down and hear these sentences, the last thing I can ever do is think positive.

Imagine this: you've had a long, tiring day. You are behind on so much work. You had a fight with someone you care about. You feel a cold coming on. Your bills need to get paid, your laundry done, food cooked, and house cleaned. And now you have a headache starting. Oh, and tomorrow, you have an important event/test/presentation that you haven't even started preparing for.

Now imagine that you decide to confide this to someone close to you. And all they can say is, 'hey! It could be worse. You just gotta think positive!"

As helpful as they are trying to be, that isn't the solution - well, not immediately, anyways. If we are simply told to 'think positive', we cannot do it in the face of adversary. Actually, it isn't right to ignore our emotions and frustrations, and to try to crowd them out them with apparent 'happy thoughts'. Does this sound opposite to what we are commonly told? Perhaps. Let me make it clear: It is one thing to ignore your emotions and convince yourself that you are actually quite happy, when inside, you are on the verge of breaking down. It is quite another thing to acknowledge your emotions and express them, and to then begin to see what optimism you can infuse into your life.

Alright, now, let's get down to business: why do we even need to worry ourselves with thinking positive thoughts?

Let's continue with the above example: the tough day. What if you've just expressed your emotions - to yourself or to someone you love; Then, after thinking for a while, you realize that though things area tough now, they really could indeed be worse. You're behind on work - but you have a job, and you are quite good at it. You may have had a fight with someone you care about - but you know that they care about you too, and that your relationship is much stronger than this disagreement. You feel as though you are getting sick - but generally, your health is in good states. You aren't prepared for tomorrow - but you either have time to do some work now, you can talk to your boss/teacher/supervisor about getting an extension, or you'll learn a valuable lesson about time-management.

Not bad, huh? Now: did thinking positive magically change the situation and make all your problems disappear? No. And this is a key message I want to get across, regardless of how blunt it may seem: thinking positive or being optimistic isn't a miracle-worker: it will not make problems vanish. It will not solve everything. It will not make us invincible. BUT, thinking positive will....

-help you see things the way they are, and not get caught up ruminating about the challenges you are facing
-aid you in making a plan of action to get started on solving your problems, becoming more productive, or developing your character and maturity
-motivate you to count your blessings and realize that despite the bumps along the way, life truly is full of little shining moments

The benefits of positivity extend beyond that. One study study showed that the more you think positive (and train yourself to try your best to stay motivated and resilient, despite challenges), the easier it becomes in the future. I love this quote from the article: "The psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion increases the odds that an individual will find positive meaning in subsequent events and experience addition positive emotions. This upward spiral can, over time, build psychological resources and optimize people's lives" (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2001).

Simply put: think positive today = build strength and motivation for tomorrow. Transforming your thoughts of pain, misery, and hopelessness into something positive will allow you to build up strength for tomorrow. It will help you realize that though this present moment (or day, week, year, etc) is challenging, good thins have happened to you before. And they will continue to happen, You have the strength and power to do something - anything. And you can get through this obstacle, just like you have done in the past. You WILL make it through this tough day - look at it this way: the days are passing by anyways. You can live with them with negativity and anger, resentment and fear, sorrow and hostility. OR, you can face everything head-on with an open mind, loving heart, motivated will, strong stamina, perseverance and hope.