Move to Positivity

How often to you complain? Do you know? Have you ever watched yourself for an entire day and counted how many times you grieved about an injustice, whined about an ache, or communicated some other misery?

People who whine and complain as a matter of routine often don’t even realize what they’re doing or the negative energy that’s surrounding them. Others feel it, taste it, sense it, but the Chronic Complainer can’t. And when confronted, they are often in complete denial. If you have a pain, don’t you have the right to say so? If that someone just did you a wrong, shouldn’t you speak up for yourself?

What the Chronic Complainer doesn’t realize is that the constancy of their complaining actually attracts more negativity into their lives. Like attracts like, remember?

I had this experience recently. In my last days working in television, I was so angry all the time that I was attracting more and more reasons to be angry.  (I was angry because I was being asked to compromise my values, the reality of what I was doing.) It wasn’t until I became physically ill and realized that it all stemmed from that negativity that I changed my life. And in changing my life, I changed my state of being.

Thinking positively isn’t just a “saying,” it’s a way of “being.”

Just as I ask people to do a spending analysis to see where their money is going, you can do an analysis to see how often you’re feeling positive or negative in your life. It’s a pain in the butt, but soooo worth it.

Set your phone for the ½ hr. Each time your phone “dings” (please use an unobtrusive signal that doesn’t make you crazy) make a note of what you’re thinking in that moment and whether it is negative or positive. One day may be enough to convince you to change your patterns.

So what can you do to be a more positive person? What things can you integrate into your life to support your desire for positivity and end the negativity cycle? Stop now and think about it and then list just three new practices can you integrate into your life. You’re not going to do all three at once, but you need to have at least three so you know where you’re going with this.

  • I quit TV and eliminated the negative energy associated with a toxic environment.
  • I reinforced my practice of writing daily.
  • I explored new ways of meditating to help calm my mind and give my brain a rest.

Your turn. Think. Write some notes. Think some more. This isn’t going to happen quickly. But taking the time to work it through will be hugely satisfying.

As you fully integrate one of the things on your list, create a replacement so you always have three that you’re working towards.

Positivity is something that can be learned. Negativity is something that can be banished.

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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23 Responses to “Move to Positivity”

  1. I agree completely Gail! I always make an effort to be friendly and upbeat, and try and look on the bright side of things. My ex-husband was, and still is, a constant complainer – and being with him zapped my energy and spirit. My wonderful partner now is a very happy person who surrounds me with positivity. What a difference! I also changed my job because of the unhappy work environment. I limit my time spent around negative energy – it’s just not healthy.

  2. avatar Leslie-Anne Says:
    March 14, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Choosing to be positive will give you a greater sense of control in your life. Stuff happens, but we don’t have to choose to let it ruin our day.

  3. avatar Samantha Says:
    March 14, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I used to go to this Buddhist meditation class where we would sit in a circle and meditate for an hour. At the end of the hour, our teacher would give us an assignment for the week. Sometimes it was just daily meditation goals, sometimes it was mindful eating or mindful walking, but my favourite one ever was “smiling meditation”. Our goal was to smile as much as possible all week long. It is amazing how even forcing a smile when you are grumpy can turn your day around.

    I smiled a lot before, but I smile even more now. My smile is what drew my partner to me, as well as my friends (who call me surfer girl because of my *usually* upbeat attitude).

    Being a positive person gives you the chance to either laugh when people are being overly pessimistic, or at the worst to feel sorry for them. That really does put you in a position of power, because that way you won’t be dragged into crappy moods!

  4. Negativity can become a habit. I need to examine my thinking as I have been in a rut last little while – weather does not help – is that complaining???? Funny when I was going through treatments for breast cancer I hated when people with a smile would say – keep positive – it drove me crazy. I felt like telling them to shut-up. Even now I hate that phrase for some reason. Maybe because I tried to have a phoney smile on my face most of my life and now am able to be a little more real and express my emotions and I feel like people are correcting me when they say that. However, when going through cancer I did run from anyone that was negative about cancer because I needed to keep my hope. Does anyone else share my views?

