Updated: Nov 9, 2020
You've heard it before: just stay positive, think positively, good vibes only - the list goes on. People love to tell you how you should feel, act, and think, but no one tells you how to shift your mindset. They don't tell you how to cultivate positivity into your life or how to embody those vibes we love to talk about so much. Change your mindset, change your life... but, how?
The truth is there's no right way to do anything. I'm no expert and I don't claim to have all the answers, but what I do have is experience. I have experience in shifting my mindset from negativity to blissful jubilee, with the help of therapy, research, and music. I'm here to be an aid in helping you on your path to positivity.
Let me start by saying that, for most, positivity is not a state of being, though I wholeheartedly believe it can become one. I'm not there. Maintaining a positive mindset doesn't mean always having a good attitude or ignorantly thinking happy thoughts. Actually, it is quite the opposite. This means allowing the negative thoughts, pains, and sorrows to enter your life, turning on your observer, and choosing to rise above them. It's acknowledging when something is off, setting an intention, and taking action to make a change.
My life hasn't always worked for me. What I mean by that is I haven't always had the tools to cope with trauma and day-to-day stress. I had a rather pleasant childhood for the most part; my parents split up when I was too young to understand and my single mother struggled to provide for my brother and I, but she did her best (a damn good job, I might add). Putting those pitfalls aside, I was incredibly privileged. I always had a home cooked meal on the table, a plethora of close friends, and the freedom to be authentically myself. I was blessed to have the childhood that I did, to be joyful and know nothing but love.
My life changed when I was thirteen. Puberty hit and boys were no longer boys, they were vultures. No, I'm not saying all of the little boys I went to school with suddenly became womanizers. Just the one I decided to get close to, my first boyfriend. Honestly, I was just excited that a boy was interested in me. I didn't have much self-confidence and I was still so young. I fell head over heels for this dude, and after a few months our relationship became sexual. Let me remind you that I was thirteen. My mom and I had had the talk, but seriously, what thirteen-year-old is prepared for the emotional turmoil that accompanies sex? I sure wasn't. Our relationship continued for longer than it should have, but down the line I felt a sort of unexplainable guilt for my actions. I felt dirty. My mental health wasn't very good at this point in my life; I had tendencies towards depression and anorexia starting very early on. This accentuated those imbalances, so I put an end to our sexual relationship. I was naive, I thought that maybe our relationship could continue without the added intimacy. I didn't think that maybe my boyfriend would find other ways to get what he wanted. Long story short(ish), I was raped two weeks later, by my boyfriend - I'll spare you the details for another day.
This happened the summer before my freshman year of high school, and I was a wreck. I went down a rabbit hole of depression, anxiety, and self-harm accompanied by suicidal thoughts. I didn't show it, though. My happy go lucky spirit lived on and I continued to laugh and smile, regardless of what I was feeling inside. Let me tell you, I was good at faking a smile.
It took months for me to come forward about my abuse, and by this time, there wasn't an ounce of evidence that could get anywhere in our shitty justice system. It just made things worse. Deputies would show up at my school and pull me out of class to question me. It didn't take long for half the school to find out my secret. I called off the investigation and went about my destructive life like nothing would ever change. It wasn't until my junior year that I finally got real help. My dad bribed me - go to therapy and I'll give you my car. I was sold. I wasn't really convinced that therapy would help in any way, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Many of my friends told me horror stories about how awful therapy was and how much it didn't help. They had the wrong therapist. I was lucky, my therapist felt more a spiritual goddess than a psychologist - she is both. She taught me affirmations, gave me tools for letting go, showed me how to breathe with my diaphragm, and introduced me to yoga. This was the first steppingstone on my journey to healing.
It's been a decade since I was raped, and I'm better because of it.
The reason I tell you this story is to give you some context on where I came from. So, let me get back to the point, positivity. How does one switch gears from depression to pure happiness? How can you create positivity in your life?
I can't tell you what will work for you. We are all unique individuals, and what may work for some, may not work for all. However, I can tell you what has worked for me.
Change Your Thought Pattern
This can be a little tricky at first, but I believe it is something that everyone can benefit from. Start by noticing your thoughts as they come. Everyday, pay a little more attention to what enters your mind. As you get used to recognizing your thoughts, notice them a little more in depth. What is your tone? Are you judging yourself or others? Are you manifesting negative energy? Remember: what you think, you become. When you tell yourself I can't do it, you're right, you can't. Not because you are incapable of doing something, but because you've set yourself up for failure with a limiting belief. I know that you have the power to do anything.
Allow your negative thoughts to enter your mind and, without judgement, let them go. Replace them with positive ones every time you catch yourself. The next time you say I can't do it, stop and remind yourself that you can do anything. Yes I can. Maybe you won't believe it at first, but you'll prove yourself wrong. In time, I'm certain you will have more faith in yourself.
