Positivity and ‘positive mental attitude’ are practically buzzwords among self-help aficionados and spiritual communities these days. Positivity is positivity, so it can’t be a bad thing, right? Well, not exactly, no. However, inauthentic positivity equates to delusion, which isn’t so great. Positivity needs to come from a genuine place of awareness... but when you’re feeling down and out, stay positive can be challenging to conjure.
In order to avoid the pitfalls of delusion (e.g. smiling and telling yourself it doesn’t matter that you haven’t made this month’s rent), it is necessary to cultivate a realistic positive outlook. This is generally a matter of perception, and of course attitude, which are intrinsically linked. Incidentally, idealism is a philosophy that goes hand-in-hand with positivity. Yet idealism can lead to over-egged expectations and disappointments, so a healthy combination of idealism and realism is the sweet spot we should probably be aiming for.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to cultivate a realistic positive mental attitude:
Keep in mind that worry is a waste of your energy
Worry… where did it ever really get you? Join the dots on your personal timeline. When you think about it, how many occasions can you recall when you worried yourself senseless about something that never actually materialized negatively? Most of these events probably weren’t even half as negative as you anticipated, with hindsight… and even when they were? Well, you’re still alive. So one way or another, you handled them!
The mind just loves to meander into all kinds of fantastical daydreams – some of which can be more nightmarish than dreamy. By committing to pulling your mind out of its unpalatable predictive tales, you can retreat from the brink of the abyss and back into the safety of the present moment… the moment in which – if you really think about it – nothing much is wrong.
When we focus on the potential of something going wrong, our mood dips. Positivity ebbs away down the proverbial drain and we find our doorsteps darkened by anxiety. It is at times like these that we need to remind ourselves: we actually just dreamed this whole thing up. It hasn’t happened yet, nor may it it ever.
Remember that you have power over your life circumstances
Quite often when we don’t feel positive, it’s because we’re in fear mode. The base emotions are love and fear, and all the other emotions you can think of are offshoots of those. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or angry – you’re coming from fear. Most fear comes from projection into the future, and although you can and will project positively too, it should be done with realism in tow.
Let’s imagine that you just got the promotion of your dreams. Excellent news, right? The chances are you’re feeling very positive about it. In the sense that you achieved something you wanted to, it is very positive. However, who knows what the reality of the situation will be? We’re not suggesting you dwell on that possibility – that’s a waste of energy, as mentioned above. Yet the reality of life is that things do change. People change and circumstances change. The only constant is change.
A year from now, will that job bore you? Maybe. Does it matter? Not in the slightest. You can still be positive about the whole thing no matter how it manifests over time, because your life circumstances are under your control. If you don’t like something, you can change it. This is within your personal power, no matter the perceived obstacles of the time. That’s definitely something to be positive about.
The dualities of life are totally necessary
Duality is one of life’s inevitabilities. Without getting too ‘out there’, it’s a simple fact that without the experience of ‘bad’, ‘good’ would have no meaning. Bad provides context for good, and vice versa - just as night provides context for day. When something happens that we perceive as ‘bad’, it’s a subjective judgment based on our conditioning, personality, personal history, fears or desires; perhaps a mixture of all of them. That doesn’t really matter; what does matter is realignment of perception. To quote Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
There is another saying that reminds us there is no growth without pain. It’s true. Sometimes we need to get squeezed a little so that positive motivation emerges. When you’re feeling that squeeze, ask yourself what positivity could come from that? Maybe you’ll kick an unhealthy habit, finally change an unhappy circumstance, or come to a freeing realization. Realistically, pain can lead to positivity.
Think about this: there is never really a final outcome, so how can anything ever truly be bad? One chain of events leads to another, always. Again, reviewing your personal timeline indicates this truth. The day you were made redundant or dumped by your love was the day when the pathway opened up for you to meet your current love; or the inspiration for taking the course that led to your shiny new career… and so on.
So to conclude: realistically, sometimes life sucks… but only temporarily, and the great thing about life is that it’s always full of second chances. Blank slates are exciting! Knowing that you’ll always land on your feet at some point is a pretty good reason to stay positive.
Genuine positivity means that you’re realistic about life’s ups and downs, safe in the knowledge that you can navigate them successfully. True positivity comes with awareness – there is no need to lie to oneself. So let’s get real: in the big picture, today is a great day… no matter what!
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