11 August 2017

Five Ways To Increase Your Positivity

Five Ways To Increase Your Positivity

Location: Nottingham Castle, Lenton Road, Nottingham

Glass half full. That is the kind of person I strive to be: positive; optimistic; and when things go wrong; resilient. However, let's get real for a second, life is not (to my unfortunate realisation and dismay) a Disney movie, and when things aren't going how you planned or life throws a disastrous catastrophe out of nowhere, it can be really hard to smile and tell yourself 'I'll be okay' because well, how do you know that? Right? However, over the years I've learnt that life stops for nobody and everybody around you is dealing with their own personal battles, whether you're aware of it or not. You can't always rely on others for support or empathy, so instead of feeling sorry for yourself and waiting for somebody to come and rescue you, sometimes you have to just grit your teeth and fight. Now, yes I know I'm not exactly Wonder Woman in my own superhero movie (one can dream) but sometimes for reasons beyond my own control, life can suck a little bit. However, I have adopted a few simple ways that are helping me to lead what I consider, in the grand scheme of things, 'a happy life'. 

1. Build a support network you trust 
I am what I would describe as a 'social butterfly'. I love meeting new people and socialising in a group and although I do need independence and me-time, I don't think I'll ever change. When I was younger, I thought the most important thing was to have a huge group of friends to hang out with, and although those people gave me some of the best years of my life, my view of friendship since then has changed. These days I have a tight network, and I'm unapologetic in who I say that I know, and who are my real friends. My definition of a true friend is somebody I can trust, be myself around, and confide in. I've had people to go on nights out with, meet for breakfast with them the next day and laugh about the night before with, people to sit in the pub on a Saturday night with. Those people give you some of the most memorable days of your life, but if they're not the people you can cry to, fall apart in front of, and share your problems with when you absolutely can't find a way out, then ask yourself - who is?

2. Dare to leave your comfort zone once in a while
When I signed up to live and work in rural Ghana for three months did people think I was stupid? Of course they did! I was signing up for three months of bucket showers, eating with my hands and unbearable weather conditions, it was no wonder people were asking me 'Yasmin, what the hell are you playing at?' When you do things that are scary and completely out of your comfort zone, you have to learn to push yourself through it. Then, when it all works out in the end, all you want to do is have that feeling of overcoming that challenge again because it feels amazing. You did a thing, and you didn't die! Think about getting on a rollercoaster, the ride slowly climbing higher and higher. Of course it's terrifying, and in that moment your flight or fight mode does kick in, but all you can really do is fight and stick with it. Contrast this with how you feel when the ride is finished -  you just want to do it again because the thing that you thought you couldn't do, the thing you thought was impossible - you just conquered it. This is what's called building your resilience, and resilience can help you to stay positive even in the face of challenge. 

3. Random acts of kindness
It's nice to be nice, but science actually says that carrying out random acts of kindness can help us to be more positive individuals and can decrease social avoidance in people that suffer from social anxiety. Now you don't have to propose to your girlfriend at the top of the Empire State building or attempt to pay off your parents' mortgage to do a random act of kindness (I hear you all sigh in relief). Random acts of kindness can include holding the door open for someone, giving somebody a genuine compliment, buying a coffee for a homeless person, sending a nice email or visiting someone you haven't seen in a while 'just because'. This method can not only benefit your health and wellbeing but has the potential to send waves of positivity all around you.

4. 'What went well' journal
I heard some research on a recent TED talk that said if you write down something great that happened to you in the last twenty-four hours, your brain gets to relive the memory and relive that positivity. A 'What went well' journal was something my postgrad suggested for keeping on top of our wellbeing and consists of a small notebook to write down one thing each day that went well. A great place to start is to think of all the incredible things that happened to you this morning, for an example I've made a list of mine: woke up in a comfortable bed under shelter, had hot running water and amazing candy floss scented shower gel, had a good breakfast, had working wifi connection (it's been on and off lately) and well, you get the picture. These may seem like really small, trivial things but when you take the time to see all that you have, your gratitude will grow and you will feel the positive effects.

5. Be kind to yourself
We are all guilty of not treating ourselves right. Somebody compliments our hair: we tell them it needs cutting; we see somebody good looking on Instagram: we convince ourselves we're ugly; we choose bad food because we can't be bothered to cook good food; we don't want to exercise because we've been working all day, and so the list continues. Learning to put ourselves first can be one of the hardest tasks in the world and something I'm still learning to do. From succumbing to outside pressures of social media and people's opinions, to finding solace in a cheeseburger because it's just to difficult to eat a salad right now, it's easy to treat yourself badly. I'm not telling you to join a gym or become a vegan, I'm telling you to take charge in what it is that you want. So if somebody gives you a compliment, say thank you. If someone puts up a great selfie on Instagram, don't see it as an invitation to compare - they're just feeling confident today and that's awesome. Choose good food, take some vitamins or go for a walk when you feel low. And when needs must, treat yourself to that cheeseburger, not because you don't feel like veggies today, but because you earned it!
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