This principle applies to any thoughts you have. Once you become aware of what you are thinking, you can change your thought pattern. You'll turn judgement into compassion, disasters into lessons, and can'ts into cans.
Use Mantras and Positive Affirmations
If you don't know what mantras or affirmations are, the concept is essentially using repetition to manifest something. This is a tool I use every day; during meditation, walking the dog, making dinner, sitting in the car, laying in bed, or any time I need a little encouragement. I especially use affirmations when I start to think something negative about myself. Some of my favorites are: I am enough, abundance comes naturally to me, creativity flows though me, and I radiate peace, joy, and compassion. It may sound silly at first, but like I said earlier - what you think, you believe, and you become. So, if you think to yourself (or say out loud) that you are enough, and you really feel that inside of you, you will start to believe it. Just like if you think I'm fat, you will absolutely believe this to be true.
Try coming up with your own affirmations to fit your situation. Think about what you want your life to look like and put a short sentence together that manifests that into your reality. Start by imagining that it has already happened. For example, if you want to bring more abundance into your life, imagine that you already feel abundant. Imagine that you already have everything you need within you. Picture what your life looks like with your newfound abundance. Now, hold on to that feeling and repeat your affirmation. I am abundant. Abundance comes naturally to me. Abundance surrounds me with little effort. Notice how I phrase the affirmation as if it is already true, this is key. If you believe that you are already abundant, then how can you be anything but abundant?
If you're having trouble connecting with what I am saying, look into it further. I recommend researching Dr. Joe Dispenza and reading some of his work!
Remember That Nothing Lasts Forever
All things come to an end, including your pain. When you are dealing with hardships, sometimes reminding yourself that this too shall pass can really shift your perception. Without sadness, there is no joy; you can't have one without the other, just as you cannot have darkness without light. In between your moments of pain, there are moments of peace. Remind yourself that whatever you are going through is temporary. You will get through it.
Hold Others in Love
Be kind. Be compassionate. Try to understand both sides of the story. We're never going to agree with everyone, but that is no reason to divide ourselves. At the end of the day we are all the same; we are all trying your hardest. Accepting others as they are is a huge step in the right direction. Imagine how much more positive the world would be if we could all put our differences aside and get along regardless of who voted for who. Prejudice is fueled by negativity. If you want to be more positive, try having a conversation with someone different from you, you might just discover that they, too, are human.
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
Comparison leads to self-destruction. We are all so unique, it isn't fair to compare your body/intellect/life to another individual. I'm just as guilty of this as you are. I catch myself, almost daily, asking why someone else is so lucky. The reality is that we don't know everything. We don't know what that idolized person deals with on a daily basis or how hard they've worked to get to that place in their life. We don't know what their insecurities are. And we don't know what other people see in us, either. That thing that you're jealous of? Someone might be looking at you with the same envy.
You can't be anyone else because, well, you're you. And that's beautiful. As soon as you learn to accept yourself, a newfound joy will present itself to you. Instead of longing to become something you're not, work to reach your goals. You might just make yourself proud.
Look for the Good in Every Situation
I pride myself in looking on the bright side. If there is one thing that I can say I'm a pro at, its optimism. I haven't always been this way, though. Being optimistic is a learned skill. Luckily, you can teach yourself. This goes hand-in-hand with changing your thought pattern. When you're dealing with something, ask yourself, what can I learn from this? What's the takeaway? Is there a lesson in your sadness, in your frustration? I'm willing to bet that there is something that will benefit you moving forward. When you see the glass as half-full, so to speak, you have no choice but to turn your negatives into positives.
Spend Time Doing What You Love
I think we can all agree that we are happiest when we are doing something we love. It only makes sense. Most of us don't do this enough. We make excuses, we get lazy, I'm too busy, I don't have time, I'll do it tomorrow. Make time. Find a way. Drop the bullshit and prioritize yourself. My biggest culprit? Yoga. I love yoga. It puts me in the right mindset every time and my body benefits from it as well. It's a win, win. Yet, for some reason, I don't do it nearly enough. I go through periods where I'll consistently flow through a different hour-long sequence every morning and then I miss a day and my entire routine gets uprooted. I stop. I get out of my groove and, suddenly, I'm too busy. Later never comes. I start to notice a shift. I'm not as patient, present, strong, or happy. I need it to fuel me.
What is it that you need to do more often? It could be as simple as reading a good book under your favorite tree. Whatever that thing is, name it, prioritize it. Schedule it into your calendar and treat it like an appointment. Show up for yourself. You deserve it. If you can't identify that thing for you, find one! Pick up a new hobby, start a new project, get lost in something that brings you joy. Take a break from your phone, TV, or work, and invest your time in yourself.
