I confess, I try to be a glass-half-full kinda guy. But these days it’s getting tougher to see that glass of [insert your beverage of choice] as being half-full versus half-flippin’-empty. There’s so much negativity in our world today, so much polarization, too many 24/7 news outlets needing to pull in our eyeballs and get our clicks. It gets exhausting looking at your Twitter feed, Facebook wall, your Instagram pics or tuning into the evening news and seeing or hearing so much “downer fodder.”
There’s a heap of studies out in the world that tell us that negativity—specifically negative thoughts—can greatly impact your physical and mental well-being. From lowering your immune system to impacting your ability to focus to creating severe depression, chronic negativity can be a disaster for us humans. I see this in the “resilience to change” workshops I do. Studies show time and again that those who have a more positive view of the world tend to be more resilient or “bounce back” in the face of changing times, especially negative times. Even in those more “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days”; if we force ourselves to see the good things that happened we tend to see the broader world in a more “silver lining” kind of way.
It’s not to say we all should put on our rose-colored (or for the wine drinkers, rosé-colored) glasses but we should acknowledge that yes: adulting is sometimes hard, the world sometimes sucks and our increasingly divided world often feels broken. But overall there are a lot of great things happening and there’s a lot of love if we open ourselves up to seeing and receive it.
Here’s five ideas you can apply today to help shape your view of the world and be a bit more positive.
1. Keep a “what-went-well” journal. At the end of your day, open up a note app on your phone and identify five things that went well for you during that day and why. This could be things big (“promotion!”) or small (“found a parking spot!”), but force yourself to think of five.
Why? On some days it’s pretty easy to find the things that went well, but when we force ourselves to find five good things after that rough day, that’s when the magic happens. Neuroscientists have found that by doing this exercise for about 2-3 months you actually begin to rewire your brain to see things more positively. Try it and see if it works for you.
2. Notice the negative and positive people in your life. Be aware of the types of energy people around you tend to emit. Sure we all have those “off days” where we’re teetering on the more negative side, but for most folks their true disposition is pretty consistent. Listen to what people say, watch what they do, see what they post on social media. Then, try to hang with those who are more sunny. Emotions are contagious; choose your company wisely so you’re catching the good rays.
3. Limit your daily exposure to social media and news. Reflect on how much social media you’re being exposed to and what types. Also be aware of the news stations and programs you tend to listen to or watch. Understand their own bias level or level of objectivity. I’m looking at you CNN and Fox News!
I could go on about “confirmation bias.” where we tend to surround ourselves with those who support our world view, adding fuel to our personal flames, but honestly reflect on how you consume those social media posts. Have an addiction to social media? Look for apps or built-in smartphone features that limit the number of minutes you can socialize online. See? There’s an app for that!
4. Understand control vs. influence vs. no control. In any situation, think about the actions you can control, what you can’t directly control but can influence and those things where you have zero control or influence over. It’s like a three-ring bullseye: the center is your control area, the outer ring is what you have no control over and the middle is the influence part.
Where are you spending the vast amount of your energy? The middle? The outer ring? I see too many people dump their energy into that center ring when they really have no control, thus wasting their time and energy. Sometimes the best thing we can do to stay positive is to pull an Elsa and “let it go,” which is easier said than done for some but much more helpful to our physical and mental health in the long run.
5. Ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen?” When I worked for Disney Cruise Line eons ago, I was a little stress ball. Everything I did had to be perfect. A wonderful friend/mentor once asked me, “Steve, will the ship still sail if [insert whatever drama I was swirling over]”? Ask yourself the same in times of stress and negativity: “What’s the worst that can happen if …”? This helps put situations in the right perspective and context, helps avoid negativity and allows you to embrace the positive of what you’re doing. Chances are the ship will indeed still sail.
Being positive takes practice for many folks, and yes, acknowledge that things can get crummy at times. Ultimately, we cannot control everything that happens to us in this crazy world, but we can indeed control how we react to it. I challenge you to be that glass-half-full kinda person (and not a half-fool), and help others be a little more half-full, too. #OrlandoUnited
Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is owner and principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC. With over 25 years experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, “Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle” came out June 2019. Learn more at TopDogLearning.biz.