The last few years have tested even the most positive people with a series of challenges. Remaining motivated and positive during these times might feel like an insurmountable task and these global occurrences might leave you wondering “where do we go from here?”. After all, why would you spend time worrying about a delayed train if the world was seemingly on the verge of extinction? Then again, why would you spend time worrying about something inevitable and unavoidable? Whichever side of the fence you fall on is not exactly a conscious choice, and positivity (like most things), is relative.

So how do you tame the beast of positivity? There is no quick fix unfortunately. It is a thing that will take dedication and time but the measures you need to take are small. For example, if you have decided to try and get in good shape – the first few steps you take will be difficult. You are adding something new into your life and there could be some difficulty in adopting whatever new thing you have decided to try. After some time though that resistance will begin to disappear and be replaced with familiarity and a host of positive associations. This is not specific to physical exercise though; the principal can apply to anything you do which has a built-in reward system. This Pavlovian tactic is tried and true, seeing as it is the reason all life is here today and, it is an easy one to hijack. The simplified version of this is: Identify Task -> Complete Task -> Reward. The reward in things like exercise is delivered intravenously by the brain. Engaging in laborious physical tasks will activate the trigger in the brain which will flood the system with endorphins. Over time, repetition of these tasks will begin to imprint the positive association, which makes longer term commitment much easier.

So, with all that context we can move into the first tip for maintaining a positive attitude. It begins with some reflecting on things you struggle with. Picking something small and safe is advised for the first one – e.g., Talking on the phone. So, if you share this unease in phone calls then a simple trick you can do to get past that is set up a daily phone call which leads to something positive for you. It could be something simple like having a quick catch up with a friend or loved one before sitting down for a meal. In short, make a phone call then reward yourself with something (preferably healthy). Over time you’ll become more comfortable with this new routine which is where you could switch things up to optimise your growth. Try adding a curveball like taking the call in a more public place in order to keep the momentum. Or another alternative could be creating a loose script. Small talk isn’t something that comes natural to everyone so giving yourself a few prompt cards to help with opening and closing interactions may help things to run smoother and more comfortably. Over time you will start to pick up these conversational patterns and apply them subconsciously.

Another similar approach you could take could be doing the above but minus the reward – or rather minus giving yourself an external reward. If you can find joy or pride in overcoming a task, then you are set up to go. Begin forcing yourself to do things that you don’t look forward to and over time you’ll develop a resilience or tolerance to discomfort. This is probably the better long-term strategy as it will pay dividends in all situations, whether you’re positive or not. Although there are short term advantages too if you feel resilient enough to throw yourself straight into the deep end. A little saying, I use personally is: “Discomfort for growth, comfort for reflection.” Simply meaning you throw yourself at something and reflect on what happened, then take notes and try again.

There are less ‘extreme’ ways to approach improving your resilience, it can be a good mental failsafe for moments when you are struggling. Practicing centring techniques is a good method to avoid being controlled by emotional outbursts through training yourself how to recognise and act on this shift. There are a lot of misconceptions around meditation, usually portraying it as a practice used to reach a “clear head”. This may in part be true, but the more valuable lesson (in my opinion) is the ability to ground yourself during high-pressure, high-emotion situations. In terms of real-world applicability, this can be applied across the board.

Meditation can also be completely personal. There are running themes throughout different practices but ultimately, it’s a practice where you take direction from what works for you. Many people run into the pitfall of trying an app or paid service only to end up becoming frustrated by trying to force value out of a program because it works for other people. Meditation can be something as simple as watching birds. The general concept is to stop the “brain chatter” but of course the catch is trying to stop that only makes you focus on it more. So, if sitting in silence, listening to whales or a soft-spoken voice doesn’t work for you then revaluate and think back to something you do without thinking. Exercise, again, is meditative in nature as most people aren’t thinking “left leg, right leg” as they’re jogging. Once you find what works for you, you’ll be surprised what your brain can achieve when your mind is out of the way for a couple of hours a week.

Ultimately how you achieve your own wellbeing is irrelevant. Looking after yourself is the most important thing anyone can do in life & it will lead to the greatest happiness and success. Even if you aren’t where you thought you’d be or if life didn’t quite stick to your plan – If you have your happiness then you will be a force of good on earth for yourself and everyone around you.

Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” – Terence Mckenna.

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