Shifting to a Positive Perspective

Young Woman with Smiley Emoticon on Green Background
© william87 –

It’s natural to long for more positivity, at work, at home, with family and friends, and within ourselves. Sometimes we find it in one area of life, but struggle with negativity in another. We may feel fulfilled and satisfied by our work, but struggle with family relationships, or vice versa.

When we’re feeling low or negative, we can’t just flip a switch and be positive all of a sudden. And no one else can do this for us, either. In fact, trying to do that can invalidate what we’re feeling and that can make our situation or symptoms worse. That doesn’t mean we can’t help someone when they’re feeling down, but the first goal is to try to help them find neutrality so they’re not so low.

We might say things like, “I hear you. This is a challenging situation for you. I’m sorry you’re going through this. These things can be really rough.” And we can do this for ourselves as well, to affirm our own feelings. “This is just the way I feel, even if it’s pretty awful right now.”

It’s about getting to a place of acceptance, and seeing the situation as temporary or something that can be worked through with professional experts or our personal support network.

Our feelings are our feelings, and are valid just the way they are, but we can also work to continuously improve upon a situation. To start, we can take a look at some of the obstacles that keep us trapped in negativity.

For many of our clients at White Picket Fence Counseling Center and in our culture today, the biggest barrier to positivity is communication skills. We can all improve in this area. In text messages or emails, some people use emoticons to help convey the emotion they’re trying to express, or acronyms like LOL (“laughing out loud”) to indicate they were joking.

When we’re face-to-face, our facial expressions and body language have the same function, but we don’t always realize that. Research has shown that our non-verbal communication has a bigger impact than the words we actually say. For example, a client might notice that I’m leaning in closer or holding my hand to my heart.

Just as we may be unintentionally sending the wrong message, we might assume someone else is reacting a certain way but we don’t know for sure. When we rush to judgment it can lead to misunderstandings or even broken relationships.

We all bring our different backgrounds and experiences to our relationships, to work, and to our homes. Some people are raised with a lot of negativity and don’t know how to talk about things any other way. In some cultures it’s superstitious to say good things about oneself.

Few of us were raised to focus on what we did well and why we can be proud of ourselves. We automatically look for the negative instead.

We all want life, job and relationship satisfaction, and seeing things positively is the secret. And it doesn’t just feel better. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, found that our brains are 31% more productive when we’re feeling positive than when we’re feeling negative, neutral or stressed.

Self-care tools to help you shift into a positive perspective

Every day we’re faced with stress at work, from the media, from financial pressures, and from just doing life. Many of the same self-care techniques we’ve explored in other articles are what can help us shift into positivity.

  1. Have a perspective of gratitude. Try to write down 3-7 things every day that you’re grateful for, to truly shift your perspective. When you spend the day looking for things to be grateful for, your mind will naturally evolve to seeing things more positively. As you think of the people you’re grateful for, send them a note telling them how much you appreciate them and why.
  2. Finding even as little as one minute of quiet time can make a big difference, whether you spend it doing breathwork, mindful meditation, or simply spending time in contemplation. If you’re struggling to fit it into your morning or evening routine, then attach it to something you do anyway. For example, pause before you walk into the office or grocery store, as a transition between activities.
  3. Seek out people who are positive, and steer clear of people who drag you down with their negativity. Journal about the people in your life who lift your spirits and help you feel positive, or who simply make you laugh. Now write down some ideas about how you can spend more time with that person. Reach out with a phone call, text, email or letter. Or make your own greeting card for a personal touch.
  4. Smile. This triggers our brain to release positive neurochemicals, and can be contagious, too. When my kids were younger, before eating dinner we’d have to first look around the table and smile at each other. They’re adults now, and they still talk about how cool this was.
  5. Open yourself up to new ideas, at work and at home. We can get stuck on what we’ve done for many years out of a sense of nostalgia. Let this go.

Although you can’t change all of this at once, it’s a journey rather than a goal to be checked off. This might be new for a lot of people and it’s easy to slip back into old habits especially with stressful life situations including pain and health issues. Therapy and counseling can help with the obstacles that are more firmly entrenched.

As long as we keep trying to move forward we can make progress. The more positivity we can discover in ourselves, the more we can spread around – and that feels great! The best part is that more people will want to be around us because we’ll make them feel great, too.