How to be More Positive in Everyday Life
Words by Rosie Underwood
Does anyone else feel guilty or a sense they’re failing somehow when they don’t experience life highs more frequently than perhaps the outside world dictates we should? You’re not on your own in your thinking.
We’re living in a time that’s constantly reminding us that we’re always lacking in something, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Consumerism mixed with the rise of social media and this ever-advancing technological era means that whilst we have the world at our fingertips, there’s been a report in a rise in negative physical health, mental health, as well as a decline in life satisfaction even before Corona swept the planet. Right now, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but more disconnected.
Hang tight, the good news is, real happiness, not the fleeting kind, the kind that aligns with who you really are, and what your core values are, comes from a deep appreciation for everything we already have. It’s not something we need to seek, it’s certainly not something we can rely on from external factors and it's entirely dependent on our levels of expectation.
HAPPINESS STARTS WITH A POSITIVE MINDSET
Being happy is not an achievement, it’s a choice. I’m not disregarding pain, loss and suffering that we experience in our lifetime. Sadly, no one gets to breeze through time earth-side unscathed. I’m from a long line of optimists, and what they taught me was to break things down and find joy in life’s simplicities, especially when faced with grief, loss or any adversity, and to look for positives wherever you can, no matter what the circumstance.
Like anyone, my emotions have their own idea as to what they perceive as good or bad. I’ve felt euphorically happy living in a houseshare in my early twenties with eight other girls, a mattress on the floor with no central heating and managed to feel totally rubbish about myself sat In an infinity pool in a seven star hotel in Bali!
When I worked with some pretty big names for red carpet events, it really baffled me why all of these ‘successful’ A-listers, were being celebrated for the same things that were burning them out and taking away their freedom. Have we got so caught up in what life should look like from the outside, that we’ve forgotten to check in with how accolades, big houses and fast cars might actually make us feel?
Don’t be fooled by false positivity
So, let me break this down for you, us homosapien earthlings are caught in a trap and it’s called the Hedonic treadmill. It’s been proven, over and over again, that once a human’s basic needs are met, i.e, a roof other their heads, food, water, clothing, when they desire something more, like their dream home, a new car, new partner, they repeatedly return to their basic levels of happiness, regardless of what happens to them. It’s no surprise big corporations play on this, which is why you might notice yourself gagging to upgrade a perfectly good phone, or dreaming of that new car, only to want an even better one a year or so down the line.
What really is joy? And how do we stay joyful?
Just like health isn’t just the absence of disease, feeling joy isn’t simply the absence of sadness, pain or suffering. Joy lasts, it isn’t fleeting, it’s a deep experience of intense inward peace when something aligns with your core values. Joy isn’t hard to find, it’s all around us and it's by taking conscious action to bring more of it about, we experience more happiness in our lives.
HOW TO PRACTICE POSITIVITY THAT LASTS
Now this one’s powerful, and I know you’ve heard it a million times, but by simply making note of at least three things you’re grateful for each night before bed, feeling into the feelings of having that person, object, experience in your life, no matter how big or small, really powerfully unshackles us from toxic emotions by shifting our attention away from the negative, bringing about joy, and in turn, happiness.
Get into a flow state of mind
This is when you get into a state of complete immersion in an activity, you function at your fullest capacity, your attention is so focused on a task that factors like boredom, fatigue, hunger just don’t enter the equation. I get into a flow state of mindfulness when I’m teaching a challenging Yoga class because I can lose all concept of time, or practicing SUP Yoga out on the ocean.
When you find your abilities are well matched to an activity, but it’s still challenging you enough, the world around you quietens, action and awareness sync to find effortless momentum. This encourages a sense of clarity, stress and worry to take a back seat, which therefore creates a lasting sense of happiness going way beyond a temporary high.
Practice mindfulness and breathwork
If you look at a room full of adults these days, they’re all breathing into their chests instead of their diaphragm. We’re subconsciously in fight or flight without utilising the biochemical changes that happen in the body when hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are pumped through the system. To tap into rest and digest, and to down regulate the stress response we simply need to make the time each day to deeply breathe into the diaphragm, even if we do it whilst engaging in another task.
When we breathe in this way, we’re less reactive because we create a bigger gap in-between stimulus and response, we aid the digestive system and bring blood back to our vital organs and away from our arms and our legs. We gain clarity, raise consciousness and we’re able to focus and bring about more joy from life’s simplicities. If you’re looking to dive into the world of breathwork, check out this full guide.
How to overcome negativity bias
Yes, even if you’re a happy go lucky, glass half full sunshine soul, we have a negativity bias ingrained in us. It’s what kept us from being eaten by a predator whilst in the wild and sadly, our brains are ancient devices that funnily enough, haven’t quite adapted to these technologically advanced times we’re living in now.
Our brains don’t like social media (our breath shallows when we look at it.) When I was training as a journalist, I was told ‘if it bleeds it leads.’ Delightful! We live in a world that plays on our negativity bias, so just be the observer of your negative thoughts, without identifying with them too much and you’ll feel a shift.
Finally, try to be optimistic in everyday life
Finally, believe in the good. There is so much love in the world than there is hate, and the positive energy inside all of us has the ability to transcend anything negative outside of you. Just remind yourself that the quality of your life is directly linked to the amount of uncertainty you’re able to live with. So, in these times where nothing is really certain, just remind yourself that when nothing is sure, anything is possible, and if you’re dreaming, aim high.