You may think that nowadays, we don’t have anything in common with the first creatures that inhabited our planet. And this is true, except for one thing: our reptilian brain that we inherited from the crocodiles and snakes still dictates us how to react in stressful or dangerous situations. What does it has to do with anything, you may ask. Well, this is very simple. Your reptilian brain keeps you focused on the negative things in life – the potential threats, the accidents, the upcoming dangers – without you even noticing. And that is for the sake of your survival. Except that we’re not living in the jungle anymore with wild animals hiding behind each palm tree, ready to jump and eat us. We’re not hunting for food anymore and we’re not sleeping in a dark cave without heating nor electricity. But still, our reptilian brain couldn’t care less and continues working as it has for the past millions of years. Crazy stuff when you think of it.
It comes as no surprise for you then, that focusing on the positive things is absolutely not a natural behavior, quite the contrary! You have to make it your own habit. Let’s stop the neuroscientific talk for now and get ready to beat this reptilian brain of yours.
Here are my 10 tips to maintain a positive attitude, no matter what:
1. Train yourself when things go well. It’s very hard to take the giant step from being depressed to being overjoyed. Keeping a positive mind in the best of times is a good exercise in anticipation for more difficult things to come. For example, identify the small things that irritate you, but that are no threat at all and turn the situation around: if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, listen to an audio-book, if you’re complaining about the rain, buy an extra-large umbrella with matching rubber boots (living in Vancouver, I’ll have to do that sooner or later) and if your Caramel Macchiato is too cold, just tell the barista about it. Can you see it? Get rid of the small negative things that are not worse worrying about.
2. Positivity is contagious. Have you noticed that? We French people are the Kings of Complainers. I don’t know what happened to the French crocodiles and snakes millions of years ago but it must have been quite bad. Anyway, the fact is that surrounding yourself with positive people is crucial. Of course, letting off steam occasionally feels good, it’s making a habit of it that isn’t. Go around the table and listen to what your friends and family talk about. Are you feeling empowered and motivated? Or do you thing the end of the world is near? Choose which side you’re on!
3. Be aware of your inner talk. Complaining is a vicious circle. The more you moan, the more you groan, right? When you catch yourself in a negative self-talk, try to pause like I’m doing now. My computer is only a few years old and has already started showing some signs of weakness. Indeed some programs keep crashing. This drives me NUTS. But STOP! Maybe I should be happy to have a computer in the first place and not have to worry about more serious issues. I’ll wait for my significant other to come home and fix this mess for me. See? Problem solved.
4. Do more of the things you love and less of the things that you don’t. This tip may sound overly simple but take a few minutes to calculate your “I do things I love/I do things I hate” ratio. What does the result look like? Sort out the things that you must do (paying your bills, cleaning up …) and make time for the things you love.
5. Incorporate some fun and some joy in your daily life. In my case, this would be listening to Latin-American music and going to my Zumba class. This formula is a winner for me to keep an upbeat attitude, even if my computer just crashed again and my significant other tells me to restart the computer and see what happens. What brings you joy and what would it take for you to make it happen?
You’re halfway through, good job! Now is the time for a small bonus: surround yourself with flowers (and nice people too).
6. No more criticism and prejudices. Criticizing others is a lot more harmful than one think. It can be very destructive to relationships. When one hurts another human being with harsh criticism, one is sending negative energy not just toward that person but also toward us. “Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography,” Oscar Wilde said, because it does say a lot more about the psychology of the critic than the receiver of the criticism. Judging others is the result of a defense mechanism. People who criticize have a stronger need to protect their ego and feel devalued by the attitude or behavior of their peers. So instead of focusing on the negative when meeting people, let’s try to identify 3 nice things about them.
7. Practice, practice, practice. They say when you write things down, it “sinks in”. I’ve been using a powerful tool for almost 2 years now that has helped me tremendously focusing on the positive things in my life. It’s the 5 Minute Journal. At the end of the day, when I fill out the journal, I get a strong feeling of accomplishment because I was able to pay attention to the good things in my life. If you want to learn more about the 5 Minute Journal, I wrote a separate blog post explaining in more details what it is and how to use it.
8. Start the day by saying “thank you, thank you, thank you, …”. I read this piece of advice in a book but I can’t remember which one. Oops! When I wake up, the first thing I try to do before I have breakfast is repeating “thank you, thank you, thank you” to the rythm of my footsteps. It’s definitely not a natural behavior and I’ve been working really hard to keep hold of this habit. This is my secret formula to literally start the day on the right note.
9. Set realistic objectives. This is a hard one for me. I used to drive myself crazy at home with never-ending to do lists and invariably ended up very frustrated. I’ve made a major improvement at assessing the time I need to get things done and at aiming for quality rather than quantity. So be careful not to bite off more than you can chew….
10. Be grateful for what you have and for what you don’t have to experience. Gratitude is the key to experience life at its best. On top of acknowledging what you have, I’m suggesting taking some time to be grateful for the things that we don’t have to go through (wars, economic crisis, disease, …). Being healthy, living in a peaceful country, having a job, eating 3 meals a day, having running water or even breathing effortlessly are things we can be grateful for.
What is your experience with staying positive? Do you think it is easier said than done? What are your other tips to keep a positive attitude? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment in the section down below. Thank you for reading and for liking if you enjoyed this post. I’ll see you soon!