“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Are you wearing rose-tinted spectacles? I believe that we develop our outlook from quite a young age, perhaps influenced by those around us. Some of us see life’s adventures in a positive light, the proverbial ‘glass half full’. Or perhaps we see the same glass, half empty. Whatever life brings, it serves a purpose and we can learn from it. You may believe that someone ‘up there’ is dishing it out, you might believe in karma, it might just be the way the cookie crumbles.
Whatever the source, we all have good days and bad days, exciting experiences and unpleasant ones. And therein lies one of the problems; labelling it as good or bad, categorising and pigeonholing. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the mind keeps a better hold on the ‘bad’ things than the ‘good’ ones, so looking back we may be more inclined to recall what went wrong rather than what went right. Maybe there were good bits sandwiched in between. Perhaps we don’t remember them. Maybe we were too caught up in the bad to even see them in the first place. Little wonders like a sunny day, a spring flower, the smell of grass after the rain.
Scientists at the National Institute for Mental Health have now shown that a positive attitude really does help us to stay motivated and in a good frame of mind. This is linked to the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Positive thinking as a concept has really mushroomed in recent years, and while it is important that your positivity is realistic rather than rose-tinted, having a ‘can do’ attitude is more likely to help you achieve your goals than out-and-out pessimism.
In the Tuesday class we are currently using positive affirmations at the end of our meditative practice to help develop an optimistic outlook and attitude towards ourselves. Positive affirmations are short positive statements, such as ‘I feel relaxed’ or ‘I am strong enough to do this’. Used in the present tense, they help you to believe it’s already true. If our thoughts can become self-fulfilling, better that they are positive ones. Repeat your affirmation several times, to reinforce the message. You can use them at any time; try it as a daily practice when you have a quiet moment, or as first aid when those negative thoughts start creeping in!