There is a bit of an ongoing joke between some of my friends and family regarding my excessive positivity. My vocabulary is generally littered with superlatives, my expressions similar to that of a child discovering the world for the first time. I can often be found exclaiming that whatever food I’m eating or place I’m visiting is “one of the best ever”. For me, this usually means it’s one of thousands of bests. But still, it’s one of the best! I’m endlessly able to see perfection in just about everything and could probably even get excited about the different hues of grey in concrete. Believe me, sometimes I annoy even myself.
The strange thing is, positivity hasn’t always been second nature to me. Quite the opposite. In fact, I don’t believe it is second nature to anyone. If pressed, most would admit that it comes more easily to be negative about things, to see the downside and have no faith in the possibility of something working out. Perhaps this is some pre-emptive, protective mechanism, in place so we don’t ever have to face the misery of being let down. Whatever the reason, we all fall victim to it. Negativity is our default setting.
Not so long ago, I was so trapped in my own hurricane of negative spirals, that I googled “positive thinking.” I actually sat there and typed the words, one after another, into a search engine. To this day, I can’t remember exactly what prompted me to do this, but it’s safe to say I was at my wits end.
I felt like I was constantly fighting a losing battle with my own mind, completely convinced that I could never think anything other than negative thoughts. My desperation drove me to do something that at the time, I never believed I would have the confidence to do: I left the house on a bitterly cold and dark January evening and turned up alone to a course entitled “Positive Thinking”. A course I had found on google. Had I gone mad?
Whilst google is perhaps not the best therapist, it did point me in the direction of the Brahma Kumaris and their aptly titled course. The first of four sessions focused on the notion of cultivating a friendship with your mind. I realise how ridiculous this may sound to some, but it was a completely alien concept to me at the time. My mind was once my biggest enemy, to the point where I had actually become comfortable with the dynamic and was reluctant to let it go.
Despite this reluctance I turned up again the following week, desperate for change. Even on the journey there, I assumed the worst; telling myself that when it inevitably didn’t work out, it would at least be a funny anecdote for the pub. That evening though, I went through what was probably the closest thing to an epiphany I will ever experience. I learned that we choose our own thoughts.
It is a childishly simple process; create positive thoughts, eliminate negative thoughts. The reality, as I’m sure you will know too well, is not so easy. It takes a lot of practice. Negativity is just as much a part of life as positivity and we couldn’t know one without the other. They are complementary, just as a shadow cannot exist without light. However, the realisation that we can control our thoughts instead of them controlling us was a huge turning point for me.
What stands out to me now is the importance of letting go of negativity that you can’t learn from. Can it teach you anything useful about the present? Can it change how you approach something in the future? If not, let it go. Engaging with wasteful thinking about the past is exhausting. Allowing the ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’s’ to eat away at you will eventually drain your energy. Though it can be tough to begin with, thinking positively is actually a lot easier.
I’m not going to pretend that my mind is now some saccharine haven full of rainbows and sunflowers – wouldn’t that be dull? It is, however, becoming easier with practice to be selective of which dark clouds I allow to hang around, and most importantly, how long for. Being positive doesn’t mean never having negative thoughts. It simply means not letting those thoughts control your life.