  5. I think there’s a difference between being positive and being realistic. I have a child with very serious and complex medical problems – the life threatening kind. Candy coating those issues is not helpful, and a phony form of “positivity” could actually cross into offensive. However I try to be positive despite those issues in our lives. For me, I don’t use the word “positive”, I focus on “gratitude”. Even in the midst of suffering, pain, and chaos it is possible to be grateful even if it is difficult to be “positive”.

    I agree Gail, however, that it takes work and a level of intentionality. During difficult moments, and we all have them, it is easy to be swallowed up by the negative tide. It takes conscious effort to focus on the good in life.

  6. Sadly, it is usually not that easy. If you have a constant complainer in your life that is driving you insane, don’t just tell them to “think positive” because what you hear and see may not always be the full issue. New patterns are not instantaneous and conversations like this are very good for the regular person, but don’t forget that 1 out of 5 Canadians personally experience mental illness.

    Telling someone (or yourself) that all you need to do is to think positive to turn around your mental state is very counter productive. It is like telling someone with a broken leg to just get up and go for a walk. They want to, they would love to, but every time they put pressure on the broken part there is pain and agony from deep within.

    When someone in your life is in deep sadness, be supportive and protect your own mental health while encouraging them to go see a professional who may help them. If you are finding that you can’t seem to change your own pattern of thinking, it never hurts to get professional help.

    Here is the Canadian Mental Health Association for more information: http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/

  7. @ Dom:

    Thanks for your perspective on mental health issues. I’d like to add my own voice to the topic. A few years ago, after suffering through some traumatic life events, I was in a deep depression and was contemplating suicide. I decided to join a meditation class (see my comment above), and being taught about mindfulness and perspective changed my life. Yes, I couldn’t snap my fingers and choose to wake up from depression, but I could chose to exercise, eat well, take vitamin and herbal supplements, make new connections, and actively pursue happiness. Being made aware of my persistent negative state helped me overcome my mental health problems. Just my perspective from the flip side of the coin.

    @ Debbie:

    Sorry to hear that you had cancer. That must have been tough. I too have gone through some tough things in my life. For me, inspiration comes from people who have truly suffered and somehow still have a smile on their face. There are always going to be people who have had it easier than you, but there are also always going to be people who have had a harder life too. Have you heard the study about paraplegics and lottery winners:

    “The study found that the overall happiness levels of lottery winners spiked when they won, but returned to pre-winning levels after just a few months. In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-winners. The accident victims were slightly less happy, but not by much. The study showed that most people have a set level of happiness and that even after life-changing events, people tend to return to that set point.”

    I’m personally of the opinion that happiness is a state of being, and can be a choice. And I for one would rather choose to be happy. But that’s just me. :)

  8. I’m trying to change my internal dialogue from constantly reminding myself everything that is wrong about me, to being aware and experiencing the moments I’m living. I read positive quotes from Pinterest. I set personal goals. I go make-up-less a few times a week to remind myself that my looks don’t influence the day that I have, only my perception of how I look. I went to work last week without make-up or styling my hair and put on comfortable clothing (I would be outside much of the day) and got more compliments than ever.
    I’m trying to live and enjoy every moment. Then, what can I have to complain about? I remember reading “The child called it” and he would get through terrible pain by appreciating each moment was better than the last, and if he survived it, he could survive the next. Well, I don’t have anywhere near the same trials, but I can still apply that philosophy to my life.
    I think I had a perception of how life should be, and forgot that life is always changing, and is never perfect, but has perfect moments. Hopefully this perspective will reduce my contribution to complaining pollution ;)

  9. @ Dom and Samantha

    Thank you for your perspectives. Sadness and other negative emotions are part of the human experience, and people should be allowed to experience them without feeling like they’re a bad person for not being relentlessly sunny. And as Dom said, for someone who is depressed, they probably can’t simply cure themselves with the power of positive thought, and you may further diminish their self-worth by suggesting they should be able to.

    At the same time, I agree with Gail, and some of the other commenters, that, without you realizing it, negativity can become your default, or your base emotion. Always good to do a self-check of what you’re feeling sad or angry, and ask yourself why.

