The Secret to Feeling Better!
I’ve studied how to be happy a lot over my lifetime. And I can honestly tell you that when I started doing this one big thing, my whole life changed!
My first coaching class turned me on to positivity at a time when I felt really unhappy in my personal life, in my relationships, and in my career. I just wasn’t satisfied with how I sat in all these areas of my life. So, I’d do exactly what doesn’t work: veg-out on the coach with a bag of chips and binge watch the last season of Stranger Things for hours just feeling generally bad. And then I’d make it worse by talking about it all to other people. Why not just spread it around, right?
But when I learned a new way, everything changed for me. I feel better, stronger, more motivated and generally more productive and content. I feel prouder of myself, my relationships are better, and my work is rewarding and fulfilling. So, read on for 3 things about positivity that I’ve learned (so far) that have changed my life, the lives of my clients, and that research says helps us all generally feel better.
But first let’s define positivity.
What positivity is and what it’s not
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a pioneer in the real science behind positivity. In her book appropriately named “Positivity”, she refutes the myth that positivity is just about thinking happy thoughts and denying life’s problems. It’s about “broadening and building” our brain to flourish and find opportunity and possibility. The brain is an amazing computer, able to take tiny bits of data and build amazing concepts to understand our world. Positive emotions in our brain fuel genius, discovery, and solve problems. But negativity narrows brain activity, increases hopelessness, and inhibits growth.So, when we think “better” from a place of positivity, we expand our brain activity and do good things with what we feel, and when we do good things then we feel even better. So, choosing to think from a positive emotion like Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Hope, Pride, Amusement, Inspiration, Awe, or Love, what Fredrickson calls “Ten Forms of Positivity”, engages our brain in new ways that help us feel lighter, happier, empowered, and engaged. And we all want that, right? So, here’s how to start.
First, choose to wrap any situation in a positive emotion.
It was a big revelation when I realized I can choose to end a story in positivity or negativity. It is important to feel what we feel and not deny the sadness or frustration. Taking it one step further to wrap negative emotions in a positive emotion like gentleness, kindness, and compassion takes our view of it to a higher place and makes us feel better.
Remember, we know that negativity closes up space in the brain and restricts creativity, but positivity opens it. When we curiously look through the lens of a positive emotion, a person, situation, or story takes on a new meaning. As our mind is opened up to explore, we soon discover new options even in old scenarios, and problems don’t seem as serious or devastating. When we sit in for example, we can ask ourselves if dwelling on negative emotions is really good for us and we may find the motivation to move through negativity sooner.
Second, keep moving.
Instead of sitting around ruminating on how terrible life is, I had to get up and get moving. I’m not talking just about the dreaded “E” word (exercise!) even though that was and is helpful to me. I had to move on with my thoughts as well and do what’s in my control to do. I’ll probably never find the answer to why someone did something or stopped doing something, so I had to accept that fact and move on. Remember, I know about this after all the hours I’ve spent just sitting pondering things on the sofa. I could have taken origami, written a poem, or even just cleaned out a closet in a fraction of the time it took me to ask myself endless questions in my head about something somebody said six months ago. Trust me on this.
And last, be responsible with your words and actions.
My negative attitude doesn’t live on until I speak or act from it. So, I have to zip my lips when I can and sit still before I act. Clients tell me one of the best tools I’ve given to them is to build in a PAUSE between a thought or feeling and the action they take. This gives them (and me) room to decide how to respond rather than react to someone or something. How? Take a deep breath, whisper the word PAUSE, and then decide what to say so that it reflects well on you and is a gift to the listener. Take action that helps you and others feel better not worse. The last thing you want is to add negativity back to the scenario by saying words you don’t mean or spending money you don’t have to feel better for a minute.
Just keep in mind it’s a process.
You’ll never be perfect with all of these new rituals. I certainly am not. And that’s okay.
Dianne Presley, LCSW/BC-TMH
Owner/Founder of Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Anxiety, Depression and Relationship Therapy
Gottman Level 1 and Level 2 Trained Therapist
Gottman Educator in 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing Baby Home
Certified Brain Based Success Coach
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For more on Positivity take a look at these resources:
"Positivity" by Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD
“Learned Optimism” by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD
“7 Principles for Making Marriage Work”, Dr. John Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver
Brain Based Success Coaching Certification, Susan Britton with The Academies,