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Positive Thinking

We’ve talked about Happiness, and how it can be a challenge to find and hold on to, especially when there’s so much in Life and The World that seems overwhelmingly depressing. But doesn’t that play a role, too? That negativity piling up, making (seemingly) everyone around you angry, aloof, and exhausted? (Or, as they’re known in the Disney universe, Grumpy, Bashful, and Sleepy.) Like it or not, just as every part of your body is connected to the other in some way, everything and everyone in The World is connected to each other in some way. In a technologically rich community like today’s, unless you live on Antarctica, you’ll be saturated with news, media, and information, not all of it warm and fuzzy. While the concept of being constantly influenced can be daunting at first, it’s actually important to consider, since it’s an efficient way to break certain cycles that easily spiral out of control.

Before we get too much further into this topic, let’s clarify: “positive” thinking does not mean “naive” thinking. “Positive” in this case simply means “producing”, just like “negative” means “detracting”. Someone who thinks positively is someone who is, in fact, more in touch with reality because they think about what’s available to them, what they can do, and how they can influence a situation. (It helps to think of it as basic Addition vs Subtraction rather than Rainbows & Sunshine vs Storm Clouds & Frowny Faces.)

You Are What You Think

(Yeah, it’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also true.) Our thoughts shape our reality. Some know this line of thinking from its psychological term, cognitive therapy. Some refer to it as The Law of Attraction. Even poets like Ralph Waldo Emerson have offered wisdom on this concept: “We become what we think about all day long.”

The power of the human brain and the collective human consciousness has become a hot topic in scientific circles, spawning its own field: Noetic Science. Noetic science studies not only the loop of how our brains create our world, then operate in that world, then recreate it (and so on), but they also study how groups of people, ranging from small communities to an entire planet full of them, can change the world simply by changing their thought patterns. With social networking over the Internet becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, it’s easier than ever for different portions of Humanity to connect with others on the other side of the planet. If the airwaves are soaked in negativity, is it really so hard then to understand why it feels like things get worse and worse? What other option do we have?!

Not All That “New Age-y” After All

The idea of a world that is created around your thoughts goes as far back as ancient Greece and a little story called Oedipus. If you cannot remember 10th grade English, here’s the story: someone predicted that the king of Thebes, Laius, would have a son that would eventually kill him. Part of this prophecy also said that this son would marry his own mother, Jocasta, Laius’s wife. As a result, when Oedipus is born, he is banished because Laius thinks he knows what will happen. Oedipus is adopted, hears the same prophecy, and fearing that it involves his adoptive parents, runs away. Guess who he kills as he’s traveling? Laius, his father. Guess who he marries after Thebes names him their king for defeating the Sphinx? Jocasta, his mother. (Even Cliffsnotes would be impressed with this truncated retelling.)

Each main character in this story makes a choice based on what they think will happen, and in so doing, creates a world for themselves where what they thought then impacted what they could do later. This story, though tragic, illustrates the point that our thoughts create our universe and its own set of rules, which we then must adhere to. Laius assumed that if he had no contact with his child, then of course, it would not kill him. Oedipus assumed that if he isolated himself from the people he thought were his parents, he wouldn’t be able to fulfill this “prophecy”. Both made big decisions based on what they obsessed about and tried very hard to avoid, and ultimately, their thoughts became their reality.

How Can What I Think Make Life Better?

Since we’re all living creatures, it is impossible for anyone to be perfect. We do, however, have more influence over our world than we think. Here’s a simple game you can play:

  • See if you can go an entire day… yes, that’s right, a full 24 hours… using exclusively “positive” language. That means putting things in the context of what you have, what can be changed, and using statements that are flexible, allowing for alterations. It’s a challenge, and when you commit to it, it turns out to be a fun one. This can be done by anybody, even busy parents, stressed professionals, chronic grumpy-pants, and more. By using this technique, you’ll be able to quickly spot the scenarios and/or people in your life that are making it difficult to stay “positive”, and possibly begin figuring out how to make smarter choices with how you react to those saboteurs. (If you notice, this paragraph is an example of using a “positive” vocabulary– it’s upbeat and still based in reality.)

Yes, it can be frustrating at first, and you might notice that you’re spending a lot of those 24 hours being quiet, trying to figure out how to put a “negative” sentence into a “positive” context… which can be a good thing. By spending a little more time considering the reactions you want after you say what you say, you’re making it much more likely that people will listen to you and respond the way you’re hoping they would. Consider, too, that time spent being silent can become time spent listening to others, and hearing what they’re really saying. Perhaps other people aren’t as cranky as you thought, and there was simply a crossed wire somewhere.

You may notice that by using a more “positive” vocabulary, you’re not feeling the same daily frustrations. You might even notice that you feel a little vulnerable, because it can be scary asking for what you want– there’s always that chance someone will say “no”, and if you’re already thinking “negatively”, you’re at least prepared for it. Playing a game like this can expose a lot in life: people that are routinely negative, situations that keep forcing you to stay in a negative state of mind. With that brought to light, the next step becomes taking action. How can you break the cycle?

You Have More Influence Than You Think

Now that you’ve identified the areas that are bombarding you with negativity, what do you do about the big ones? How can you possibly stay in a positive frame of mind with news stories about catastrophes, murders, economic woes, and natural disasters? One option– take a break! Cut yourself off from newspapers, TV, and internet sources of information for one day. Maybe a couple days. Hey, maybe a whole week! Yes, it’s important to stay up-to-date on current affairs, but if everything you’re hearing, reading, seeing is negative, it’s more of a challenge to overcome. So give yourself some quiet time. When you start to pay attention to the news again, be sure to spend just as much time learning about the positive as you spend on the negative. (That’s why newspapers have comic strips and jumbles.) The only person that controls how much negativity is around you is… you!

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