  10. Negative self-talk is a hard habit to break but so worth the effort!

    It’s like when you’re on vacation and on the last day you’re complaining “gee, I have to go back to work tomorrow, what a bummer” but if you instead say “gee, what a great vacation I’ve had and now I’m looking forward to going back to work and getting back to my regular routine”. I used to get so down on the last day of a 2-week vacation and whine about having to go back to work but tried the positive self-talk on the advice of a friend and it worked!

    I have a friend who is very negative about everything and talking to her really brings me down. I am trying to phase her out of my life because I know that she will never change. Right now we only talk every few weeks because that’s all I can handle!

  11. Great post and comments. I would share this:

    Sometimes negativity comes from trying to control every situation….and you can’t….therefore you end up feeling upset, angry, annoyed etc. Once you learn to ‘surrender’ to each situation, and realize that everyone has their own journey and you can choose to participate or not, it can bring you peace. Being peaceful allows your goodness to shine without even trying hard!

    Also mindful breathing can help alleviate stress and negativity.

  12. I was raised for years in what can best be described as a tixic family steeped in negativity. My gran, my mother and so on. It took me thirty years to one day realize as I moved away and could simply breathe just how much it had impacted my life. To a point their fault. But the hardest part was owning uo ti hiw much I had reflected that whining angry attitude.
    It is gone. It took longer than it should. Wish I had cha ged sooner, glad I changed anyway.
    I smike at people for no reason. They smike back. I have learned for every negative peraon there is at least two posirive. I focus on that and try hard to bith block out the negative and BE the positive.
    I will live longer that way.

  13. I dropped cable…with intention, I’m nurturing being grateful and thankful…and, when I feel “held back” (like I do by my limitations these days), I fight back with creativity.

    My budgets are fine. It’s the “overflow” that’s sucking the pavement these days. ..AND SO…I strategize: I go on the offensive!!

    Three five dollar Tim-Cards for roll-up-the-rim…humble, maybe…but if someone stuck a couple freebie coffees in my mitt, the sun would sure feel a bit brighter!!

    And so, I lay in wait. In reality, I’m a hermit. My alter-ego? A dispensational diva!

    I gather stories for my husband, who lovingly shakes his head every time and says, “I bless you. I love you.”

    Do I grumble? Heck, ya.
    If you prick me, I bleed, too.

  14. I think ‘hg’ nailed it on the head in their comment above regarding control. I also think entitlement causes us to complain as well. I don’t ‘deserve’ to be treated that way, why do these things ALWAYS happen to me, I can’t wait for this winter to be over so that I can start to complain about how hot it is!

    When we can’t control it, we complain about it. The weather, the stock market, our in-laws. We also feel like we deserve more than we are given, our salaries, vacations, the car we drive. Not having makes us complain as well.

    Someone above mentioned gratitude. I think remembering to be grateful for the things we DO have help me not to complain. My overall health is good, so how can I complain that my back is sore. We have very little cash flow, but we have a beautiful little cottage. I have an ok job, but my home life is amazing. It’s all about perspective and looking for the positive part. There almost always is one. That’s what I try to remember that whenever I find myself complaining.

  15. I’m LOVING this whole thread: therapeutic and priceless.

    When I was losing hope, about seven years ago, I learned a powerful quick lesson from my mom-in-love.

    My negative thoughts were grooving into scary “stronghold” territory…

    I visited her, and noticed Word Search booklets around her living room. She gave me one. The next time that my thoughts started deteriorating, I did a word search. By the third word, I had popped into a healthy zone in my brain. I was stunned! The second time negative thinking came, I ran for the word search. I barely started the search, and I popped to that healthy side of my brain again.

    I never did “have to” do that again. The lesson I learned (so simple!): I changed my mind:)

    I gave this “technique” to my mom. She’s addicted.

  16. After reading Gail’s post and the comments above, I believe a distinction has to be made between negative personality and clinical depression.

    I am not a professional in this area, but I have life experience. Usually clinical depressive people DO NOT constantly vocalize to others to create a negative environment, they usually suffer in silence.

