Sunday, April 26, 2015

Health and Wellness: Maintaining Positivity

I have a confession, I'm not a positive person.  I think I usually have a negative inner dialogue.  I like having the freedom to be grouchy and give that intimidating LOOK to those who irk me.  I'm not precisely sure why this is, but it's true.  Perhaps it makes me feel powerful, perhaps it's just reality that sometimes we are grouchy and negative and I enjoy freedom to be me.  This is one thing I haven't psychoanalyzed.  Being grouchy every morning is definitely different from being a generally negative person.  I can spot the flaws in anything and can dwell on them to the point of obsession.  That isn't healthy.  At all.  It can be difficult to keep a balance between allowing myself the freedom to be grouchy and trying to let go of negativity.  This is one balance that I have to work on all the time because it is very easy for morning grouchiness to turn to depression and anger.  My mornings are almost always a rough transition because I'm trying to move from my morning grouchy-ness to a good mood.  Sometimes this is extremely difficult and I need outside help.  Yesterday I put a playlist on Pandora (nature sounds with music) and decided to meditate.  I measured my feelings, weighed the reasoning behind them, and let my emotions flow as I acknowledged them and worked to move on from that point.  It is one of the many things I have learned over the years that help me to maintain a positive outlook on life.  Acknowledging negative emotions, allowing ourselves to experience them, and then focusing on positive things is one healthy way to gain emotional and mental health.  It doesn't bother me that I wake up grouchy, it's when I can't seem to snap out of it and begin to feel like I'm in a rut that bothers me.

One of my dad's cactus blossoms
When I was working on my bachelor's degree, I had a class over a summer called Positive Psychology.  This class is what changed my view of negativity and positivity.  What is Positive Psychology?  Peterson (2006) states that, "Positive psychologists study positive traits and dispositions--characteristics like kindness, curiosity, and the ability to work on a team--as well as values, interests, talents, and abilities.  They study social situations that can enable the good life: friendship, marriage, family, education, religion, and so on" (p. 8).  What does that mean?  It means that psychologist who study those things do not focus on "the problem".  They acknowledge the problem and focus on positive aspects that can help build better health for the individual.  In social work this method is called "strengths based".  I love these methods of helping people, and I love being able to use them for myself.  It takes some time and self-awareness to train your mind to look at things positively instead of negatively, but it is doable and worth it.  Let me share an experience I had in my teens.

I was in art class with a group of girls during high school.  One of them told me and another girl that we claimed to hate a lot of things.  I remember feeling a bit appalled at myself that somebody noticed something like that about me.  So, to challenge that, me and the other girl decided to make a game out of it by saying that we loved something opposite of whatever we hated.  Being teenagers, it came across as sarcastic from time to time, but it helped to change my mindset.  I started to think of things that made me happy or joyful instead of the things I disliked.  As I got older I learned how to finely tune this and become more and more aware of the things I focus on.

In one of my social work classes, the professor showed us the following video.  It reminded me of another thing from my past, but also of the impact that focusing on positive things can have on our wellbeing.

The story from my childhood: I have two younger brothers and I was a TERRIBLE big sister.  I was mean, very mean, to my brothers.  My parents were always trying to find ways to get me to be nicer to them.  One way was to write things to learn to do differently.  I think I must have said something extremely hateful to the older of my two brothers because my mom had me write a Bible verse 200 times to learn to think and say positive things.  It is the Bible verse mentioned in the video above.  As an adult, some 20 years later (or so), I can still remember that verse.  It is a good principle to live by regardless of spiritual/religious belief.

"Finally brothers, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8

What would our lives be like if everyone we were around focused only on these things? What would our lives look like if we changed our own mindsets to think of things that are lovely and good and true?  Our lives are inundated with negativity from every corner.  We almost have to live in a bubble to weed out everything.  While we cannot control the things that others say and do, we can control the things we allow to take residence in our own souls.  It is difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life when we are surrounded by hatred, bitterness, and negative energies.  If we do not protect ourselves from the negativity from others, who will?  My husband and I go out of our way to protect ourselves from outside negative influences.  We do this as a method of helping him through depression and anxiety because of his PTSD (a future post talks about this in greater detail).  Here are things we do to help ourselves and each other.

