On Practicing Positive Thinking

HOW POSITIVE THINKING RELATES TO HAPPINESS

Happiness means something different to each of us. Although there are dictionaries that define it as “good fortune, contentment, pleasure and joy,” those terms are just as unique to each of us as happiness. For me, happiness and peace are interchangeable concepts. Peace used to be an abstract and elusive concept for me – something reserved for monks and people who live on tropical islands.

In order to find and understand peace, I had to first learn how to clear my mind of all the clutter that was distracting me; and I had to let go of negative thinking patterns.  For many years, it was a struggle because Life seemed like such a rollercoaster ride – an endless surge of triumphs and tragedies.  It is difficult to be at peace on a rollercoaster.

At the time, I did not fully understand the Universal Law; but I knew that positive thinking was an important part of the happiness equation for mePositive thinking seemed like a very good starting point for finding peace and happiness.  It was just that, a starting point; and I knew it would be an uphill climb.

Because of my faith (in my higher power and myself), I had never been a total dooms-day type or a complete naysayer. But I did struggle with depression for many years (in part, because I absorbed other people’s negativity but also because I avoided changes I knew needed to be made, within me and in my lifestyle). How the depression ended, once and for all, is a tale that can be told another day.

The important point, for today, is that there came a time in my life when I realized that I could manage my feelings by choosing which thoughts I would focus upon.  Emotional pain cannot be ignored; but we can feel the pain we need to feel to heal our wounds and then let go.  We let go when we stop using thought to re-create the scenario that gave rise to the pain in the first place.  This was nothing short of a revelation for me.  It was a defining moment that changed my entire perspective on Life and later freed me from the rollercoaster I had been creating all along.  It did not happen over night.  Rome was, in fact, not built in a day.  But I believe most people who know me well would agree that, today, I have a positive attitude and I love Life.

Photo by photonut @ http://www.rgbstock.com

Before I could really begin practicing positive thinking, I had to come to grips with the duality of Life – the Yin/Yang; the tension of the opposites; why Yoda said only Luke could bring balance to the Force.

Life actually is a bed of roses; beautiful petals and painful thorns growing side by side. This fact cannot be ignored. By ignoring the duality of Life, we create a fragile delusion that is easily destroyed. If we want to find peace in the garden, we must accept the whole of it.

We can, however, accept Life and love it unconditionally while still practicing positive thinking. We can focus on the beauty of the petals in the rose garden (the tranquility of their fragrance, the calm of their color, and the strength of their form) without ignoring or trying to destroy the thorns.

Lest I digress into too much “high flown language,” let me just say this – we feel better and we are happier when we are thinking positive thoughts.  Anyone care to disagree?

For most of us, practicing positive thinking IS something we have to learn. We start by reprogramming our minds to look for positive thoughts and embrace them.  If you go out looking for things to think positively about, you will not have to look far. Spend some time in nature; watch a non-violent, funny movie; make a list of all the things that are “good” about your life; run a Google® search with any combination of words that will bring up inspiring stories, images of beauty, or babies giggling.

Take this effort seriously. Set out on a treasure hunt each day for new experiences or familiar experiences that create positive thoughts. The goal is to remind your mind what it feels like to foster positive thoughts and to stock pile positive images and emotions in your brain’s database.  A really easy way to find positive thoughts is to focus on those things for which we are grateful.  The objects of our gratitude will always be markers for what it is in Life we value most — what we find positive in our existence.

Positivity And Realism Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Obstacles will present themselves.  Events or circumstances that are painful for us will occur.  We can deal with these very real aspects of our humanity without letting negativity consume us.

When something undesirable or tragic occurs, deal with it.  Feel what you need to feel to heal.  If you let yourself, you will heal.  The way to heal is to feel the disappointment, embarrassment, or sorrow but immediately turn your attention back to positive thoughts and emotions.  If there is absolutely nothing about that particular situation that you can identify as positive, turn your attention to something else completely.  In most of our day to day experiences, however, there is something positive to be found in most experiences.  When something unfortunate happens, try your best to look for the up side  —  the “one good thing about it,” the thing that makes you say, “I almost have to laugh because . . . .”

Instead of letting that positive thought get washed away on a tide of self-pity, anger, frustration, or bitterness, GRAB IT! Hold on to it! Play it like a record, over and over again in your mind. Watch how that thought evolves.

Photo by Jay Simmons

What you will find is that the thoughts you hold on to most dearly begin to attract other thoughts that are just like them. It is a lot like the way a magnet picks up nails and the way a falling object picks up speed. By embracing even one positive thought when it crosses your mind, you pull other positive thoughts toward it; and the gravitational pull of the original thought gets stronger with the addition of each new “like” thought.

This same concept applies, of course, to negative thoughts. The most obvious question you might ask yourself is “Which kind of thoughts bring me more peace and happiness?”

DO NOT FIGHT WITH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS; WATCH THEM PASS THROUGH

You might be saying, “I can’t help it! I just can’t force those negative thoughts out of my head!”

If so, you are correct. You cannot force negative thoughts out of your mind. It has been said that “what we resist will persist.” This concept is also known as cycling. The very act of trying to stop thinking about something requires us to think about it – the more we try to stop thinking about it, the more we are thinking about it.

Do not try to fight dark, negative, angry, or foreboding thoughts. Rather, simply watch the thought pass through (let it occur without grabbing onto it, trying to interpret it, or trying to understand it). Just let it happen. This will take less than one second.

Once the thought happens, let it fade away in a sea of what you choose to focus on – the more positive thoughts. It might help to visualize negative thoughts as waves that roll (or crash) ashore but then slide right back into the ocean they emerged from.

On down the line, there will come a point where you recognize that some thoughts that might be considered “negative” warrant attention because they are signposts for something deeper that needs to be addressed (specifically, unconscious content). Initially, however, you are simply learning the art of positive thinking – how to choose to do it in the first place. You cannot deal with any struggle or fight any battle if you do not know how to get out of the trench when you are surrounded. Until you learn how to promote, nurture and accept positive thinking, you will likely find yourself surrounded by its opposite – negative and damaging thoughts — more often than you would prefer.

THE MORE YOU PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING, THE EASIER IT GETS

Consistency and persistence are key. With continued effort, there comes a time when you feel the shift – the positive thoughts are plenty and so comfortable that you find it much easier to let the negative thoughts pass on through or, when necessary, be evaluated against the backdrop of a healthier attitude.

If you have other people in your life who are already positive thinkers, consider giving them permission to help you. Often, we may not even realize when we are indulging in negativity. It has happened to all of us, at one time or another. It still happens to me, occasionally. In fact, I was talking to my daughter recently about a health issue of mine. Positive thinking and optimism are such important parts of my life that she immediately noticed when I made a “surrender statement.” She immediately bombarded me with one positive counterpoint after another. I found myself grateful and, quite frankly, proud of her when she said, “Stop being a Negative Nancy!”

Her positive outlook on the subject immediately attracted all of the positive thoughts I harbor about the same issue and, together, we turned that brief moment of negative thinking into an exciting and enjoyable conversation about positive attitudes. When she caught the statement and commented on it, I became aware of the thought behind it immediately. Normally, I can maintain this kind of awareness on my own; but that is not always the case. Once I did become aware of the negative thought, I was able to return quickly to my center of gravity, which is a positive attitude.

Awareness is the key to more than one kingdom.

© 02/01/12

 

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5 Comments

  1. This is a very well-written post. Simple but profound. Short but powerful. Keep thinking, keep writing.

    Reply
  2. I enjoyed this post thoroughly, it reinforces the positive lifestyle and mindset I am incorporating into my everyday existence.. 🙂

    Reply
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