Accentuate the Positivity, Take 3September 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Another school year begins and with it we students of life are filled with excitement and perhaps some nervousness about what will be asked of us. For me, I look forward to work that will keep me deeply aligned with purpose and, yes, challenged. No doubt there will be moments when my outlook will be buffeted. I will admit to being someone who in the genetic cortical lottery was not bestowed the rose colored glasses. It’s not that I didn’t get a winning ticket, I just have to work for my earnings.
And as I have blogged about in the past, I am aware and research shows that keeping a net positive outlook can be critical to heightening collaborative outcomes and staying engaged in the tough times. So what are some steps for staying on point without veering towards disconnected or disconnecting pessimism?
- Count our negative thoughts. As attested to by a few different sources, simply keeping track of our negative thoughts as they occur can create an awareness that helps to shift our outlook. It’s not so much about getting rid of the negativity as getting a sense as to how much of it exists in our life, rightfully or not.
- Write down our negative thoughts at the end of each day and do a reality check. Test them against some alternative explanations for what happened to us and how we reacted. It can also be extremely helpful to learn to recognize and compare our reactions to the most common distorted thinking patterns, many of which have good historical reasons for existing, but that are not presently useful.
- If we are really ambitious, take a daily positivity poll. Barbara Frederickson, author of Positivity, has an on-line tool that takes the form of a daily self-test that invites takers to assess their overall outlook each day. This means noting both the ups (awe, wonder, gratitude, love, curiosity, joy, confidence, peace, inspiration) and downs (anger, shame, contempt, revulsion, fear, sadness). According to Frederickson, achieving a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative reactions is key to becoming more resilient to adversity.
- Get out of our heads in into our bodies and into community! Physical activity and fellowship can be immensely helpful to keeping us going.
None of this is to suggest that positive thinking is a cure all, nor is it meant to mask the social, political, economic, and environmental causes of what ails us (see Barbara Ehrenreich’s recent caution on this). Rather it is about helping to ensure that our reactions do not get the best or better of us.
How have you maintained an overall balance of positivity and to what social change ends?