Half Empty or Half Full. A practice of positivity.
I've been challenged a lot lately, so much so that I've felt compelled to write a blog about it. I'm a negative person. Remember the first time someone asked you, "Is the glass half empty or half full?" I do, and it was in second grade. I said it was half empty. I didn't know what it meant until later that day. It was the first time I realized I have a tendency to lean toward negative thinking. That thinking has followed me my entire life. It has made me wonder if something about me is different.
Our brains are actually hard wired for the negative. It's what helped our ancestors survive. Something terrible happens and it stores very quickly into our memory, but for something positive to stay with us it has to be held in our awareness for 10-12 seconds. Have you ever tried eating something you don't like, then chewed on it for 12 seconds? That small amount of time just turned into an eternity. It's kind of what we do when the turds start flying for the fan. We ruminate over and over again about the situation. We chew on it over and over in our heads. Something really crappy just turned into an eternity.
Did you know there are more negative emotional words (62 percent) than positive words (32 percent) in the English dictionary? So how do we break this default mode? Telling someone to "be positive" or "cheer up" while they're busy chewing on turds will likely end up getting you punched in the face. It's not helpful so please stop. What is helpful is redirecting the feedback loop. Below I am going to list 5 negative behaviors. Next to those will be positive aspects to those behaviors.
Controlling = Orderly
Impatient = Decisive
Impulsive = Spontaneous
Worrisome = Careful
Jealous = Protective
It's like flipping a switch. To me, it is reflective of what happens during a meditation practice. When you sit for meditation, the thinking mind might want to take over. When you catch your mind wandering off, you bring it back to the meditation practice. When you catch yourself saying something negative, see if you can bring your attention to something positive in that negative situation. If you find yourself experiencing something positive, see if you can stay with that feeling, what you're seeing, or touching for 10-12 seconds.
Here's a big one.... Express gratitude. Some things happen in life that we have absolutely zero control over. None. Mourning is often a part of the process. What is important is recognizing when we are chewing on things that we shouldn't be, and overanalyzing a hardship or threat. Experiencing hardship is a part of our personal growth and development. That hardship might lead to a deeper connection with ourselves, a stronger moral compass, and empathy. Redirect that feedback loop to say, "Thank you for....." There is always something we can be grateful for.
It could be a matter of perspective, allowing ourselves to step away from a conflict and out into nature. When you stand on top of a mountain you can see in all directions. Be willing to see conflict from all sides, not just yours. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in thinking life should go in the direction we choose, and when it doesn't we get frustrated. Life is fluid. It's malleable. The more you choose to adopt an attitude of gratitude and positivity, the trek off the mountain will feel a lot more manageable.
It isn't about blind optimism or taking on an unrealistic perspective. It's about broadening our vision to be more open and encompassing to all experiences. Our emotions are what nourish us and when we invest in things that nourish us, we give our life a lot more value. Our vision can also grow from the inside out. Our joy can spread to others. In doing so, we nourish all of life.