If there is one thing I’ve learned when I’m faced with challenge is that negativity sucks. It literally sucks all the energy out of a situation and of your abilities to deal with it. When we feel overwhelmed or bewildered by a challenge, it can be easy to start naming all the things that might happen if the situation isn’t remedied in a timely fashion. It can feel good to complain, getting our grievances out there – “venting” is what it is most often called.
The problem with long-term negativity bias is that it wires our brain to think that way. Soon enough, we can often only see the things we think are “bad” or “negative” about a situation. We simply don’t have the neurological circuits well-worn enough to think happy thoughts. There’s good news though – neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change itself, can help you feel more resourced and positive amidst life’s toughest challenges.
How to Stay Positive
1. Deal with Concrete Things in This Moment: What is it that you can do about it right now? If nothing, take a few moments of self-care, like some deep breathing. Once you feel calmer, go on to step 2. If you can think of something to do, do it!
2. Make a Plan to Get it Done: What will solving this problem entail? Make a list of things you need to do, understand, find out/research to make sure you are successful!
3. Find Meaning in the Challenge: Why did this challenge occur? Was it something you could have changed by your choices or actions? If not, practice some self-care, like some gentle yoga or one of your favorite activities. If you need help finding meaning, therapy can be a great addition to this step.
4. Evaluate what Positive Traits You Gained From It: A lot of times, we are given the opportunity to develop personal characteristics like courage, determination, fortitude and self-confidence by rising above adversity. Reflect on whether these events helped you become more aware of something or develop a positive trait in the face of the challenge.
5. Be Compassionate with Yourself No Matter What: No matter the outcome of the situation, be compassionate with yourself. Laugh about something. Find humor in your mistakes and find ways to find funny in your faults. This can be a huge stress relief to laugh at our lack of perfection!