As the election draws closer (we are only weeks away) most of us are probably thinking the same thing, “how did our country end up in such a negative place?” According to multiple polls, both candidates are the most unfavorable and least liked candidates in US history. Each candidate has spent countless hours and millions of dollars painting a very dark picture of our countries future if the other is elected.
You may be interested to know that researchers at Stanford University have found that “we tend to see people who say negative things as being smarter than those who are positive. Thus we are more likely to give greater weight to criticism than praise.” Wow.
So how do we stay positive in such a negative climate? Because after the election has come and gone and we go back to business as usual, we are still tasked with living our best lives.
Stop worrying and stop being negative. Easier said than done. A group of researchers at Michigan State University have found brain markers that distinguish negative thinkers from positive thinkers. What does this mean? It means there is evidence, which clearly indicates that there are both biologically wired positive and negative thinkers (people) in the world. The research also found that if you tell a negative person to “just stay positive” without offering concrete strategies to stay positive, it can actually make things worse for the negative thinker.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi suggests that we if we don’t actively focus on the positive, the act of worrying is our brain’s default position. He goes on to say that we must challenge our brain’s to stay positive by using strategies that redirect our negative thoughts.
One of the easiest things we can do is control how much media we consume. There is no rule that says we have to watch the nightly news or scroll through the constant negativity on Facebook or other social media channels. We can simply decide to choose otherwise. While no one is suggesting that we should completely cut ourselves off from the world, we can still stay informed without overdosing on the constant barrage of negativity.
Don’t assume the worst. For every negative news story, there are hundreds of positive events that no one ever hears about. Seek out, find and concentrate on the positive things people do for one another everyday. “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – Buddha. In other words, what we focus on grows. The more we focus on the negative events and negative people in the world, the more negativity grows within us. And the same is true for all that is good and kind in the world. If we focus on the goodness in others, we start to see the better nature of everyone around us. This kind of attitude can help us gain perspective during difficult times.
Practice gratitude. There are hundreds of things to be grateful for everyday. We take for granted so many things that others often wish for. Our health, our families, our careers, our community, our hobbies, etc. are all things that we are blessed to have. The old adage that “it could always be worse,” is very apt. Just ask someone who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness. Don’t take for granted all those people and things that make your life beautiful and comfortable. We never want to be in a position where we lose it all.
Eat well and exercise. When we eat well and we get enough exercise, we create and foster a positive attitude. It’s very difficult to stay positive if we feel sick or tired. Proper nutrition, fresh air and a long walk can go a long way to combating our negative thoughts.
Although we can’t control how other people behave, we do have the ability to control how we act and react to the negative events around us. We can let it in and let it change us for the worse or we can choose to see the good in others, despite our differences. We are not bound to view one side or another as evil. Even if we disagree with someone that doesn’t mean that they don’t provide value or hope to the world. Staying positive is a choice. Choose it or don’t. You decide.