The Power of Positivity: How to Retrain Your Brain Even if You’re a Pessimist

The truth is, I am not the most positive person. I never have been. I’ve never seen the world as sunshine and rainbows, even as a child. My cousins call my father “Uncle Suck” because my uncles call him Suck. Guess why? Because even he was always saying that things ‘sucked’.

Clearly, this is a nurture or nature thing. All my life, most of all in my teenage years, my family was always telling me to be more positive. Maybe its because my dad didn’t want me to turn out the same way he did. Maybe its because in contrast to my blond, ex-gymnast mother I look like a little punk rock thundercloud. Either way, as a teen who was already in the ‘you can’t tell me who to be mom and dad!’ stage, it kind of had the opposite effect. Either way, I can kind of see where they were coming from. Who wants a teenager that knows more about the history of murder and serial killers before the internet was really a thing? Come to think of it, I’m surprised I was even allowed in schools.

Anyway, as I got older, in spite of my dark personality a lot of the friends that I made in college were bright and cheery people and personalities. They were positive and had amazing outlooks on life. Every time something bad happened they made the best of it. And I’m not talking about little problems. I’m talking about getting pregnant and the dad wanted nothing to do with the kid. Finding out that your Boyfriends father sexually abused all of his brothers! I couldn’t even imagine being like that in the face of those situations. And yet there they were; admitting that these situations sucked but that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and they were going to get to it. And the weirdest thing is that positivity attracted positive things! Things did work out for them in spite of all of the shit they were going through. People were willing to help them and their positivity attracted those things.

So I changed. I know that is a ‘bad’ word. That you shouldn’t change yourself to fit in with the world but let’s be honest. We all change. We grow up and out of our childish habits, thoughts, and rebellions. And I’m so glad I did because I don’t know if I would have gotten through the last few months if I was still in a pessimistic mindset where I just felt like the entire world was crashing around me and would never get up.


Make the Decision

Honestly, this is just like working out. The hardest part is admitting that maybe you need to make a change. Being negative is actually a survival mechanism that we have developed over years of evolution. We are trained to see obstacles so that we can overcome them. The problem is that then we move directly on to finding the next problem to solve. Maybe it’s not a huge thing where you are super negative but you find yourself in a mental slump. The first part is admitting that you can do something about that mental or emotional funk. This really comes down to the same thing as we have talked about in previous posts and that is taking responsibility. Once you get to this you’ve taken the first step and we can really get to work.

Surround yourself with positive people

Normally I don’t start off with the most important thing but this is such a huge point I don’t want to wait. We are the company we keep. Cheesy? Yes. But we are. The people we surround ourselves with really set our moods. If you really want to keep your mood up being around people that have a good outlook on life will really make you check our negativity. You really start to realize how bitchy you are when you’re around genuinely good people. As weird as it sounds we do feed off of other peoples energy so its important to realize what that can do to us. I’m not saying that you should cut off friends that aren’t rays of sunshine but we all have that one friend that just…brings us down and life is always against them. Take note of what that does to you.

Center Yourself

For me its running and yoga. For others its things that calm down the mind like breathing exercises and meditation. Either way find something that makes you feel calm and that you can recenter yourself with. Taking care of yourself is a big deal and one that we are told is selfish. But it’s not. Not at all. Self-care is both mentally and physically is important and will help you get yourself focused and back to a nice middle point.

Make Sure that Your Escapes are Actually Escapes

This one is a bit harder to define but as we get into hobbies and where it is right behind social media, make sure that your escapes into fictional realms including tv shows and movies dont leave ou more negative then you started with. I love to know whats going on in the word and listen to MPR every morning. My parents always have the news playing in the background. Sometimes….I will come out of it feeling even more stressed out then I did to start with. The sam e thing can be said for shows and books.

Social Media

A note on Social Media. There is a book out t here that pretty much sums up how I feel about social media and its called “Why Maddy Ran”. It is a book about a girl in college. She was the all American girl, was on her college track and field team, was doing all the things that she was supposed to do. But she was always looking at her friend’s social media from high school and asking herself why she wasn’t having the same college experience as them? Why wasn’t she as happy as they were? What was she doing wrong? Logically she knew that her friends weren’t posting the boring nights they had studying or the bad parts; she knew that when they saw her social media they probably thought the same thing. But she still felt depressed about not having the same college experience as them. There were a great deal of other issues including how we socialize young adults (Or dont prepare them at all) to deal with the stresses of college and how the NCAA system treats young athletes. But in the end Maddy ended up not getting help until it was too late and killing herself.

We have to be careful how we treat social media and remember that its a skewed point of perception into the world. We can’t trust what we see on it and we should not be comparing ourselves to people on it. However sometimes its hard. Not to mention that there is just a bunch of trash on it. When I was training my friends to start running, I reminded them that every time they open instagram they should see something positive and empowering. If you have that friend on there that is constantly bitching or that 3rd aunt that is constantly bashing political views, then maybe its time to mute or unfollow them. Negativity breeds negativity.

Mantras/ Positivity Circuits

Picking a mantra is something that sounds so new age and crazy. But its really not. It can be something as simple as “Today is going to be a beautiful day.” Not only is it giving you a bright thing to think about, but its also filling up the space that could let negative thoughts creep in. Every time that you feel the negativity coming in, just come back to those words. In today’s App based society, there’s even an app for that! I use My Affirmations: Live Positive.

Positivity circuits are another great way to use this and trust me its a lot easier then it sounds. Spend one minute, three times a day, actively looking for something good.

Make a Gratitude Log

Some people do this daily, some people only weekly, but in the corner of your planner or in our journal pick three things that week or a thing a day that you are grateful for. Once you start, you’ll be surprised how quickly they come and when things start to feel bad, you can always look back at them.

One of the hardest things that I had to learn over the years is how to deal with not being able to solve everything, that there was always another obstacle. That the never-ending ‘suck’ that my father was lovingly nicknamed after, was always going to be there.

But in the end, I came to one inevitable conclusion: The world was not ending. Maybe the rainbow wasn’t right there in front of me, but there was going to be one if I kept going. Harshness and all of the shitty stuff will fade and a year from now I would be in a totally different mindset about it.

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