  • Limit the people we are around.  We are both introverts, me more than him, so this isn't difficult for us.  However, extraverts can do this as well.  Simply ask yourself, "How do I feel after being around this person?"  If you feel icky, physically ill, exhausted, or grouchy almost every time you are around someone, try to be around him or her in small doses.  One of the things I have noticed about myself is that the more I am around people that make me feel that way, the more I become someone who is that way as well.  Some people's attitudes are toxic.  It is sad, but true.  
  • Limit our exposure to negative media.  We don't have satellite or cable television just because we don't see the point in paying for it.  We have a lot of movies and we can watch any type of tv shows we desire either on Netflix or Hulu, or our tv isn't on all the time.  Generally, we watch a movie in the evenings, and more often than not (and not necessarily on purpose) we choose happier movies.  Last night we watched The Muppets.  We avoid things like regular news.  We are aware of some current events because we have friends and family who talk about it.  From time to time I will look up what is going on in the world, but we don't start or end our days out with all the negativity the news brings.  This is something that some will have an argument against, but really, our lives are better for not dwelling on it the way a lot of society does.  We do not pretend that bad things don't happen, nor do we look at the world through rose colored glasses.  We simply do not allow it to make an impact in our lives.  This also does not mean that we don't care, it just means that we are aware of the things we can and cannot control.  
  • Social networking: here's the thing.  We are friends with people who have widely differing world views.  There are those who are conservative to the extreme and those who are liberal to the extreme.  If we are on a social networking site that is a platform for those who like to share their view on anything, from day to day life, politics, or religion, and it negative or critical, we limit what we see from them.  It is no secret that I have some people on a "restricted" list because I do not want negative comments on my posts.  I also have certain pages and sites blocked from showing on my newsfeed.  On Facebook, I created a list of pages that I like.  They focus on positive things, or things that make me happy, so I have a dose of "happy" whenever I go on.  It has really helped me out.  Instead of going on Facebook and experiencing all the drama and pissery that many people experience, I see uplifting quotes, pictures of nature, prayers, and other things that put a smile in my heart.
  • Do things daily to help weed out the negative.  Husband goes on nature walks almost every day as a way to process his thoughts and emotions and to get alone and enjoy something beautiful.  He wrote, "Well, I have met brother bear, Seen the eyes of the great eagle, saw the cowardess of a bobcat, The sheer power of the puma, and the thoughtlessness of the wild boar, The slithering of snakes, and the slowest of snails. My hikes are wonderful and surprising. The black bear is the newest I've seen."  He has also created a type of oasis in our backyard.  I go for walks and try to do something spiritual everyday.  I also look at my environment and try to be grateful for things instead of complaining.  (I'm a good complainer, so I work on this one).  
An iris in our front yard
I have a friend who recommended a book to me called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I haven't read it yet, but it is on my list.  From the summary of the book, it is about learning to express gratitude for everyday things.  In my positive psychology class, making a list of things we are grateful for was one activity that we did to measure our mood at the end of the week.  It makes a difference when we begin to measure the things that are positive in our lives and begin to focus on those things.  

These are all things that I am remembering today because it is the end of April in southern New Mexico and we have had snow and sleet where we usually have 60+ degree weather.  Usually by now our squash, beans, and tomatoes are well on their way to growing, but now we have hardly any sprouts.  So, instead of complaining about the weather, I'm telling myself, "I'm grateful for the moisture because we live in the desert.  I'm grateful for the time indoors husband and I can spend together today."  I've learned to love the beauty around me that can be seen in the ordinary and mundane things.  And these things help with maintaining health and wellness within my body, mind, and soul.  I challenge everyone to make some changes in your lives, just some small ones, that will help you look at things more positively and see how different you feel after a week, a month, half a year.  May you find positive things to encourage your health and wellness within.

Light and Love,


Look at my pages, I have a book list and some links to other ways you can follow Eclectic Peanut. 


Peterson, Christopher. (2006). Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, Inc.


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