More Joy Please

There is quite a bit of information out there on the power of positive thinking. There are so many books, articles, programs and workshops on positive thinking and its amazing benefits that you would think we would have daily public hugs parties. But we do not…so I have two questions. Why do we need so much help being a positive person and why does there seem to be so many negative people? If it’s so great and powerful, why are we not all happy positive people? We all experience hardships and pitfalls in life and some people still find that silver lining and others fester and stew in it. I myself prefer the happy outlook but it’s such a battle at times.

I spent the entire weekend in Yoga Teacher Training learning about Chakras and Meditation. Our instructor Michael Hibberts was fantastic with his peaceful and very Zen persona. We had some great discussions about finding peace amongst the chaos. He mentioned a study of brain receptors for negative thinking/thoughts/actions/information being 4x wider than positive receptors. Wow, how is that for insight on why it’s so easy to get down when around so much negativity? Being a science major, I had to start reading more about this. As I said, I found plenty of articles on the power of positive thinking but had to really dig deep to find information and articles on the science of both negative and positive. Once I got in there, there are plenty of studies and articles supporting what Michael Hibberts mentioned. They even go on to say that negativity is addictive or contagious. Direct quote from Physiology Today article and scientist Rich Hanson describing this as “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones” (link to article). That means we really need to try hard to stay positive and doesn’t take much to feel negative. They go on to say that some people are naturally wired to be more positive and some more negative. I understand this as I think about my friends and family and their natural reactions to events or situations.

So how does this play into our own happiness? For me…this is what I think I need to do to ensure the positive energy stays stronger than the negative. I need my tribe. A group of friends and/or family members who are positive and happy and create more positive experiences than negative. I keep the negative people to the perimeter. This is a tricky subject because I am not saying get rid of friends or distance yourself from family. I am saying if there are negative people in your life and you wish for more positive energy you need to make choices about who you spend the majority of your time with. When topics turn to negative subjects turn them back to positive or even ask that everyone consider more positive subjects. But ultimately who you spend time with will determine your level of positive or negative feelings. The next step I need in place is less television. The news is so negative that after watching even a few minutes I am sad and stressed. They report on so much hate and violence that I begin to feel depressed about the world around me. I need less of this and therefore keep television to a bare minimum, including the news or especially the news. When bigger news stories are out there you will see or hear of them. I also use that time to research what is going on and often find that I am very well informed without watching the local news programs. So this is not shutting me off from the world, just shutting off the negative noise. Another item I need in my life is gratitude. I need to acknowledge the parts of my life that are great. I have things that I would like better but I focus on what is great instead. This takes practice and daily efforts. But when you do this, you really do feel better.

Even though I am referring to what I need to make me feel more positive I believe that I am not alone. I think we all want more joy but it’s not going to happen on its own. It’s going to take a concerted effort to ensure that happens. So now I understand why there is so much information on the power positive thinking. And I am grateful for all the help.