Breathe Through It
Have you ever tried meditating? There is a lot of misconception around it. You may imagine Buddha sitting with his eyes closed, cross-legged, for hours - this is definitely meditation, but it isn't the only way to do it. Sometimes, for me, it is waking up early, lighting incense, and breathing deeply for a few minutes before I start my day. Other times, it is in the kitchen, mindfully experiencing the smells, textures, colors, and tastes. It can be when I am driving down an empty highway letting my mind quiet, taking in all the views. For you, maybe it will be whipping up an avocado face mask, lighting a candle, and taking a warm bath.
Whatever you decide, do it without distraction. Turn off your phone and try to clear your mind, see what comes up for you. Some of my best ideas and most profound realizations have come in silence. There's nothing like escaping all of the noise and haste around us, and sitting quietly with ourselves.
If you're having trouble clearing your mind, download a meditation app, find a YouTube video, or try going to a workshop.
What are you grateful for? What blessings have come into your life recently? Acknowledging these things brings a sense of appreciation and focuses your attention on the good in your life. Try making a list once a week of all the things that you are grateful for or naming three things every morning. Notice if this shifts your mood throughout the day. A grateful heart leads to a positive mind; try being in a bad mood when you are feeling thankful.
Speak Kindly to Yourself
You are your own best friend. You're stuck with yourself, so you might as well be nice. Far too often, we are our own worst enemies. We can be so mean. Can you imagine talking to someone else the way you talk to yourself? I certainly wouldn't want to be friends with someone who treats me the way I so often have treated myself.
The way we treat ourselves sets the tone for how we allow ourselves to be treated by others. I used to treat myself terribly, and in turn, I was treated poorly in relationships. I brought that energy into my life and it was picked up by people who feed on negativity. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would show to a friend. If you want to be respected, you must respect yourself first.
Take Care of Yourself
We get so caught up in life that our self-care often sits on the back-burner. In case I haven't said it enough, you must prioritize you. The human body doesn't need much to function - clean water, healthy food, rest... How often do you give those things to yourself? Or do you reach for the coffee, rush to the drive-thru, and work until you can no longer keep your eyes open? You're not alone, my friend. This dynamic leads to fatigue, depression, and a case of the grumpies,
Take a nap, go for a walk outside, cook a healthy meal, move your body, have a cup of herbal tea. Allow yourself to slow down and relax. You can't operate correctly if you aren't taking care of yourself. I could come up with a hundred metaphors, but I'll spare you the cheese. You will not be in a good head-space if you aren't taking care of yourself.
Let Go of Control
So often, we dwell on things that we cannot control. We let them get to us, they overcome us. It only takes a moment for your mood to shift, and it's not uncommon for that shift to occur because of something completely out of your control. How many times have you let something like that ruin your day? Acknowledge that it is out of your control and let it go. Move on, you can't do anything about it. It might sound insensitive but, honestly, get over it. Trust me, you will be much happier when you learn the art of letting go. It isn't as hard as it sounds, either.
Stop Taking Things Personally
This may come as a surprise to you, but chances are, no one is out to get you. We're all dealing with our own problems and sometimes we take our emotions out on others. You already know that. It feels like your partner/parent/friend is lashing out, but in reality, their actions have nothing to do with you. Their frustration is not yours to carry, even when it feels like you are the target.
What someone does to you is not because of you. Let me repeat myself, what someone does to you is not because of you. If you were abused at any stage of your life, this was not your fault. Unfortunately, you were the punching bag, which is never okay, but try not to take it personally. It may feel like a personal attack since, well, it happened to you personally, but it truly had nothing to do with you. Please be gentle with yourself. Do not blame yourself for the actions of others.
Monitor Your Media Intake
With so many resources at our fingertips, it's easy to get caught up in drama of social media, the news, and whatever the latest trends are. These things consume us. It's easy to fall into a rabbit hole of comparison or worry.
You follow people's lives, so you think, but you're actually just following their highlights. You see all of the amazing things someone accomplishes, how beautiful they are, or how great they have it. I know I don't need to remind you again to stop comparing yourself to others. Take a break, log off, go outside.
The same goes for the more informational media outlets. These may require even more caution. While it's important to stay up-to-date on the happenings of the world, it's also important to take care of your mental health. You know what news stories bring the highest ratings? The negative ones. So that's what you're going to find, that's what makes the most money. The problem? Now we're all consuming so much negativity, which leads to fear. With all of the Covid-19 stories and political nonsense, it's hard to escape the anxiety. It's like when a hurricane is approaching, and everyone is glued to their TV, filled with panic. This is not healthy. It's essential to take a step back and focus on the important things in your life.
Ask For Help
Lastly, I want to recognize the importance of camaraderie. You don't have to go it alone. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask. If you are struggling, there are numerous resources designed to get you through it. There is a huge difference between trying to become more positive and trying to pull yourself out of depression. While my tips may help point you in the right direction, they are in no way intended as a cure. Please reach out to someone, including myself, if you are in need.
I hope you gain some insight from this post and can apply these practices to your life. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have anything to add!