When I was approached to write a blog about positivity, my first thought was to apologise profusely for my blog post in comparison to all the other fantastic ones available – I had to catch myself, and remember that a blog about positivity shouldn’t begin with negativity! So here you go, the best, most exciting and interesting blog you will ever read awaits!
Initially my idea was to write a blog about mental health, specifically anxiety. This is something I have struggled with myself for many years, and even in the last few months I have taken time off work to recover after a particularly difficult stretch. Thanks to the support of Business West I was able to be honest and open about my struggle, and return to work when I was ready.
After a few weeks of planning, I felt strongly that rather than writing my story, I could write something that others could take away and use themselves, regardless of whether they struggle with mental health issues or not. The thing that had helped me the most to remain on the straight and narrow was, you guessed it, positivity! There is a lot of noise around positivity currently, especially in relation to mindfulness and positive thinking, so it’s no wonder employers are sitting up and taking note.
A few months ago, one of my colleagues asked me how I always managed to be happy. This struck a chord with me – I see myself as quite the opposite! Definitely a glass half empty type of person. My team had obviously seen something in me that I didn’t necessarily feel myself, and after much thought I realised that it wasn’t necessarily happiness, but positivity that they had noticed. This spurred me on even more to work on my positive outlook at work and at home.
Why is positivity so important?
There is a huge amount of evidence to say that simply changing your thought patterns to positive thoughts can rewire your brain and can increase lifespan, lower rates of depression, provide enhanced cardiovascular health and give you a better resistance to illness.
Not only does it give physical benefits, but psychologically a more positive and optimistic person activates the left frontal region of the brain, making it more active and thus enhancing productivity.
How can we train ourselves to light our brains up?
Work can be tough; dealing with customers, colleagues, and partners can be tough! (At home too!). All I want to do when someone calls and is rude or moans at me, is to come off the phone and do exactly that - moan about them! In fact, that is ok! Many of us love a moan, but in our office someone is always able to turn it round to a positive.
“They must be having a bad day” can be turned into “we’re lucky that we are having a good day!” It is not about never having a negative thought; it is about finding something positive within that process.
It also means you can help those around you – someone moaning that they have loads of work to do is an opportunity for you to offer to help or give advice, turning their negativity hopefully into more of a positive and a problem shared.
It is not easy, and it is certainly not constant – we are surrounded by negativity, and let’s be honest, everyone hates that over-positive super human who is never annoyed and never seems to have any struggle in their life. Little steps are just as important for a healthy balance of positivity.
Tips for a positive mind-set
Be grateful: Even for the smallest of things.
Catch yourself: Catch yourself in a complaint. Stop complaining. Congratulate yourself for being aware!
Observing Self-Talk: Positive thinking can help us take a step back, talk down fears, and build self-confidence.
Reversing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thinking doesn’t happen overnight. Still, developing positive self-talk through daily thought exercises can help replace negative patterns with habitual, positive thinking.
Make a new groove: We can create a brand new groove for pleasant feelings. The more often we allow our minds to remember the good stuff, the easier that kind of thinking becomes.
Donald Hebb, a neuropsychologist, believed that ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’. Whenever we think a thought or have a feeling or physical sensation, thousands of neurons are triggered and they all get together to form a neural network. The brain learns to trigger the same neurons with repetitive thinking. Replace the negative pathways with positive ones, and the brain will do the rest of the work itself.
Practice wise effort: Wise effort is letting go of that which is not helpful and cultivating that which is skilful.
If you keep your mind focused on criticism, worry, and victimisation, your mind will find it easier to bring up those same thoughts for similar situations. Our thought patterns wire our brains to react positively or negatively to the situations we are presented.
So give it a go, see if you can change the way your brain works so that after some training, it will start to see positivity without you having to force it to do so. And always remember… happiness is a mood, positivity is a mind-set.