There are few things that get under my skin as much as internet memes of inane statements about being positive. Like, really under my skin. Like, I will unfollow you for that kinda thing. For real.
But there is something to be said for walking that fine line between harsh realism and avoidant compartmentalization.
Genuine positivity is a mindset carefully crafted throughout a lifetime. There is no denying that hardships and heartbreak befall every single one of us, and keeping a positive outlook on life can be trying during those difficult times. Instead of turning to empty memes and fruitcakes masquerading as self-help gurus on social media, put these three positive-thinking steps into daily practice.
1. Adopt positive affirmations
As cheesy as that old Saturday Night Live skit made them sound, positive affirmations actually help us combat those negative thoughts swirling around in our heads. The human brain is wired to replay situations in which we suffered on a loop in an effort to keep us safe from whatever initially harmed us. It’s part of our survival instinct.
The problem is, these days we aren’t so much running from wild animals as we are trying to navigate the catty ladies in the office. This is definitely not the kind of suffering we will benefit from revisiting over and over again. Positive affirmations help redirect our brains to focus on the good, safe and beneficial experiences in life.
2. Keep a gratitude journal
While First World Problems are definitely A Thing, let’s not deny that problems are problems, and the amount of suffering or pain they cause is relative to that which you’ve previously experienced in life. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can also admit that one time too many you’ve had our entire day ruined because you spilled coffee on your favorite shirt and then your frienemy got the car you were dreaming of (that woman gets everything!) and your husband was late – again – and the whole time you were fuming about these things, underneath it all a pang of guilt reminded you that these were ridiculously trivial problems and then you felt like a jerk.
Writing in a gratitude journal is an important tool in keeping the annoyances and frustrations of modern life in perspective. I’ve taken to writing three things I’m grateful for every night before I go to sleep and I try my best not to repeat any thought in a calendar week. Because sometimes when the local Barbie moves into her third new home in two years, you have to remind yourself it’s a blessing to be able to pay your rent.
3. Aspire to be Zen
Zen is a concept that is so often misconstrued, I’m betting even the Dalai Lama throws up his hands in despair and locks himself in his room to meditate. Being Zen isn’t about ignoring the tragedy, the difficulty and the chaos of the world and saying, “I’m totally Zen.” Rather, being Zen is our ability to carry peace within ourselves despite the chaos around us. It is an important tool in the effort to both avoid becoming depressed** and resist the entrapment of anxiety. A daily meditation practice can help you work toward harnessing that peaceful and positive state of mind.
**Some depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. If you think you are suffering from depression, please consult your doctor immediately.