At a recent training day we had a session where we each gave certain people post it notes with feedback on. To my suprise I received multiple notes saying how inspired they were by my positivity. I was so honoured, and it got me thinking about what effect that has on me, others and how I got to this point given where I was not so long ago.
I think being positive is an incredibly powerful thing. Its an attitude that infectious and at work can make you more productive. How many teams have you worked in that had positive or negative attitudes? You noticed a difference right? The negative teams result in people not wanting to be there, distracted and fidgety, whereas the positive ones work through problems are enegetic and inspiring. The same can be said for great leaders, they make you want to work for them rather than their tasks being chores.
I’m pretty sure that a positive attitude is trainable, having done it myself to get me out of a funk so I thought I’d share how I did it.
My starting point:
18 months ago I was extremely low, crying regularly, numb to the world around me. It was like floating in a black space where I had no purchase on reality. Having been taken by suprise at being unceremoniously dumped (inconvieniently soon I’d decided to stop taking antidepressants), all my memories from the preceeding 5 years had become distorted as I went over them again and again in my head trying to find the clues or lies that might have helped me see it coming.
My wakeup call came after work where I had spent all day in a hopeless grey haze struggling against the desire to curl up in a ball in the changing rooms instead of working, resulting in the compromise of just staring at my screen.
That day I seriously considered stepping off the platform in the path of the oncoming train.
I just couldn’t see a future where I was happy again, I hated the idea that this lifeless smog would be how the rest of my life panned out.
Then logic stepped in, thinking about how inconsoderate it would be to disrupt however many thousands of people who use the Northern line each day at peak commuting time.
It was also the moment I decided that I didn’t want to think that again or feel that way anymore.
Step 1: Decide you want to be happy
I think it’s incredibly important to make that decision. It is so easy to fall into negative thinking spirals and when you’ve been hurt by others its easy to blame the world, hoping prince charming will whisk us away to fantasy land and decide that self indulgent moping fits in the category of ‘self-care’.
This step also empowers you to take charge of your life, to take control of how you feel, to stop playing the victim, to be a bit selfish. It gives you the power to be happy if you want to be. But if you don’t want it, the other steps won’t work.
Step 2: Get outside
This one is thanks to my friends. They had just started training to do the Welsh 3000 (hiking the 15 peaks over 3000ft in Snowdonia in 24hrs) so invited me to join them. This afforded me lots of time to quietly contemplate how I was going to improve my lot while also starting to reintegrate myself into society having been a hermit for the previous few months.
Step 3: Surround yourself in positivity
My friends were so fantastically supportive and I made sure to catch up with them lots, but I also spent (and still do spend) a fair amount of time on pinterest and the like looking through positive life quotes. They always turn negative self talk around with a bit of perseverence if you want to believe them.
Step 4: Fake it till you make it
On our long mountain walks I felt like I had been invited along for my own good. I was therefore really conscious that the others would have planned it with the aim of achieving the challenge but also to have fun along the way, so the last thing they’d want is for me to bring the whole mood down. By trying really hard to participate and engage with other happy people in fun activities one day you distract yourself from whatever had you down so at the very least its a respite, but the more you do it the easier it becomes, and one day you’ll realise your not having to fake it anymore.
Step 5: Set yourself goals
They dont need to be big goals, they might be little challenges.
For me I was annoyed that I hadn’t been on a proper holiday in forever, so I went to Belgium on my own for a weekend… then Costa Rica on my own for 2 weeks. You don’t need to dunk yourself in at the deep end, but I wasnt going to wait to find a new boyfriend before doing what made me happy. I made the decision, I did what I wanted, and I didn’t need to compromise for anyone else, it was all quite liberating and each achievement gave me more confidence to tackle the next challenge.
Step 6: Remember the good times
So I really recommend this to anyone whether your down or not.
Keep a rememjar.
It’s basically a jar, and every time something good happens, you write it down on a piece of paper and add it to the jar. Simple right?
I did this for the whole of 2016, having got to the end of 2015 feeling like the whole year had been rubbish despite there having been some good times too, and for the first couple of months I was putting in things like “X was really nice to me today” but my the end of the year I was only putting in significant things.
By writing down the good things it helps commit it to your memory better, helping to over ride the negative at the time, but also if your having a bad day it can be a good tool to go back theough and perk yourself back up again.
PS. Start with a big jar (eg coffee) youll be suprised at how quick it fills up!
Step 7: The power of ‘but’
This one is helpful because it takes the existing negative spiral mindset and repurposes it for positivity. I found when I was low that spent a lot of time thinking, “yeah thats great but… [insert negative thought]”. A lot of the time the negative things werent even true but your brain is in such a negative place it cant even be happy for a second.
So now, whenever theres a negative, i follow it with ‘but’. Eg: “I don’t enjoy my job, but I’m getting good experience and its getting me closer to where I want to be” or “I hate being single, but I can eat ice-cream without judgement and it would be worse to settle for a guy who’ll treat me that bad again”
I know this may all sound massively simplistic and that it couldnt possibly work, but please believe in yourself and dont beat yourself up it does take time. In all it took me over a year to get from where I was, and like everyone I still have bad days where I have to revisit one or more of there steps to remind myself how far I have come.
I hope that someone finds this helpful, and any other tips please leave them in the comments