Welcome to the new Pick My Brain series! I truly love being a resource for people, and feel grateful for the opportunity to share the things that I’ve learned and that I love. I wish I could sit down for a cup of tea with every person that asks to pick my brain, but there just aren’t enough hours in the week! So every so often, I’ll ask for your “pick my brain” questions over on Instagram and answer them here. It’s a great way for me to serve you as a resource, and hopefully help more people at the same time! Here’s one of our recent questions: How do you stay positive in the face of challenge?
How do you stay positive?
I love this question! I love it for a bunch of reasons. For one, the fact that I get asked this often means that lots of people are wanting and willing to learn how to create positivity. Isn’t that awesome? We need so much more of that in the world. And secondly, it means that we agree that positivity in the face of challenge is possible! Starting with those two assumptions is huge.
My guess is that if you asked this question to ten different people you’d get ten different answers. Which is cool, because it means that there’s no one way to stay positive. What works for one person may not work for another — it’s majorly important to find a method that resonates with you. (Or you might just end up more frustrated/angry/worried/negative/scared.) And beyond that, what works for you on one day may not work on a different day, depending on the circumstances.
Why is it so hard to stay positive?
Did you know that the main barrier to positivity is that our brains are actually hard-wired to look for and protect us from threats or danger? It was our natural survival instinct wayyyy back in the day that kept us safe as we were out hunting or gathering. Now that we don’t need that fight-or-flight instinct in our daily activities, the mechanism tends to create pessimism, and magnify the perceived likelihood of things going badly. Isn’t that crazy? Science, man.
These days, studies show that optimism and positivity are tied to everything from your health and wellbeing to better job performance. So it’s hugely worth it to try to invest in a little positivity.
Here are some of my personal tricks to staying positive.
How to Stay Positive in the Face of Challenge
Take a deep breath. Literally. It’s always my first line of defense. When I feel overwhelmed or freaked out, my immediate go-to is a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. It’s a simple trick to bring you back to your body and stop that sinking feeling.
Identify fact vs. fiction. Next, I try to figure out what is an actual fact and what is assumption or my imagination. Your brain is a crazy place, and it can manufacture all sorts of scenarios to scare you off or send you down a path of pessimism. So try to really identify the facts and take them at face value. Separate the assumptions or fears or what-ifs, and try to set those aside.
Consider a new possibility or alternative. When I’m feeling negative about an either-or situation, I try to find a new possibility or alternative. Try to step out of the situation and see if there’s a third (or fourth or fifth!) option that might be a positive outcome. It’s a great exercise to remind yourself that just because you can’t see a path, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Flex your empathy muscle. This is one that I am constantly trying to improve upon, especially in my dealings with my kiddos. Empathy is a muscle that needs to be used to stay in shape. Practice the skill of seeing the situation through somebody else’s perception. It can be eye-opening, humbling, and it can totally diffuse a tough situation.
Actively seek out what lifts you up. As opposed to those tricks up above, this is one that I use on a daily basis to try to start from a positive place, rather than dig myself out of a negative place. This is one that just infuses your world with good vibes. Make a concentrated, specific effort to seek out what lifts you up. Hang out with nice people. Make time to do the things you love. Put yourself into positive places and spaces.
Cultivate gratitude. And above all, count those blessings! When I stop a negative train of thought by specifically and intentionally listing out some things I’m grateful for, it jolts me into a headspace of perspective. It won’t erase trial or tribulation, but it sure will bring perspective to your world and help you navigate negative or pessimistic feelings. Keeping a gratitude journal is a really simple way to start this habit.
As a side note, I also wrote this piece a few months back about positivity, which is filled with little bite-sized, daily tricks that I use too. And it has a free download!
So how about you? Do you feel like you struggle with staying positive? Are there any methods that you use when you feel yourself needing a boost? I’d love to know you strategies — share them with us in the comments! xoxo