When you think positive, happy, loving thoughts, you make different choices than when you think depressing, negative, anguishing and despairing thoughts…
Think about a time when you felt sad or angry – such as your lover left you, or you didn’t achieve a goal that was important to you…
Think about the choices you made in the heat of the moment.
Chances are pretty good that you were very reactive.
You felt that the world was conspiring to knock you down, and all you could do is fend off the attacks… or maybe you felt that you were unloved and unwanted, so why bother even trying to find someone new…
When you’re reactive, what happens is that your repertoire of choices becomes very narrow and survival-oriented. Your only concern is to not experience any more loss, or any more emotional pain. You (unconsciously) activate your fight-or-flight instincts, and all you feel like doing is running away… or fighting… or freezing (staying stuck in a bad situation).
The outcome of these reactive choices is usually not great. Sure, you ‘survive’ but you cannot really thrive.
The secret to living a positive life, then, is… to be happy as often as you can – not ‘because’ of something (because you’re in a relationship, or have a good job), but just happy for no reason.
Easier said than done? Maybe at first – but with practice and dedication to yourself, you can do it.
Imagine a time when everything was going well for you and you felt on top of the world. You felt like you could do anything, right? You felt like no matter what you did, you would have a great time and succeed. Because you were happy, you weren’t focused on survival – you were now free to explore the unknown. You took chances. You tried new things. You were bold in asking for what you wanted. And the results? Pretty good, if not amazing!
You have just read about the essence of Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build Theory” – that when you are positive, your repertoire of choices broadens and as you expand your options, they build on themselves and you create a remarkable string of events that together make up a great life.
How do you apply this “happiness first” idea to your life, when life is not going as planned? In meditation, you can do several things:
1. Focus on gratitude. A gratitude practice brings to your awareness everything that is good in your life… and it transforms negative events and situations by shedding light on the hidden blessings and opportunities. For example, a friend of mine was once in severe debt and was feeling crushed and overwhelmed by her financial status. When she began counting her blessings – a roof over her head, good friends, good health, talents, family, her pets, a car that worked, a job she enjoyed – then she stopped focusing on what was missing (money) and she became happier. As she became happier, she became more aware of ways to increase her income (How? Because she started to think in terms of “I could do that!” – instead of worrying that she wasn’t good enough, she started to play to her strengths and explore ways to use her talents!). And as she started pursuing these opportunities, lo and behold, her income grew and she gradually became completely debt-free!
2. Focus on feeling better by using “but…” If you notice a thought that upsets you, you can tweak it a little – you don’t have to change it drastically, just add “but… (something positive that you would like to experience)”. For example, “I hate the way I put on weight every winter but it’s spring now and I feel the urge to go outside and walk twice a day!” Or “I wish Tom hadn’t been so cruel and divorced me, but I’m going to live my life MY way now!” If you were to leave the thought at, “I hate the way I put on weight every winter” or “I wish Tom hadn’t been so cruel and divorced me” you would remain unhappy because you’re focused on what’s wrong – but if you add a positive “but” statement, you finish the thought on a positive, upbeat note, every single time! This is a simple way to train yourself to think more positively – and pretty soon, you’ll FEEL happier and start acting on those thoughts!
These are two simple ways to train yourself to think more positively, every day during your meditation practice. You can also expand on them and apply them to any situation you come across. Wake up and practice gratitude. Catch yourself in a negative tailspin and add a positive “but…” statement. Silently give thanks when something unwanted happens and you react in a way that is for your higher good. In a short time, you’ll rewire your thinking and give a tremendous boost to the Broaden and Build Theory – and completely change your life in a positive way!