Last month I decided to try being positive for a full week and boy was it terrible. 🙂
Positivity joke. Get it?
My experiment wasn’t all that bad but I really wasn’t great at it since it was a major departure from my comfort zone, which is just a nice warm bath of steaming negativity. I marinate in it.
I tend to skew negative because I find it to be a protective space that shields me from having to be vulnerable. I also just really love snarky sarcasm and it doesn’t jab quite as sharply with a big smile on my face.
It’s not all bad. I find that negativity can be a catalyst for tremendous motivation — read my friend Elan Gale’s book You’re Not That Great (but neither is anyone else) for more on that — but when used incorrectly ends up just being a dark, lonely space rooted in fear.
I’ve been told frequently throughout my life that my energy can shift a room and if my energy is dark, lonely and rooted in fear, what am I passing to those around me? It’s contagious.
So I decided to try positivity on for a week.
Here’s what I learned…
Before we dive in here, I’d like to point out that depression doesn’t care if you “decide” to be positive. So if you’re suffering from depression, please feel free to roll your eyes and know that I know that flipping this positive switch isn’t always an option. I hope you have the doctors and/or medications and/or support system and/or other coping mechanisms you need to keep moving. This isn’t intended to be that.
Declaring positivity works
I thought about moving through my positive week in secret to see if anyone noticed I wasn’t my usual grumpy self. Instead, I yelled about it every time I walked in the office: “It’s positive week, everyone! Positive Katie is here!”
Something about staking your claim on positivity flips a switch that manifests more of it in your direction. People responded to me differently. I attracted new energy. I felt revved up. This must be why positive affirmations are a thing.
Changing your words can be as powerful as changing your situation
Instead of saying “I’m not being negative this week,” all I have to say is “I’m being positive this week.” It doesn’t change anything about task at hand but it shifts it from something I’m not allowed to do to something I get to try, which is significant.
Positivity is a fluid practice not a constant
Have you ever tried meditating? Allow me to oversimplify it: The idea is to completely clear your mind and sit in stillness and silence for any period of time. It’s easier said than done and interruptions are inevitable. But when an unwelcome thought does work its way into your consciousness, you haven’t failed your meditation. Instead, your meditation has started and you can put it right back to work by acknowledging the intrusive thought and letting it pass right on by — “like a cloud,” as yoga teachers like to say.
Trying to stay positive inside a negative mind that’s processing what feels like an increasingly negative world was a similar challenge for me. Once I accepted that negative thoughts and actions would still be inviting themselves into my week of positivity, I started learning to identify that negativity, acknowledge it, course correct and let it float on by.
Twitter is a hellscape
Being aware of the energy you’re consuming is important and I learned that sitting in front of a never-ending stream of doom and devastation was not good for my positivity experiment.
Sometimes being negative can be positive
I ran my positivity experiment during a particularly politically dramatic week in which I felt compelled to get very loud and very combative about things that were important to me. Objectively, my interactions with those who disagreed would have read as negative to anyone. But when it was all said and done, I got a flood of emails and messages thanking me for speaking up. So to that end, the negativity had a positive ripple effect.
Am I all positive all the time now? Not a chance. But I walked away from the experiment much more aware of my ability to control my perception of my experience here on earth and, more importantly, control the energy I create for those around me.
I’ll keep practicing.