    Outspoken, negative people is a different issue. Maybe it comes from anger or maybe it comes from frustration, but it is NOT the same as clinical depression.

    I would not get the 2 mixed up or group this into the same topic of discussion.

  17. This info, as tasii and others mention, is very generic and should be treated differently on a case-by-case basis. I do think that Gail is talking more about serial complainers – those that complain about the most trivial of details and think the world is against them. I know a few. It isn’t depression or any other mental illness, it isn’t severe medical issues. The case of a couple of people I know (glad this is anonymous, lol) is that they are so shallow and self-absorbed that whenever things go wrong either because of their own failure to plan or just dumb luck when they expect to always get their way, here come the tantrums. I used to be a bit like this – when I was younger and missed the bus because I slept in, I used to blame the bus, the red light that prevented me from crossing the street … pretty much anything (other than myself and my own tardiness) that was an obstacle to catching the bus. I think the wake-up call was just seeing others in my family behave in a similar fashion, realizing how ridiculous it was and eventually making the connection that I was like that too and it wasn’t a good quality.

    The way I dealt with it wasn’t really to be positive but to take a step back and evaluate my behaviour pretending I was a rational outside observer, the way I observed the manner in which my family and friends had behaved sometimes.

    That being said, for severe medical episodes, this is still good advice. When my mom had cancer, her condition often changed based on her mood. When she was happy, she did better. When she got upset, her cancer always took a turn for the worse. I don’t know fully what was the cause and the effect – intensified cancer symptoms causes negativity or negativity causes intensified cancer symptoms? There was definitely an association though and she was able to survive the experience at the end of the day but I was pretty clearly that positive thinking had an impact – just hard to convince someone going through chemo that they should be thinking positively.

  18. Actually I was quite upbeat and positive when I went through chemo and radiation and I still am – 9 years later. Just did not like it when people said Be positive – I guess I was sensitive and to me it was like they thought I was negative or did not have a right to my feelings.

  19. avatar Charlotte Says:
    March 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    This is so true. I have multiple chronic disease which can be very hard to deal with. I try hard to keep an upbeat attitude about my situation, though it is not easy.

    Financially, I made the most strides recently when I changed my attitude about certain things. Instead of being grumpy about my husband’s monthly lunch costs, I put a line item in the budget and pay the credit card up front each month. Now the costs are an expected expense and it gets paid as a matter of course. I also started a Christmas savings account so that that budget-buster will be gone too. And finally, I put a large medical line item in the monthly budget to try to keep up with my uneven medical expenses. The big switch was from an it’s-not-fair attitude to an I-can-handle-this attitude. It’s a big step forward.

  20. avatar Marilynne Black Says:
    March 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I agree with so much of previous posts. I went through (and still am) going through a family ‘trial’ but have been working on being happy and positive It is working! I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that really helped..

  21. Very recently I had a change to my job that was significant ( adding 45min to an already 2 hr commute). I could not shake the woe is me attitude even though my manager has tried to eliminate the stress by letting me work from home 4 days a week and allowing me to work in other (closer) satellite offices. For 4 days I made everyone’s life miserable and even shed tears at work. Finally I heard someone else complaining and realized two things. I sounded the same and it was ridiculous.

    Now I have ‘moved onwards and upwards’. I can’t change it, I have moved past the grief stage and will do my best to be positive about it.

  22. Quit watching TV is one of the ideal ways to completely have a positive outlook on doing things that really matter and spending time with family. Switching off the smartphone (ain’t nothing smart about it) is another way anyone can switch off and save.

  23. I have a 7 yr old grandaughter and I am teaching her to choose something beautiful from around her every day -it can be a squirrel, a bird, a leaf, a cloud etc and then keep it in her heart all day and reach out to it if she feels unhappy. The other morning I asked her what her thing was going to be and she gave me the deepest look and said nani today I will keep you in my heart. ! I had tears in my eyes. I have felt that nature is here to give us solace but we do not reach out enough to it. My most beautiful moments have been gazing deeply into a flower or my husband’s eyes or a child’s or stranger’s face. It works…

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