Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Recipe for Positivity

Is it possible that I can leave a trail?

I'd like to think so. I'd really like to believe that amid grief, I can leave something behind. I think we all can. Sometimes, I feel like the world doesn't give me what I need. Things are not offered that I wish were offered. And when that happens, I sigh really loudly and become upset/dejected/irritated for a moment...then, I make the first move. When I want to feel better myself, I send things out into the universe. Today, while at Barnes & Noble after work, I left one of my anonymous letters for a stranger.

I attached the stickers too. I don't know why I'm compelled to do these things... I just am. I don't question it - I just go with it.

As I was leaving the store, I remembered an article I wrote in February for Libero Network, a nonprofit organization and online magazine offering recovery support, fostering self-acceptance, and advocating mental health.

It was called "A Recipe for Positivity" and even on the hard days, I try really hard to remember that it's a recipe I still need to make. Below, is my article. It seems fitting today. 

Being positive is an art. It does not always come easily and it often has to be learned. True artists of positivity master the challenges that come along with it and make life look refreshing, upbeat, and even magical. These artists of positivity are the people with whom we want to surround ourselves, those who have a light that draws us in, those who inspire us for a number of reasons. We see them and we love them, are curious about the ways in which they live their lives, and sometimes strive to be like them.

But positivity is anyone’s game. It is not reserved for a select few and the canvas for the art of positivity is the whole world. Just start inside and work your way out…and you’ll find it isn’t really a game at all.

Positivity is a recipe:

A pinch of kindness
A sprinkle of self-love
A dollop of fun
A drop of acceptance
One heaping spoonful of gratitude

When you make the recipe of Positivity, it’s only 1 serving – food for you and you alone. But if you stick to the meal plan, you actually end up feeding everyone else too.

Let’s break it down.

“A pinch of kindness” is the first ingredient, because without it, we are apt to be judgmental or lacking empathy. Though kindness may seem unrelated to positivity, it’s actually the key component. Like an egg, it holds the batter together. It is impossible to have a truly positive outlook without that pinch of kindness. Your server at a restaurant might seem rude, too slow, or incompetent, and that pinch of kindness is what keeps a positive person positive. Without that pinch of kindness, you might be apt to jump to conclusions or let your own anger or impatience turn your experience into a negative one. You might become grouchy about the money you’re paying for the meal or become annoyed with the service and let it ruin your mood. You might wonder aloud to your companion if the server cares about her job or knows what she’s doing. You might say a mean remark or use a word like “stupid.” You might huff and puff in exasperation. Haven’t we all done these things?

Throw in that pinch of a kindness and instantly you have empathy and any judgment is stripped away. Kindness might cause you to consider whether or not the server has eaten yet herself. You might wonder if she is having a bad day. Maybe her husband told her he wants a divorce. Perhaps her child cried hysterically when she left him at a day care center that morning. Maybe her mom is sick or her cat died the day before. She may still be rude or slow or bad at her job, but the pinch of kindness changes YOU, not her. When there is no room for judgment or mean thoughts, there is no room for negativity. Positivity remains. And if you’re lucky, your positive attitude in the face of negative circumstances might just change that server after all.

“A sprinkle of self-love” is the next ingredient, because it’s unlikely that pure, unconditional love can be sent out into the world (by you) if you don’t feel that you are deserving of pure, unconditional love too. Self-love makes the recipe stronger, because no matter what undermines your confidence or who treats you with malice, you can remain positive. See, if self-love does not exist in the recipe for Positivity, outside circumstances will always get the best of you and negativity will surface.

“A dollop of fun” is the third ingredient, because if you’re not enjoying yourself, positivity can’t take hold. Positivity artists know this; almost everything is fun to them. They enjoy waking up in the morning, they derive pleasure from simple things, and they get a genuine thrill from being a source of positivity for others. The fun they have is not superficial, but meaningful. To them, life is not a game to be played, but a gift to be savored.

That dollop of fun is what puts a smile on the face of a person who appears to have nothing about which to smile. Life is not something to be tolerated; it is to be enjoyed. Bad things may happen that are out of our control, but the fun will always be there, waiting to take away the sting. Sometimes we just have to look for it. Joy is INSIDE, not outside. Negative circumstances can cause us to do one of three things: to shut down, to be swept into the negativity, or to seek shelter within. Only those well versed in positivity will choose to go within, so positivity is an art that can save lives – yours first and perhaps others’ later. Tomorrow may bring pain, but it cannot steal your joy. Artists of positivity are having fun all the time, because they know they are receiving messages from the Universe and gifts from life, even when it doesn’t seem so to others.

“A drop of acceptance” is the next ingredient and it cannot be substituted. Interestingly enough, it goes along with the “dollop of fun,” creating a mixture that is unmatched. Living life with joy and fun is great in theory, but it’s easier said than done unless acceptance also plays a role. In order to live with zest, joy, and a real smile, you must accept that you cannot control the storms that may come your way. In fact, you cannot prevent them either. At times, it is impossible to even prepare for them in advance. Accepting the bad as it exists means that your heart doesn’t have to hold on to negative feelings and can instead move forward. Acceptance is what helps push you through the bad towards joy. Acceptance can be tricky. It’s a word often lumped together with patience, another very difficult concept to master.

Acceptance means we don’t have to stay in place. We may not be able to control the storm, but we don’t have to stay beneath it. We cannot choose what happens to us, but we CAN choose how we react to it. That’s part of positivity. Choosing to be positive in the face of hardship, heartbreak, and horror can be quite a feat – but make no mistake, it can be done. And you will FLOURISH if you are able to make that choice.

“One heaping spoonful of gratitude” is the last and most abundant ingredient. You can never have too much, so there’s no need to measure. Just pour. Gratitude changes everything. It turns disaster into opportunity, loss into gain, and dreams into reality. Cultivating gratitude has become a personal quest for me over time and I have seen firsthand the very tangible ways in which it has changed and continues to change my life.

Gratitude makes all the difference in a positive outlook and solidifies the art of positivity on an ongoing basis. Artists of positivity will have unfortunate events happen to them like everyone else, but the attitude of gratitude is what keeps their heads above negativity. Rooted in positive thinking, conditioned by true gratitude, an artist of positivity whose car has broken down on the side of the road will change her way of thinking immediately in a way such as this: “I can’t believe my car broke down…but at least I have a car.”

Another way to remember gratitude is to try not to take anything for granted. Did you get a close parking space at a busy store? Be thankful as you park. Did you have the day off from work on a very snowy day? Be thankful you did not have to drive in bad weather. Did you wake up without feeling ill? Be thankful for your healthy body. Did you wake up? Be thankful for being alive. These are just a few examples of the many things we often take for granted in every day life. We are quick to be upset or annoyed when we come down with a cold, but we weren’t thankful when we were well and full of energy.

The recipe of Positivity is relatively simple and never needs tweaking. It does not go out of style or lose its appeal. It’s a recipe for one person – you – that eventually feeds everyone you meet. You become a light and your light shines on others. Positivity is an art and your life can become a masterpiece.

1 comment:

Help me feel less alone.