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Put on Your Positive Pants

Photo by Saz B on Unsplash

Do you know someone who is always negative and would rather focus on worst case scenarios? For some being negative is a learned behavior and something that was ingrained in their psyche early on in life. Others have been frequently disappointed in life and assume the worst as a way to protect themselves from future hurt, anger, or sadness. We may view our negativity, pessimism, and cynicism as healthy strategies to prepare for anticipated bad outcomes. Ironically, anticipating the negative can increase the chances of a bad outcome, not reduce it. We are not better prepared for a negative event when we worry about it ahead of time nor does it soften the blow. Often negativity contributes to our fears and worries and can prevent us from taking risks or trying new things in life. When we assume, which is never a good idea, we rely on our own perception which can sometimes be distorted. Negativity can also be a way to justify keeping others at arms length and not being vulnerable. Most people prefer to not be around a negative person very much and will limit their exposure to this type of person.

So what's the alternative? Of course choosing to be positive is the best option. Not always an easy task, especially today. We are surrounded by negative media and some would like to know that others have it worse off than them. Maybe we need to limit our media exposure, especially news programs. Social media can also contribute to our negative mindset, especially if we compare ourselves with others and get stuck on envy. We may find it difficult to be positive when we're going through a difficult time with our relationships, health, work, and/or finances. And I'm not advocating that always being positive is healthy or appropriate. Being negative at times can be normal and healthy, but a chronically negative attitude can be physically and emotionally debilitating.

We can work on being more positive by creating a gratitude list and writing down all the positive things in our lives. Another suggestion is to use thought stopping when you find yourself fixating on the negative and reframe your thinking to be more constructive and rational. Sometimes giving ourselves permission to be negative for a time-limited period (10-15 minutes) before moving to the positive can be helpful. Journaling can be beneficial in an effort to dispute our negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Being positive is less difficult when you surround yourself with mostly positive people. Our friendships, community involvement, exercise, and leaning on our faith can make it easier to be positive. Lastly, being positive is a choice, but one that requires awareness, effort, and strategies. If you're looking for a New Year's resolution, try being consistently more positive.

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