Have you ever noticed how some people, no matter how brightly the sun is shining in November, will find the one cloud in the sky and start forecasting the ice storm that’s sure to come in February?
Okay–if you’re from Michigan, you get a pass. Here, in the land of the really long winters, you can’t blame us for getting a head start on our worrying!
The folks I’m talking about are the ones who love to complain about what a nightmare it was when the barista at Starbucks ruined their latte, how Uncle Joe rooked them out of “their” inheritance, or why some unknown road rager flipping them the bird on the freeway on the way to work ruined their day. No matter how well life may be treating them, they will find the one thing that’s wrong and dwell on it like it’s the only thing that’s ever happened, and like they are the only one it ever happened to.
I had an aunt like that. To be fair, she was funny, warm, and loving, but no one could top her in the negativity department. She once asked me, “Why aren’t you bitter?” The question surprised me but I thought about it and said, “Because I can’t stand how it feels.” “Humph!” she said. “I wish I could feel that way, but it’s just too &%+#@ hard.”
I always wondered why it is we tend to remember the one bad thing that happens to us and ignore the good stuff. You know, like being miserable about the one person who fell asleep in the middle of your presentation even though everyone else was paying really close attention.
The conversation with my aunt gave me some insight. It helped me realize that negativity is actually a choice…a choice we make when being positive seems just too *&%#@ hard. It helped me understand that one of the reasons we are so sensitive to hurt and pain is because we give it so much of our attention.
The problem comes when we are more attuned to the hurt and pain than to the love and kindness that exist inside us and around us. Many of us begin to accept hurt and pain as the norm. That’s when the joy that is our natural state of being fades into the background. We get into the habit of complaining about what’s wrong. Since what we focus on expands, complaining becomes our default mode.
So how do we make joyfulness, love, and harmony our foreground? We have to be intentional. We have to focus on these qualities and practice them mindfully. We have to refuse to live with the burden of negativity. Once we become conscious of how good it feels to be positive, we want more. The catch is it doesn’t just happen. In order to feel good, we have to engage in practices that might at times seem too *&%#@ hard. But like a garden that goes unattended and becomes overtaken by weeds and other critters, our consciousness unattended can become infested with negative thoughts that crowd out our good ones.
Cultivating positive thoughts, words, and actions takes effort. The good news is you don’t have to go outside yourself to find these positive qualities; you already possess them. They are already a part of you. Your work is to tune in to their existence and get good at them.
My aunt was one of the funniest, most unconditionally loving, and generous people I have ever known. But because she was stuck in negative thought patterns she was unable to avoid the bitterness that is a natural consequence of habitual negative thinking. When we attune ourselves to what is joyful, loving and harmonious, we can avoid the pain that negativity brings.
Spend some time this month practicing becoming more conscious of your loving nature. Notice what brings you joy. Make being in harmony with nature, yourself, and with others a habit.
1. At the end of each day, write down one thing that made you happy. It can be as simple as “someone smiled at me” or better yet, “I smiled at someone.”
2. Each day tell someone in your life something you appreciate about them. It can be a family member, a co-worker or even the clerk at the grocery store who takes the time to greet you each time you walk in.
3. Once a day give yourself a compliment and write down one thing you appreciate about yourself.
4. And at some point during every day, say the following affirmation: “I love and approve of myself.” You don’t have to believe it. Just say it each day or several times a day for one month and notice the difference it makes.
5. Meditate everyday.
Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, make the effort to acknowledge and celebrate what’s working in your life and in the lives of those around you. Make being positive your default mode so you can savor the sweetness life has to offer.