Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Focusing on the Positives

What makes you smile?

  There's a lot of negativity in our world. Turn on the TV, or go on the Internet, and it's all around us. On the news, in television shows, down the line to our countless social media outlets.

  And when you're constantly surrounded by negative, it's easy to get caught up in the wave, and yourself, turn into 'Negative Nancy,' isn't it?

  For whatever reason, our minds focus on, and highlight negative thoughts more often than they absorb positive reinforcements.

The Psychology
  Historically speaking, bad things threatened our survival (drought, an attacking animal, threatening situations). Over time, our minds evolved to hang onto those negative things more-securely to help ensure our survival with quick and swift action. The negative alerted us to danger. This is the trait negativity bias.

  The second reason we hold onto more bad than good is that our brains focus more on things that are out of the ordinary. On a day-to-day basis, our lives are pretty good. Things are at least OK for most of us. Think about it: good things happen on a regular basis throughout our day, and we rarely bat an eye. But the moment something bad hits, we fall apart. Because it's unusual, we focus on it. We fret about it, we tell our friends about it, we might carry one negative thing with us for the rest of the day! What about those 10-15 great things that have also happened? This is called the positivity offset.

  I'm not in the US right now, but I can bet that the lead story on SportsCenter over the weekend was Ron Artest's (sorry, I refuse to call him Metta World Peace) elbow to James Harden's head. So out of ALL the positive, amazing, graceful plays that happened in the world of sports, THAT was the one play that everyone focused on, and that everyone will remember. Negative sells.

  Even as a basketball player, I've always focused more on the shots I missed, instead of relishing the ones I made. That is no different than a child remembering the the one negative thing they are told rather than remembering the five positives.

  Over time, negative, anxious and defeated feelings accumulate, and before too long, you're stuck in a rut. So if we're surrounded by negativity, and our brains psychologically focus more on the negative, how do we keep ourselves from falling into the abyss?

  Unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to rid ourselves of negative in the world. But how do we focus more on the positive, more on the light that is surely in our lives?

How to Focus on the Positives
  Not focusing on the negative can be a serious exercise in discipline. It takes a lot of willpower and practice not to focus on the bad. Just like it might take practice to find and focus on the good. No matter our situation, positive emotions ARE there! You just might have to work to find them.
  • As 'zen' as it may sound, focus on the present moment. Again, most of our day-to-day moments are positive. But if we're fretting too much about the past, or worrying about the future, we miss out on opportunities to experience positivity in the here-and-now.
  • Pay attention to the human spirit, it can be amazing! What little things have others done for you that have helped put a positive spin on your day? And in turn, what have you done, or what can you do, that might positively affect another person's day? No matter how big, or small the gesture, they all make a difference! Remember those times. "What we focus on, we empower & enlarge. Good multiplies when focused upon. Negativity multiplies when focused upon. The choice is ours: which do we want more of?" - Julia Cameron

Celebrate your successes!
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. When you deserve it, really celebrate! Too often we're already looking for the next step, or our next conquest (this also can be applied to 'living in the moment'). When it's appropriate, pat yourself on the back, & take a moment to celebrate your success. It's like celebrating a win. Don't forget to celebrate a win by moving too quickly onto the next game. Just like you shouldn't celebrate too often (after each made basket, for example)!

  • For a more drastic change, we might have to change our brain process. This changes our outlook, or our perspective. For one month, write down three things a day you're thankful for, and three things you're proud of. This exercise will make you think of the abundance in your life, not what you might be lacking. It trains us to look for the positives in our daily lives. "Change your thoughts and you'll change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
 "What kind of energy are you putting out into the world? There is nothing in between."

  What about when you feel others are dragging you down? How do you not allow others' negative attitudes affect you in a bad way?

Find that bright spot, and focus on it!
  Obviously, it's important to surround ourselves with positive influences and positive attitudes whenever we can! We can try as much as we can to avoid, but of course that's not possible all the time (and avoidance doesn't leave much room for growth). Co-workers, teammates, classmates, colleagues of any sort aren't up for debate in most situations.

  So when you're around that negativity, how do you overcome it? Just the same as we overcome our own negativity, we shift our focus!

  No person is 100% bad. But once we've been around them often enough, the bad might be all that we see. Look for situations where you have positive interactions with that person, and instead relish in those moments.

  It's also important to mention taking responsibility for yourself. Your thoughts, actions (and reactions), and energy all contribute to the goodness (and the problems) in every relationship you have. 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem', right?

  These are some things that have arisen in my life recently, and I'm trying my best make a change for the better. As with anything, it's a work in progress! There are times when we need to be reminded that there are some things we cannot control. As much as we might try, we just can't! In those situations, choose to let it be, and move on! Let's focus our energy on the things we CAN change, and CAN affect.

  We can tell ourselves, 'think positively, focus on the good' all we want. But we have to do more than just 'think it'. If we have a natural propensity to drift towards and remember the negative, we have to retrain our brains. It takes time to change habits, so it definitely will take a little time to change our perspective! Stick with it!



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