Since I have been practicing self awareness for years now (see my other posts Self Awareness Part One and Self Awareness Part Two to learn how), it has become second nature for me to listen to the thoughts bouncing around inside of my head. I have noticed in the past week or so, that my thoughts have a tendency to be mostly negative. If I am not worried about the situation we are currently in because of my bipolarity and hypothyroidism, I am thinking negatively about something I am doing, something someone else is doing, how I see myself or how I see someone else. I strongly believe that our thoughts create our reality, so I’ve decided that I needed to do something to change my focus toward the positive. That way I will start to see more positive things occurring in my life. The more positive I become, the easier it will be for me to enjoy the good things in my life thus creating more good things in my life.
Optimism and positive thinking have been said to be beneficial to health and well being for years. Those that are more optimistic handle stress better, are sick less often, suffer less depression and are generally more resilient (Benefits of Positive Thinking). I can testify to this because a few years ago, I was in a really great place and was very optimistic about my future. I was very happy and I could handle the things going on around me (I was actually unemployed at the time). It wasn’t that things that could cause me stress didn’t happen, they definitely did, but I was more confident that I could solve the problem and so my stress about the situation was much less.
But how do you get to the positive? For me, I started with reading a lot of books and going to a lot of talks. I got involved in some new age stuff and some energy work stuff. The benefit I got from doing all of this was that I came to understand a lot of what was being said about positive thoughts and positive energy and how, just by paying attention to the positive aspects about you or you life, you can change your world around you. Practicing positivity allows you to get past a lot of repetitive negative thinking or avoid it altogether. It allows you to look at your life differently by focusing on what is good and right versus concentrating on what isn’t working for you.
The way to go about the positive experience, in my book, is to come up with any example of a silver lining for a black cloud surrounding an experience that you’re currently having, even if, at first, it comes across as a game of pretend or some sort of imaginary experience. Initially it may feel kind of ridiculous. For instance, what if you were in an accident and the car was totaled and you got a broken leg. You are not going to be thinking positively about what happened to you or your car. But at some point its becomes a question of are you going to let the emotions about this one experience just ride you into the ground or are you going to try to move past it? Imagine that same car wreck/broken leg experience, and start thinking of positive things about it, even if it sounds absurd. It might be something like, “Well at least I get to catch up on all my favorite TV shows”. Or it could be something as simple as “I’ve always looked good in white”. It’s the sort of thing that might make you laugh. The chuckle might be sort of dark, but it’s a laugh all the same. But then the next thought that you may have is, “Hey! I’ve gotten a lot of calls from people and emails asking how I’m doing, and caring about me! And, well, I thought that all these people had forgotten about me!” It might give you a great big warm and fuzzy feeling, to know that people are out there thinking nice thoughts about you. They want to hang out with you, and this gives them the excuse to do just that. That thought may feel more authentic to you and then it will start building from there. The positive feedback you get from paying attention to the positive aspects of any situation helps to change the way you think and eventually, with enough concentration and practice you will start feeling more optimistic about every situation you face. That’s the benefit of driving a little wedge into the wall of negative thinking. With one little crack, it’s no longer invulnerable. You make room for something else!
That’s basically what you have to do with your mind, because you’re mind just runs off on its own. It’s like a computer. It runs. It doesn’t judge what it’s running. If you want to run programs that run you down, then your mind will be perfectly willing to accommodate you, indefinitely. It really doesn’t have any common sense. The mind is not the source of common sense. If you look to your analytical brain and your body you’ll find a lot more common sense. Also that’s where you find more useful information about your emotions. So I would pay more attention to what your body is telling you, when it comes to seeing if something is negative and running you down or positive and helping you out. If you start getting a headache thinking a particular line of thoughts, then “Hey, guess what?”, it is probably negative.
When you spend enough time consciously becoming aware of your reactions to stimulus, and then intentionally picking out the positive to be the center of your focus, something extraordinary happens! It becomes a mental reflex, and it sinks below the level of conscious effort. It becomes like any other task, speaking, driving, playing a sport or video game, and, yes, even typing. When you’ve practiced them long enough, they no longer require conscious thought. You simply find that you are doing them, and your conscious mind can be focused on the goal of the skill, and not merely the use of the skill itself. So, maintain conscious positivity, and it will gain enough momentum to become subconscious, which is where all true mastery of any skill exists.
The effort of constantly, consciously studying and redirecting your focus from negative to positive, is kind of like trying to edit reality after it’s already happened. But, when the subconscious takes over, your first impression is positive, or at the very least, neutral and open to the positive! When this occurs, you’ll notice that you have an abundance of mental (and consequently physical) energy at your disposal. Let me put it to you this way. Someone who’s got a very positive frame of mind, when seeing an event that could be interpreted as negative, doesn’t actually experience that level of emotional reaction associated with the negative stimulus. Let’s say that someone saw a branch down in their driveway as they’re coming home at night, in the rain. Now you have to get out of the car. Then you need to move the branch aside, while getting soaked! It’s a whole big deal! How did that branch get there anyway? There aren’t any big trees in front of your driveway! Was some kid playing and dragging branches around? Who is to BLAME?!? It’s a WHOLE BIG DEAL!! Or is it really? Because, really it’s kind of already decided. I mean there’s nothing else to do but get out of the car, drag the branch out of the way, get back in the car, and pull in. That’s all there is to do. There is actually no need to a have a bad experience, a neutral experience, or a party! There’s actually no reason for any of those three things to occur so the question is: Which one is going to be better for you? Which one is going to be more fun? Have a party! And that’s kind of what happens, when you start thinking positively and consciously looking for all the positive aspects of everything that may be happening to you, your subconscious starts doing these things automatically. Your positive response kinda jumps the gun, before you even have the negative thought processes that would result in the negative feelings. Instead you just see it and go, “Oh the branch is down. Well that’s weird. I don’t know of any big trees nearby.”, and you’re already out of the car. But, that’s it. Over. done. Branch moved. No big. It was even good for a laugh. When you don’t have to do the mental gymnastics, you don’t have to expend that energy because you are already looking on the light side.
For me, shifting my focus to the positive will have all sorts of mental and physical benefits. Not only will it give me a more optimistic outlook on myself and my life, it will improve my physical health so that I can deal more easily with my illnesses. It will improve my energy and my ability to accomplish the things that are important to me. It will prevent negative experiences from running my life and determining how I interact with my world. This will not only make my recovery much easier to attain, it will, in general make living my life and dealing with the stressful situations that are guaranteed to occur much easier. It will ultimately make me a happier more resilient person and who doesn’t want that?
For more information on the power of positive thinking and learning to be more optimistic, see the links below.