Be Kind to Your Well-Being
That a specific month exists to remind us that we ought to adopt a positive attitude seems, on the surface, to be at least mildly humorous. Perhaps, because it implies a certain willful ignorance on our part, as though we do not know its benefits. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
We all know, and research backs up, that having a positive attitude helps protect us from disease and depression, while giving us longer, happier lives. And so, of course, I absolutely believe in the power of positive thinking. But I also believe absolutely in the importance of genuinely positive thoughts.
In other words, the goal is not to suppress negative thoughts. To put on a fake “happy” face, or even, to “fake it till you make it.” But rather, to begin examining when negative attitudes arise, what triggers them, and how to re-frame them.
Negative attitudes (and subsequent emotions) can be triggered by any number of sources: people. Social media posts. Our expectations. And so on. I find that social media, particularly Instagram, is often a source of comparison (which leads to negative attitudes), so I have developed a few strategies that reduce all that “negative noise” and allow me to enjoy the benefits it has to offer.
My strategy starts with intention. For example: I use Instagram as a primary means of gathering information regarding strategies for healing my autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s. To this end, I watch specific bloggers’ stories, read their posts, and view their Story highlights. I often take notes, ask questions, or take screenshots of specific products or supplements I want to investigate further. When looking for inspiration, I visit trusted bloggers / poets / writers’ pages to feel more connected. And to feel more loved.
The other tool I use is to I listen to my feelings regarding someone’s Instagram page. No matter how many followers or how beautiful their content, if something about their page “feels” wrong to me, or raises negative thoughts, I unfollow them.
This is why listening to inner wisdom is so important. Because it’s not about the followers or images. It’s about how someone makes you feel. Even if your mind tries telling you that your response is irrational (like, “why should I be having these negative thoughts, she is a beautiful person”), ultimately, listen to your heart.
The same could be said for the people you surround yourself with. How do they make you feel? Nurturing positivity becomes very difficult, even impossible, in an environment steeped in negativity. If the people around you are negative, you need to consider finding a different tribe.
Because it is the people we surround others with that will have the most profound impact on our sense of well-being and identity.
And what about those negative attitudes? The nagging, persistent ones? I don’t believe the solution lies in squashing them, or, worse yet, making ourselves feel guilty for having them in the first place. Instead, try re-framing them. If it is jealousy, ask yourself, “why”? Maybe there is some dream you’ve let fall by the wayside. Maybe the answer is rooted in your past, from a specific childhood event—or a general life experience. If you look for the answer, it will come.
For a while, I felt intensely jealous of other’s wealth. I live in a wealthy area of the country, but I do not come from wealth. My daily drives past sprawling mansions and lavish gardens would be punctuated by negative thoughts of what I didn’t have, or (I assumed) could never have. A number of experiences have helped with that jealousy, including travel, a reminder that the wealthy of this world make up less than two percent of our population, and the comfort that I do not share their ideological or world views. In short, I regained some pride in the more middle-class space I occupy.
And I also, almost daily, remind myself that I am being taken care of. That I am worthy and valuable.
I do that by using Post-it notes. Initially, I’ll admit my skepticism and general sense of silliness, pasting these half dozen or so pink notes to my bathroom mirror. But, inadvertently, I would find myself reading them. And they have definitely begun to “soak in.” Consider the kind of impact that reading positive phrases every day, twice a day (or more) when you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror can have on your sense of well being. Some of mine remind myself that “I am worthy regardless of what I accomplish in a day” and “I am successful when I am doing what I love.”
So what can you do? Approach social media with intention. Listen to how other people make you feel, and adjust your circle accordingly. Post some sticky notes to your bathroom mirror with impactful, personal messages of value.
Some of these are small changes, others more challenging. But know that developing a positive attitude takes time. Start small, start today—but for goodness’ sake, let’s make it a daily practice—not just an October one.