“It’s completely unrealistic to be positive all of the time.”
In a little over a year since The Positivity Solution has been in existence, I’ve probably heard at least 100 different people say the above quote to me.
Truthfully, I get where those people are coming from.
Being consistently positive is hard. Really hard.
Even though I’ve completely dedicated my life to positivity, I still come up short consistently.
So, why is this positivity stuff so damn hard? More importantly, what can we do to make it easier to stay positive?
Stay tuned, because I have the answer to both questions.
The Default Setting
Let’s start with why being consistently positive is so hard for most people.
For some strange and twisted reason, the default setting on our brains is the “Negativity Setting.”
Yep, this is the sad truth that no one wants to talk about. If you don’t believe me, think about this:
Scientists claim that our brains process up to 50,000 unique thoughts a day and 70-80% of them are negative.
Yikes. Here are some familiar examples:
“I’ll never be as successful as my sister.”
“Ugh, I can’t even fit into these jeans anymore. I’m such a pig.”
“I hate this job.”
“Why do I always attract losers into my life?”
“I’ll never be able to afford that.”
“No one ever appreciates me for my hard work.”
“My coworker is SO annoying…”
“I’m not smart enough to start a business.”
“I am a terrible parent.”
On and on, the negative thoughts keep marching through our brains until we decide to put a stop to it. If that troubling statistic wasn’t enough to convince you that our brains are hard-wired for negativity, here are two questions for you to chew on:
Why can most people receive hundreds of compliments and instantly forget about them, but they’ll remember one insult for days, weeks, months, or longer?
Why do many people dismiss and ignore breathtaking beauty (remember this incredibly famous example of that fact?), but they’ll stop in a heartbeat to look at a deadly car crash?
The reality is that we’re all stuck with this negative default setting to some extent.
And if we want to experience consistent positivity in our lives, it will take a complete rewiring of our brains in order to do it.
That’s why I have to chuckle when people dismiss positivity as mindless fluff that’s reserved only for the naive, delusional, and nearly brain-dead people of the world.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
It takes a unique combination of mental toughness, emotional intelligence, and unshakable resilience to be consistently positive. Believe me, negativity is the easy route. Positivity is the real challenge.
Speaking of a challenge, here are three simple ways to begin the very real process of re-wiring our brains to a new default setting.
1. The Positivity Minute
Remember when I said that when most people receive a compliment or see something beautiful, they dismiss it?
From now on, don’t be like “most people.”
The next time that something positive happens to you, or you happen to see something beautiful, do this instead:
Consciously spend at least a minute (ideally longer, but at least a minute) reflecting on the positive event.
Many people want to dismiss compliments and ignore the beauty in our world, but I’m telling you that your life will change once you make a practice of consciously staying in each positive moment a little longer than you normally would.
For example, last week I was in line at Wetzel’s Pretzels, and to make a long story short, I jumped in to buy a pretzel for a college-aged kid whose credit card was getting repeatedly declined by the cashier.
He was so thankful that he hugged me before he happily bounced away with his warm buttery pretzel.
Now, I easily could have dismissed that event, bought my pretzel, and then headed back to the office without thinking about that kid again, but I didn’t do that. I spent a good 10 minutes consciously thinking about his joyful reaction and the equally positive response from the cashier who witnessed it.
It may sound silly to some people, but simply taking the time to stay in that moment made me feel amazing.
Next time you experience something positive, try to consciously stay in that feeling of positivity a little longer than you normally would.
The Positivity Minute (or longer) is one of the easiest ways to reset your brain, and believe me, it’s worth the effort.
2. Positive Endings and Beginnings
Here’s another super-simple way to increase your positivity: No matter how busy you are or how tired you are, do not go to sleep for the night without reflecting on what you’re thankful for.
In fact, the last thought that you should have each night before you go to bed at night should be a thought of gratitude.
My wife and I are trying this with our girls (ages 5 1/2 and almost 3), and each night before they go to bed we ask them to tell us one thing that they’re thankful for. It’s the coolest thing ever, and even though they’re really young, they’re both really into it.
I wish that I could explain it, but gratitude has near-magical powers when it comes to creating a life of positivity.
If you don’t have the time or interest to create a gratitude journal (I highly recommend that you do find the time and interest, by the way), at the very least, commit to thinking about one thing that you’re sincerely thankful for every night, without exception.
But if you’re really up for a challenge, try this for a week:
For the next seven days before you go bed, think of three things that you’re thankful for.
The challenge is that you’re not allowed to have any repeats for the entire week.
At the end of the seven days, you should have come up with 21 unique things that you’re thankful for.
That’s not all.
Equally as important, during the week, start each day with three positive things that you’re committing to do.
It could be calling your parents, getting caught up on your email, going to the gym, meditating, finishing a project…literally anything that would make your life a little more positive is fair game.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the acts are–the only catch is that each day, you need to complete three new positive things, no repeats. At the end of the seven days, you should have completed with 21 unique things that will make your life a little more positive.
If you start and end each day like this for next week (ideally, for the rest of your life), it will be nearly impossible to not move your default setting way above the positivity line.
3. Avoid All Unnecessary Negativity
Okay, this one isn’t as easy as the other two, but it’s still simple.
I truly believe that the two best gifts that you can give to yourself to avoid unnecessary negativity are:
1) Ruthlessly removing the toxic people from your life.
2) Successfully immunizing yourself from chronic complainers.
That might sound overly simplified, and I can only speak for what works for me–cutting out any unnecessary negativity in all areas of my life has done wonders for my positivity.
Putting in the Work
Taking the time to re-wire our brains to the positive isn’t easy, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
I don’t have all of the answers, but if you’re reading this and you’re willing to put in the work to create a world that’s a little more positive than it was yesterday, then we can make it happen. Yes, we.
There is no way that creating a positive world can be done alone, and this African proverb says it best:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
We’re in this together, and I’m excited to see how far we can go to make this world a more positive place for all of us.
Which one of these techniques resonated with you the most? Do you use a different technique to stay positive? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!