Recently we’ve talked about getting motivated in the morning, making 2022 your year, and the need to rest and repair. Now, let’s go over focusing on the positive and kicking negativity to the curb. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter you’re aware that I had spinal surgery just before Thanksgiving and I want to share with you how I got through that.
1. How To Focus on The Positive
I had a microdiscectomy for a herniated disk, got slammed with something called a CSF leak in December, was locked up in the hospital for a week, and my whole family (minus me) got covid. I could have, just as easily, focused on the worst parts of the situation. Instead, I chose to hone in on the good and focus on the positive.
When I had a choice (and we always have a choice), I chose to love on my people and to be loved by them. My old friends and new neighbors showed up knowing what I needed even when I didn’t, my kids made great kid art for my walls, my partner was 100% there for me, my doctor texted all the time to check in, and my friends and family were kind and loving.
That experience taught me that it is all about your people, aka your support system.
According to healthline.com, practicing gratitude, opening yourself up to humor (which I did a lot of– no worries there), and spending time with positive people are all ways that can help someone focus on the positive.
2. Have A Positive Focus
Fast-forward to the present and things are better. So let’s dig in a bit more on positive focus. Let’s focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you’re experiencing something challenging, how can you “manufacture” fresh change? What is one thing you’d like to achieve? What’s the most impactful change you’d like to make? What’s the priority?
Something I’ve recommended before is Katy Milkman’s new productivity book called How To Change. To refresh your memory, a big thing to take into consideration is that fun changes are easier to make then, er, lame ones. So make it fun. Don’t just take a dance class, take a pole dancing class (OK, that’s my kinda fun). Don’t just to yoga, try aerial yoga (if that sounds fun). Don’t just go to the gym, do a dance competition with your kids.
My goal? Shed the ten pounds I gained with my covid herniated disk. My back is almost back, and my healthy eating and exercise have been getting better. Physical therapy is making me sweat!
Can you see how a positive focus can change everything? It makes things possible. I can dwell on my back or I can focus on the changes I want to make once my back is back.
3. Avoid Focusing On The Negative
As many of us know, belaboring the negative and being unkind to ourselves does nothing for our mental health, self-care or sense of esteem. There is literally no intrinsic value in beating ourselves up.
Changing our behavior based on things we’d like to do differently is of value, however. One clear action you can take: monitor your emotions. I’ve said this before but it’s worth noting again: emotions are like crayons and sometimes we keep using the same ones over and over again.
Brené Brown came out with a book called Atlas of The Heart in which she identifies 87 different emotions. I spent my winter break with my nose in this one, and believe that it’s better to have more crayons in that crayon box.
Having the language to express and identify your emotions helps you experience them mindfully and stay out of the overwhelm. Experiencing them, observing them, letting them pass, is all part of helping you from getting stuck in the negative eddys and keep your focus on the positive.
4. Positive Over Negative
Hopefully you’re catching on to the pattern here, but if not, a tool I mention in my book, A Year of Self-Care Journal, is called “Three Good Things”. This concept was popularized by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and it states that each day, at the end of the day, we should recall 3 good things that happened.
It could have been a juicy peach you gobbled down, juices dripping onto your wrist, or a bright red cardinal that you saw out your window after a snowstorm. When you recall the event, take your time with it. Set a timer for 2½ minutes, and return yourself to the exact moment; let yourself live it again. Remember what you were doing at the time, who you were with. Give it context and detail. And, most importantly, let yourself feel the feelings again- the delight, the joy, the satisfaction, the good.
It may not seem like it, but these are small ways to take care of yourself– which ultimately helps you stay focused on the positive over the negative.
5. How To Stop Focusing on the Negative
Here’s another tool I like to use, that I wrote about in my Self-Care Journal:
When a situation comes up in your life, attempt to look at it through three different lenses: pessimism (looking at what could go wrong, framing negatively), optimism (seeing what could go right, with a positive spin) and realism (unemotional perspective, fact-based).
When you find yourself in an intense situation that you are not sure how to manage, you can spend a few moments seeing it through each of these lenses. Record your storytelling from each lens by writing it down or speaking it into a recorder. Which lens do you naturally gravitate to? Play with perspective this week, and observe how shifting the story you tell yourself shifts your experience.
Using these techniques will not only help you stay afloat mentally, but they will help you be brave in the face of hardship and learn to focus on the positive.
Please reach out if you’d like to set up an introductory meeting. I’d love to meet you!