Negative experiences happen, but we do not have to let them move in and hold as much of our life space hostage, as they tend to often times do.
We experience a myriad of both positive and unpleasant moments each and every day of our lives. Due to the way our minds work, we are naturally inclined to squirrel away, cling to, continuously drudge up and often carry around some of the unpleasant moments in a somewhat protective space, as if our lives depended on their existence. As if these unpleasant moments make up so much of who we are, we cannot bear to part with them. Since we scientifically know this inclination to be true about the human race, and knowledge is power, how do we work to overcome these natural tendencies to live in a negative space?
A few semesters ago, I had a professor call me a Positive Polly, as if this was a negative trait to possess. While the friend I was with laughed at the comment (I do not think it was said with the intention to hurt), yet I found myself to be offended. It was pouring out and we had to walk from the classroom to our cars and both my professor and friend were a bit put out by the idea; I on the other hand was not. I made a few comments about being able to spend less on my water bill and I like the sound of it anyway. Was I looking forward to walking to my car in it? No, I sure was not! I do not love being wet and cold. However, I chose to look on the sunny side and not let the weather bring me down. I had also come prepared with an umbrella, so that helped! Being this incident was a few semesters ago, I am sure you have grasped by this point in time, how much I was bothered by it. At the time, I had no good response and I was a smidge embarrassed. The more I thought about it however, I decided I would much rather be a Positive Polly than a Negative Nancy, any day of the week!! (I mean, there are worse things to be called than a Positive Polly.)
What I have come to realize during the course of my grad program is happiness is made, it does not simply happen to you! Most people do not simply fall into happiness by pure accident. As I eluded to earlier, it takes work. Depending on who you are, what your background is, what type of family you grew up in, what your life circumstances have been up to this point, what your cultural values are and what your worldview is, it may take more or less work than others you may know to be happy. Chemically, you may be more engineered to lean more to one side than the other. This is why you hear the cliche’s like:
happiness is a choice
think positive, be positive
positive mind, positive vibes, positive life
positive minds lead positive lives
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
Make no mistake, you have to literally pursue happiness in order to have it in your life. The good news is that every second, every moment in life, your very next breath is an opportunity to make different choices. Life is fluid and you are only stuck if you allow yourself to be. Life, in my opinion, is way too short to hold onto so much negativity, anger, and hate. If you fill your life with these types of things, you leave no space for joy, positivism and happiness to grow.
Life is too short for the following things:
Being in relationships that make you unhappy
Being physically or emotionally abused
Holding onto anger, grudges or bitterness towards your fellow man/woman/child
Growing/feeding hatred of any kind towards yourself or others
Not taking care of yourself physically/emotionally
Focusing too much on negativity
Letting negativity and stress kill you from the inside out
Not letting your light shine
So, what do you do?
Well first, you must plant the seed. Then you must help it grow. (Yeah, that sounds like an old Chinese proverb, but it is true.) Like most things truly worth your time, you have to put serious effort into it. You must feed and water it; give it plenty of light and love. You must nurture, care for it and protect it as though it is valuable and important. Because it is. In some cases, well far too many in my opinion, your life may depend on how much time you spend nurturing your happiness. Never neglect or forget to maintain it. You will certainly need to protect it from life’s storms or in some cases the monsoon season! Then, last, but certainly not least…..you MUST share it! The hardest part, is you have to be committed to this effort for your entire life. If you stop doing any of these important steps at any time, you stand a significant chance of losing your happiness. (It is so fragile.)
In fact, you might have the jarring and devastating experience of allowing someone else to snatch it out of the ground and literally run off with it! Or you might accidentally kill it yourself. Then where you will you be? You will have to start all over again. While it is certainly not the end of the world, it will be difficult to regrow. Not impossible, but it may feel like one of the hardest things you ever do. So far, I have allowed this to happen twice before I realized I am truly the creator and caretaker of my own happiness.
Being in relationship successfully with others has a lot to do with how well you are able to grow and care for your own happiness. Also like food, I believe the more organically you can grow and cultivate your own personal happiness, the better it is for you and those who share your life. It becomes more genuine and natural this way. The odd thing about happiness, is the more you have to give, the more likely you are to receive in return. While hate begets hate, the opposite is also true. Yen and Yang. Happiness also begets happiness.
What an amazing gift to give and receive! Ever try to be angry with or hate someone who is kind, generous and generally happy? Even if you want to (like morning people,) it can be challenging to bring yourself to truly follow through. Ever try to purposefully not smile at someone who is smiling at you? Unless you have experienced a tragedy of some kind, it is almost impossible to have negative feelings towards generally positive/happy people. Go purposely frown at someone who smiles at you. Try placing a pencil between your teeth so that it forces you to smile and then try to be angry or upset on purpose. Or try this exercise when you are naturally upset and see if it makes an impact on your mood. No, I am not kidding. If you are up for trying out some of these experiments, please do, and do not be shy about sharing your experiences here!
So come on, go out and grow/beget some happiness people! The world could certainly use a large dose of positivism right now! You have nothing to loose and everything to gain. Oh yeah, and I will be proudly sporting my Positive Polly pants as often as I possibly can, from this point forward. So if you are embarrassed to be seen with me, tough cookies.
What’s in your garden???