Since I was a child I proudly embraced a positive spirit as a personal trademark. Throughout my life, I mostly understood positivity as a way to experience life more fully. But little did I know of how powerful it actually could be until my mother died of Cancer a few months ago. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional difficulty of her death.
Death is definitive, it is irreversible. And the death of a loved one is, thankfully, an uncommon event for most of us. It therefore gives rise to an overwhelming constellation of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Since my mother’s death, there have been days when I have cried for hours, and others when I have felt loneliness as my only companion. Some days have brought nothing but anger and doubt. In such hard and testing moments, the thought of being positive seemed almost ridiculous. I simply did not feel like putting on my best smile. But then I did. And something happened.
I realized that positivity is not just about smiling faces, I learned that it is not a simple myth.
But what is positivity anyway?
According to Barbara Frederickson, the Kenan distinguished professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, positivity is a potent state of mind that can enhance your relationships, improve your health, change how your mind works, and help you see new possibilities. It also allows you to bounce back after setbacks, fosters connection with others, and it simply feels good. A positive frame of mind actively fosters feelings of joy, gratitude, serenity, curiosity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
It can certainly be challenging at times, but positivity truly opens us. It opens our hearts and our minds. It makes us more receptive and more creative. It broadens our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions. New possibilities are revealed to us. At a fundamental level, positivity alters your brain and the way you interact with the world. Positivity produces immediate effects on people´s vision, attention, thinking, choices and behavior. Evidence shows, that simply imagining a joyful memory or receiving a small kindness can make a difference in the ease with which people locate creative and optimal solutions to the problems they face on a daily basis. Positivity expands your outlook by upgrading your emotional state, allowing you to see both, the forest and the trees. You are more receptive, more able to see the big picture. You are better able to envision future prospects and win-win solutions.
Another appealing consequence of positivity is that it produces a sort of commitment: people who flourish not only feel good but also do good. A positive frame of mind connects you to others and can thus give you a sense of purpose or calling to devote your best possible self to others, to help them achieve their best possible future. This is why I often feel compelled to share my personal story of accompanying and facilitating my mom’s process of having a peaceful, serene and unattached death. Who knows? It might inspire people to repair and reconnect with someone through love, kindness and forgiveness.
Positivity transforms us and those around us for the better. It’s true. I have seen it. I have felt it. Positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new relationships, new knowledge, and new ways of being.
Some tools for increasing positivity in your life:
- Be Open. As a dear friend once told me: “get rid of expectations and judgments, get your ego out of your way. Experiment with awareness, curiosity, and acceptance of what is.”
- Create High-Quality Connections. They recharge your energy and vitality.
- Cultivate Kindness and Compassion. Be thoughtful to others. Remind yourself that whatever painful circumstance you now endure, is being faced by others as well. You and others are connected through the same fears, aspirations, hopes, and the ultimate goals -to avoid suffering and find happiness. As your awareness expands, you become less self-absorbed, more open and attuned to the ones around you.
- Dispute Negative Thinking. Identify and capture you inner critic. Stay with the facts.
- Find Nearby Nature. Connect with its amazing beauty. It´s everywhere.
- Learn and Apply your Strengths. They will set you in motion.
- Meditate. Deepen your mindful awareness for a few minutes each day.
- Savor the little things. Notice the gifts around you. Be grateful for them.
- Visualize Your Future. Soak in the best possible outcome for all your life goals.
There are many days when I still feel sad, angry, lonely, or doubtful. Specially since I recently learned that my father is also not winning his own battle with Lymphatic Cancer. But as inspirational author Diane Ackerman says, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
So I vow to increase positivity to broaden my life everyday. I hope you will too.
Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar