Optimism is Good for Your Mental Health
Early in my career, a coworker looked at me and said,” You are a very negative person.” My initial reaction was to feel a bit hurt, but something in me recognized some truth. Whenever I saw someone, I immediately and instinctively found something negative. There were things said about me and to me as a child that formed a negative frame of mind.
I’m pretty sure that negativity started with self-talk that played in my head like an old tape recording. It became the filter through which I saw the world. The thoughts just happened, and the negativity grew like a fungus, taking over my entire mindset.
When my coworker pointed out that negativity, I was a 24-year-old mother of a 1-year-old, on the verge of leaving an abusive marriage. I had a lot in my life to be cynical about, but I didn’t want that to define me anymore.
First, I decided I would force myself to identify something positive about each person I encountered. Initially, it felt forced and unnatural. I struggled to silence the negative and replace it with positivity. I had to become a genuine giver of compliments, saying things like, “That color looks so good on you,” “What a beautiful smile.” The immediate feedback is usually a smile. Who doesn’t love a compliment?
Next, I forced myself to receive compliments without deflecting or diminishing them. I realized whenever anyone complimented me, I would reply with “thanks, but ...” You know, “thanks, but it’s missing three buttons.” Changing this also felt very unnatural and I had to bite my tongue at times.
After purposefully practicing these behaviors for about a year, I saw a change. I can definitively say it has helped me create a different mindset, one that eventually instinctively looked at the positive. I can’t say I am now utterly positive in every way because life happens. It would be easy to dwell on my past and let it pull me down. However, I have chosen to visit but not live there. Negativity happens, but you don’t have to build a house in it.
One of my favorite quotes is by Joyce Meyer, “Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.” That says it all. After I left my husband, I was a hollowed out and wounded shell of a person. I’m still seeing a counselor regularly and working to improve my mental health.
Choosing to dwell on the positive has changed my entire life. What about you? Are you a “Negative Ninny” or a positive powerhouse? Are you teetering between the two? If you are, I challenge you to focus on the positive. It will take effort and practice, but it retrains your brain to look for the good around you.
Plus, having a healthy mindset can have a positive impact on your health. It can improve the immune system, heart well-being, and build healthy coping skills for when times get tough. I generally believe more optimistic people tend to live healthier lives. Let 2020 be the year you choose not to be a “Negative Ninny.”
Filed under: Mind/Body/Soul
Cindi Handley Goodeaux lives in Jacksonville with her husband and muse. She is a proud mom and rescue pup lover. The host of the WriteCute Podcast, Cindi is also a published author and member of both the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Cat Writers Association.