Before I answer that question, I would like to be honest and say that I struggled with negativity for a very long time myself. I also had quite a few false notions about positivity. But, in the last few years, I discovered a few things that made me realize what it means to be positive. Also, what mistakes to avoid while trying to develop positive habits.
1. Positivity doesn’t imply happiness
If you think being positive means that you will always be happy, then that is not true. Sure, you will feel more fulfilled with your life and the people around you if you are positive. But, happiness and positivity are not synonymous. You are bound to feel bad when things are not as good as they should be. You cannot laugh and enjoy when someone you love is suffering. Does that mean you are negative? No. We all have a range of emotions, whether we express them or not. Positivity is not an emotion. It is a way of life.
Positivity is being calm even in the tough times that life throws at you. It means that even if you are in a difficult spot, you do not panic. You believe that things will get better, you know that you will feel good again soon, you have faith that the difficult times are not here to stay. So, it is a mechanism to enjoy life to the fullest when things are great. Also, it means holding onto hope when things are not that good.
2. Positivity should not be toxic
Toxic positivity is a trend these days. People are finding out that people are dying due to the pandemic in certain parts of the world. And they want to stay positive even then. If until now you were talking about being happy where a majority of people are suffering, then you are mistaken.
The same is true about every bad thing that requires you to express grief – a break-up, a job loss, death of a loved one. You are supposed to feel bad, talk to a friend or family, write in a journal, or seek professional help if needed. In such circumstances, you need to let it all out. Take as much time as required to vent out your feelings.
Positivity will then help you to come out of it and have a fresh start. It will happen only when you did take time to experience sadness initially.
This is a Video by Gaur Gopal das on Instagram regarding the same. Kindly watch it as you will not find a better explanation anywhere else.
3. Positivity should not be superficial
It is more or less related to the above point, but I would like to add another aspect. People who do not understand positivity want to be positive every minute of the day. They are somewhat lying to the people around them and themselves. They try to be all giddy and happy in front of other people, but in reality, they are sad and don’t want to open the doors to their heart to anyone. You don’t want to be one amongst them. Why they do that is not our concern right now.
So, if you profess to be positive 24*7, then there is a chance for you to have a massive burnout someday, and it is not good to watch. You will become more and more negative on the inside while pretending to be positive on the outside. So, try to be true to your emotions and feelings. Express everything clearly. Nobody expects you to have it all.
BUT HOW WILL YOU START BEING POSITIVE?
Now that we have decoded the real meaning of positivity, we will move to the next step – maintaining a positive attitude.
Positivity is a lifestyle!
Positivity is not something you can master in a day or two. It is a constant practice of believing that things are good and hoping for them to be better in the tough times.
Now to maintain a way of life, there are various chores you need to follow. Like when you start exercising, you maintain a daily routine for working out. You might eat healthier due to this. You might sleep early and wake up early the next day. Likewise, for positivity to become a habit, there are a few things you need to do consistently.
1. Cutting back on social media
Social media gives all of us a convenient platform to interact, share, to spread the word. But, in some cases, these activities can be detrimental to your mental health. And without realizing, you will find yourself getting all negative and judgmental. So, if you have spent a lot of time on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, along with others, try to give yourself a break from that. Or you can try to have a dedicated screen time and set reminders to not use it for more than 1-2 hours each day.
2. Start being empathetic
I came across a counsellor who is like a mentor to me these days, and he told me that empathy is the end of judgement. If you try to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you will stop judging them once and for all. You don’t know what someone is going through. People hide very dark deep secrets inside of them. So, try to be a little empathetic, and you will find all your anger and negativity fading away in no time.
3. Start meditating
I know while you are reading this, you’re finding it repetitive. I get it. You might not like meditating. I didn’t as well. But, it doesn’t have to be all 10-20 minutes long practice.
Meditation, to me, is nothing but soft focus on the breath. Inhaling and exhaling and in between if any other thoughts come, not dwelling on them but letting them pass. You don’t even need to close your eyes for that. You can do it in a room full of people or isolation. Start with this and do it for a minute. Then you can gradually start increasing the duration if you want. It will clear your head. Meditation is about consistency rather than perfection.
4. Your surrounding matters
If you spend most of your time with somewhat negative people, eventually, that will add to the negativity in your life. Your environment shapes your life. So, if you find yourself in a toxic environment, then try to limit your time with such people. In most cases, those people could be your family members, and they may have no idea about mental health and related issues. Do not worry, and do not judge. It is not their fault. They might have had the same people surrounding them when they were of your age. But you are here to break the cycle, aren’t you?
Find ways to take time for self-care and listen to positive people online. Find ways not to get impacted by other people’s negativity. It is similar to social media, but here you will not be able to log out. So yes, it is not easy at all, but it is not impossible either.
5. Positivity needs a daily boost
If you are trying to get healthy and trying to eat home-cooked wholesome food, you cannot be like you eat it for a day and start complaining that you are not getting fit. You have to maintain that routine by eating healthy every day. It is a commitment worth having. Similarly, you cannot just expect to have a positive mindset if you are not following positive rituals regularly. So, start small and build a meaningful routine towards a positive life.
People have different notions of positivity. Understand what it means. Try not to become a victim of toxic positivity. It will, in turn, make you more negative.
Positivity is a lifestyle, and you need to follow a routine to maintain that lifestyle. It is similar to building your muscles in the gym. It takes time. The only question is how committed you are, and all the efforts will seem worth it after a while.
Do check out our blog post series on COVID-19 and Mental Health.