I consider myself to be – for the most part – a happy, positive person. My glass is usually half full. And yes, I look at life through rose-coloured glasses and live life – as my ex used to say – “in the bubble of the pink fart.” That seems to be an insult sometimes; it means you are naive, trusting and idealistic. I am happy to disagree. Life is difficult and times are hard, so I have a choice – and I choose to focus my time, thoughts and energy on the positive and pleasant as best as I can. That doesn’t mean I never get sad, or angry, or upset or stressed or anxious. Because I do. Sometimes more often than I’d like. Balance is important, and I found out why. Read on …
I purchased a special edition by Real Simple called “The Power of Positivity” that I’ve been reading bits at a time. The first sentence in the introduction already caught my attention when it says that “Healthy positivity doesn’t mean you should never be sad or have a bad day. It means you approach everyday challenges in a more productive way.” It continues … “when it comes to emotions, happiness rocks. Positive thinking goes hand in hand with uplifting emotion and it has a ton of benefits. Optimists tend to be more adept at coping with stress and less likely to burn out at work. There’s evidence that everyone can nudge their brains in a more positive direction.”
“Because positive emotions have such an upside, you might assume that you should try to look on the bright side all the time – or that having down days and negative emotions is a sign you are failing. Stephanie Preston, a profession of psychology at the University of Michigan, says that grief, anxiety, anger, fear and sadness are appropriate responses to events that happen in our lives. Like a physical pain in the body, they are a signal that something isn’t right. They are intended to make us stop and examine what’s going on.”
We live in a pro-happiness culture, especially now, when more and more people encourage you to stay positive. Experts call this “toxic positivity.” It crops up in Instagram and Facebook with posts that encourage you to “Look on the bright side!” and “Everything happens for a reason.” If you go online often, you will notice that what people post is always good, positive, beautiful. Perfection is the name of the game. It may leave people feeling less than if you are going through a rough patch.
“Focusing on the positive is a sensible instinct because positive emotions keep us healthy,” says Preston. But it’s not truly optimal, or even possible, to be positive all the time. Insisting on positivity at all costs can cost you. “When people ignore challenging emotions, they often drink, eat or shop too much,” says Margaret Seide, a psychiatrists in NY. If you adopt the attitude that positive emotions are the only ones that are acceptable, it can make others grappling with challenging issues feel like there is something wrong with them. (Ughhh … this may explain the two bags of chips in my pantry right now).
The healthiest way to approach tough emotions is to accept them. Instead of distracting yourself when you are feeling sad, angry, guilty or anxious, take a deep breath and name the emotion. “Labelling emotions has been shown to decrease their intensity, because it gives you some distance from them. You can even close your eyes and think about where you feel it in your body or imagine what shape or colour the sensation would be if it were in physical form – coping techniques that allow you to acknowledge how you are feeling without being swept away by it. That said, it is also perfectly acceptable – and healthy – to sob your heart out on occasion. (And yes, I can attest that that works wonders).
The article goes on to say: “We may never welcome sadness or anxiety the way we do happiness. But just for one moment, try to imagine life without difficult emotions, How would you know you were happy if you’d never felt sad? Or proud if you’d never been embarrassed? Who would you be if you didn’t grieve when you lost a loved one, feel worried when your child has a fever, or get angry about social injustice? We don’t usually think of negative emotions as an integral part of healthy positivity. But it’s time to start.” Emotionally healthy people acknowledge the ups and downs and feel a range of emotions. They are realistic enough to know that one doesn’t exist without the other.
“The takeway: people with a healthy level of positivity acknowledge hard times and accept negative emotions – and that helps them cope with challenges and maintain, overall, a positive outlook on life.”
These past few years, with events in my own life and in the world, have been tough. We have all dealt with a lot. That’s why I treasure those moments when the thought “I am happy” pops into my mind and makes me smile. Life might knock us down, but we get up, dust ourselves off, straighten our shoulders, and soldier on. And yes, I put on my rose-coloured glasses, and swim in my pink bubble. Life continues …
I’m off to my studio to work on new pieces for an exhibit in October. My goal for today: to take one tiny single step and stitch two lines on my new piece. And then, I will take another single doable tiny step (if you do not remember reading about the one tiny single step and goals, I invite you to click on the link below).
Thanks for reading. And until I write again, keep creating …