how positivity cultivates resilience



I was reading Positivity the other day, by Positive Psychologist from UNC Chapel Hill, Barbara Fredrickson. Barbara has dedicated her life's work to the study of positivity. For so long, psychology was dominated by the study of negativity. Seeking to find cause and cure to the ever increasing depression that plagues our society. 

Not long ago, Barbara and other brilliant psychologists decided to turn the tables not his idea, and start studying the other side of the spectrum: positivity. Positive Psychology was born. 

In her book Positivity, Barbara talks about how cultivating more positivity can make us more resilient. It is proven that naturally positive people carry higher resilience than their not so positive counterparts. 

Resilience helps us to better react and recover from tough life situations that may come our way. Positive people are better suited to handle themselves in tough situations and bounce back after an event much quicker. 

A section of her book really hit me...

"...resilient people are highly attuned to the ever-changing circumstances in which they find themselves. They are emotionally nimble. They react to what is happening now, not to what-ifs. They don't spend time worrying about the future. Instead, perhaps appreciating that they can cope with whatever comes their way, they adopt a wait-and-see attitude. They're also quick to tell the difference between good and bad - they don't overgeneralize or overreact. They minimize their angst by cutting out advanced worry and afterglow obsessions, focusing instead on reality of the present moment." 

I feel like this is something so many of us struggle with. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the what-ifs of tomorrow. Spending hours ruminating about what could happen or should happen. But we really have minimal control over events that cross our path. We simply can control our thoughts and reactions to those moments. 

How different would things be if you too adopted this wait-and-see attitude? Choosing to live life in a much more intuitive, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of mindset. How refreshing would it be to just focus on now, and not worry about tomorrow? 

There are times where thinking about the future is very beneficial. When we are visualizing our goals and dreams. This visualization can help us work through our thoughts, and form a clear vision and path moving forward. 

But when we start thinking through the negatives. the what-ifs of what could happen or what could go wrong, this visualization is no longer beneficial, but rather severely detrimental. A good question to ask yourself is simply: 

Is this useful? 

A certain amount of worry can be good, to safeguard us against danger, and to keep us alert, and in the here and now. But once you pass the point of a thought serving a purpose or bringing useful, it is better to discard the notion. 

Worry less about things out of your control. Think less about possible outcomes that do not match up with reality. Wait and see what happens before sending out the bat signal of despair. 

This week, try out being emotionally nimble. Let things roll off your shoulder. If you feel something getting under your skin, take a breath.

Know that a thought is simply a thought. And by increasing our positive outlook on life, we are setting ourselves up for greater resilience to safeguard against whatever life may throw our way. 

change the result of your emotions, by changing your perception



The result caused by single emotion is so much more about our perception of that emotion, than it is about the emotion itself.

The ideas we have around a certain emotion are just that, thoughts. It is in our thoughts that we form some super form of reality that we attach to emotions. This reality turns an emotion into an idea, that idea into action, and that action into a result.

The reality is that an emotion is just that, a feeling. And feelings simply come and go. What would happen if you changes your perception on negative emotions, to in turn make them positive? 

Take the emotions of excitement and anxiety. What do you feel when you are overly anxious about a situation? You get knots in your stomach, sweaty palms, shaky limbs, and a racing mind.

What do you feel when you get overly excited about a situation? You get butterfly's in your stomach, sweaty palms from anticipation, you get a bit shaky as if ready to burst, and a mind that just won't stop racing. See the difference?

Thats because there isn't one. 

When you really break it down, you get the same physical response to excitement that you do to anxiety. That same welling up of feelings from within. What separates anxiety from excitement, is your perception or interpretation of the feeling. But in reality, it is really all just about your thoughts. 

You may argue that there is a big difference between these emotions based on the situation or environment that you may find yourself in. But isn't that all just perception as well? You choose to perceive the environment around you in one way or another. Positive or negative. As humans, we have a tendency to blow most scenarios out of proportion, good or bad. Our thoughts escalate the reality of feelings we are feeling, or outside circumstances that are being imposed upon us. 

When you realize that you have the control over how you choose to perceive any given emotion or thought, things really start to change. 

Say you are working on a new project. And you get those feelings we discussed about, knots in your stomach, sweaty palms, shaky limbs, and a racing mind. The first thought you may have is that this new project is "stressing you out." But what if you instead changed your perception. You are working on something new, uncharted territory, you have no idea where things will end up. How exciting is that!? You get to do something new, challenge yourself, your abilities, and your mind. And that challenging is how we grow. Aren't you lucky? You can still have a knotted stomach, sweaty palms, shaky limbs, and a racing mind. But instead of putting those feelings into a negative context, instead think of them in the positive. 

This can be said for frustration as well. Too often I talk with people who say that when they get stressed, they walk away. They do this because stress is not helpful or healthy. And if you are stressed about an activity or task, you should stop, right?

But what if you instead reposition your perception to view that frustration, that stress, as being something exciting. When you hit that point of frustration, it is because you are on to something big. You are working towards a break through, towards completion. It is through that frustration that big things happen. 

Now I will argue that there is a time and place to walk away from what you are doing. So many people will attest to their biggest ideas coming to them on a walk or in the shower. Only after they had walked away from the problem. And there is much truth to this idea. Once you push yourself through a problem, as far as you possibly can - past frustration - until you have nothing else left, you walk away.

It is in that grace that we give ourselves that the subconscious mind is able to start making deeper connections, and the breakthrough occurs. 

So knowing this, why would you ever want to walk away from the beginnings of frustration? Instead you could refocus your perception to know that the beginnings of this feeling are in fact the final push before making a big breakthrough. That frustration then turns into a point of excitement. Push through that frustration, until you can't push anymore, then break. Give yourself a time of grace to stop thinking about the issue, and let your mind make the connections. 

Doesn't frustration sound fun now?