Those who wish to sing, always find a song. ~Swedish Proverb
I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that there are bona fide atrocities and egregious violations going on in this world such as rape, war, terrorism, genocide, the list goes on. Turn on the news, they’re everywhere. Browse the bookstores, you’ll find them in just about every section. Listen to songs, even the least artfully crafted lyrics evoke some type of appalling human behavior.
And we don’t have to think of seriously evil stuff to know that there is much negativity around us. Apart from the daily annoyances we encounter such as poor customer service, technological glitches, bad moods and blog trolls, we can expect co-workers commiserating over bad weather, count on the media getting their facts wrong, and anticipate that, every now and then, a supposed role model would mess up in public and massively disappoint us.
Some may say that’s just life. The problem with this kind of thinking is it gives life a bad name and has an air of resignation. (Call me crazy but I prefer to think of life in positive terms so I refuse to go that route.)
If you’re a sensitive person like me, all this negativity can wear you down.
So how do we stay afloat on the positivity ship in a sea of negativity?
1) Acknowledge it. You don’t have to sleep with it, but you do have to be able to recognize a negative force outside of yourself. It’s there. Big deal.
2) Know that you have a choice. Its pull is strong, and it’s easy to get swept up in negativity so much so that you may forget that you can choose how you react to it. Let’s go back to complaining about the weather. It seems harmless enough hearing your colleagues kibbitz about unexpected rain in September. But if you join in on the chit chat, you waste precious time and energy remembering something you yourself weren’t particularly crazy about. (Why relive it? If you feel like bonding with your colleagues, there are many contructive ways to do so.) If you choose not to participate, you give yourself permission to move on.
3) Realize that, sometimes, you have the power to turn the tide. In a room full of naysayers, you can be the one that gets up and says yes. Say you’re in a brainstorming session and everyone agrees why every idea won’t work. You have it in you to raise doubt about their cynicism. Sure, you’re going against the flow when you do this instead of going with the flow, but sometimes, the flow goes in a negative direction and it needs to be stopped.
4) Resist the temptation to give in. Other times, you won’t have the power to change a situation. Still, you can resist giving in to a negative feeling. This is not that hard to do. Once you realize that you have a choice, it becomes easier to manage how negativity affects you.
5) Think happy thoughts. This sounds cliche but it works. Say you got the blues on a Monday morning. First, acknowledge that this is not the end of the world. Then, take it a step further and think of a happy thought. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be the last time you had a great time with a friend, or your son’s smile, or your daughter’s silly playfulness. By this time, your mood should lift at least a little.
6) Meditate. Sometimes, all you need to do is a few minutes to calm your nerves or quiet the chatter in your mind. It’s just like pressing the reset button, only, in this case, the button is your willingness to drop everything and pause. The cool thing about meditating is when you get good at it, you can do it anywhere, anytime: at your desk, in your car, (preferably not while driving), in an empty room, while walking or doing any repetitive task, etc.
7) Look for the good in the bad. If something disastrous happens to you, allow yourself to feel a natural reaction whether it’s anger or sadness. But realize that this too shall pass. When you recover, look back and think about what you can learn from the experience. This will only make you stronger.
I recently read Tracy Kidder’s latest book called Strength in What Remains about a man named Deo who survived genocide in two countries: Burundi and Rwanda. He was literally running for his life for six months. If Deo can come to New York without knowing a single soul, learn to speak English, get a job, go to an Ivy League school after a couple of years, and build a clinic back in his poverty-stricken homeland after he’d been on the run to escape machetes and murder, there’s no telling what incredibly positive things human beings can do if they so choose.
People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. ~Epictetus
Image by Ferdinand Reus