Unlisted: Evaluating the Positive

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So often do we focus on the negative in our lives. It makes sense. Humans, as a species, are geared to focus on negative experiences for survival. It can both protect us from danger but hold us back from taking risks. So if it is in our nature, how do we fight it?

The first step is to start the process of rewiring our brains to evaluate positive experiences more often. Our minds, despite our chronic illness, are plastic. Our brains are continually changing, rewiring, making connections as we learn, or engage in new experiences. No matter how old we are, we can rewire our brain to fit our daily needs.

If we want to begin the process of rewiring our brains, we should do the following tasks: find positives in daily life, express kindness/gratitude for others, do an act of kindness as often as we can, and being mindful of our negative thoughts. Doing so will bring focus to the positive in our lives, which can help us manage future exacerbations. When we engage in positive, healthy thinking, we can overcome physical roadblocks faster than someone who maintains a negative mindset.

I am a massive proponent for finding the positive in adverse circumstances. We can be in some of the worst situations in our life, and it is so important to take some time to appreciate the beauty that is in our life.

So today, let’s take some time to start embracing the positive more often in our lives.

Who are You?

We’ve self-assessed earlier in the year. Self-assessment helps us gain a better understanding of who we are and how others perceive us. While we don’t want to live our lives according to others’ judgments of us, we do want to be aware of how we impact those around us.

So who are you to those who interact with you? We take on different personas depending on the relationship, but there tends to be a common thread between them. Are you a giver? A Taker? Do you cheer-lead in others’ lives? Are you a therapist? Do you get therapy from others? Are you relatively neutral?

Here’s the important question: do you think you positively impact peoples’ lives or do you push them away? If you have a more negative role in people’s lives, chances are you don’t even realize it, but you might have an inkling.

I knew I was a toxic person in some of my relationships, and that toxic nature carried over in all of my other interactions. I might be a little angrier or turn the conversation to me without realizing it. Often I would look back at a text interaction and ask, “did I really need to make that about myself?”

If you aren’t sure how you impact others, there are two ways to figure it out: one, you flat out ask people how they see you. Two, you take a neutral stance in your interactions to give yourself a chance to be an observant third party.

The advantage to the first way: people can be honest and straight-forward in their response to you. The disadvantage: people can be honest and straight-forward in their response to you. We might not be ready for that level of honesty, or we’ll run into this problem: people aren’t comfortable with being that open with you. I’ve often found myself in these sorts of conversations with others and unwilling to be completely honest with how I perceive them. I know this makes me dishonest, but sometimes you know when someone isn’t ready for that level of honesty.

The advantage to the second way: you don’t have to get a direct answer which can protect our (probably) currently fragile egos. The disadvantage: you have to go on perceptions, not truths; therefore, you might get the wrong perception (“people don’t like me!”) which can make us feel worse. But if done well, this way can give us the most honest reflection of how others view us.

How to do that? By listening to the language, tone, and nature of the conversations people use around you. If someone tends towards the negative and says “oh, and you would like this [insert negative story],” then perhaps people perceive you as receptive to negative stories. Positive people do engage with negative stories, but their engagement is usually in a more sympathetic manner, not a bit of gossip that brings someone down.

Or, try inserting more positivity in your interactions with the friend. If the other friend responds with disinterest or negatively to something positive, then chances are your relationship was built on negativity. You can change the relationship to a more positive one, but be prepared for some pushback.

Finally, see what you naturally lean to with your interactions. Do you reach for the negative and find it a struggle to fill the gaps without anything negative to say?

It’s important to self-assess how we are perceived by others if we want to make positive changes and rewire our brains. One of the steps in becoming a more positive person is changing how we interact with others. We do need to be prepared for them to ask us, “what’s up?” if we deviate (in a healthy way) too much.

Increasing Positivity

As is with doing anything new, this is going to take a lot of practice. You will want to start off slow, it might be a positive thought or action here and there. It might increase to an added compliment to a friend out of the blue. Then complimenting a stranger. It grows as you nurture it. You will have days where you struggle to do anything in the name of positivity. And that’s okay. You’ll get there.

I personally still have a long way to go in increasing my personal positivity. I still find myself falling into old habits by filling conversation gaps with negative news or thoughts. But I have begun deleting before sending unnecessarily negative information in messages to friends. I’ve taken to finding the positive as much as possible in people’s lives and being a sincere cheerleader when I can. It’s not my job to do this for others, but the act of being kind and showing gratitude is increasing my own gratitude in my life.

As you start to increase the positive thoughts and rewire your brain, you’ll see the benefit of less stress. You may find the next exacerbation a little easier to handle. You may be able to forgive an old wound finally. But most importantly, you’ll find yourself blossoming into the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Evaluate and embrace the positive.

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