Many of you might have already browsed about steps to think positive and ways to continue that. But this blog isn’t about how to think positive the way you might expect, or its benefits if achieved. Rather, my primary focus is on stages. Training our minds to keep an optimistic outlook isn’t an overnight transformation. Nevertheless, it contains lots of efforts to actually reach that point.
Since you are reading this blog, I assume that you are dealing with troubles and do not seem to attain that level of understanding. One might also tend to suppress their overwhelming emotions and concentrate only on the bright side. This tactic isn’t that bad, yet won’t offer long-term positive response either. I tell you why.
Many of us are familiar that our society has set certain standards and we are supposed to follow those. Thinking positively is one of the mindsets all of us ought to keep. There is obviously a whole list of benefits of positive thinking which is why this is so emphasized by each successful person who we meet or read about, or even psychologists.
What most people fail to recognize is, reasons behind a person’s tendency to remain in a loop of negative opinions that (s)he holds about himself (or herself). If somebody does not acknowledge the source of their mental health issues they are not going to change their “patterns”. Moreover, most spectators would almost always turn a blind eye (in the process of putting themselves in others’ shoes) because of the lack of similar experiences they probably never had.
People also trivialize each other’s personal matters as in –
“They had it worse than you, yet they overcame their difficulties..”.
The root cause of this problem is, not letting a person express their emotions in a healthier way even before they reach adulthood. Since beginning, we are always taught to stay happy because it nourishes our soul, and sadness is considered as terrible and should never be addressed. The thing is, without processing the core frustration, one cannot reach the objective of joy. Maintaining that happiness is yet another challenge due to obvious reason – Circumstances!
Grievance is naturally expected if a situation is unfavorable, but sadness should not control our lives. This is indeed true, but what if a person’s state of mind remains the same because of prolonged misery? It is indeed natural to remain inclined to negatives for the entire lifetime.
Being happy or sad is a state of mind, but most of us forget that restricting sentiment will actually intensify it on the surface and we would explode in a number of ways. Are you still in a dilemma why some people’s reaction would go extreme even in apparently trivial matters? Our brain’s department has a lot to do with it. Let’s see that in more details.
Mainly, Amygdala, Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex in our brain have a huge role to play while shaping our emotional condition throughout our lives. Specifically, these all have a unique functionality. So, let’s take a quick look on each of these.
- Amygdala – It deals with a variety of emotions – anger, fear, joy, etc. It also controls what kind of survival mode (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) one likely chooses as per a given situation. For instance, if a child experiences something terrible, say being in a war zone, and his response were to run (flight response) immediately, the chances of this kind of response will sustain for the rest of his life. In other words, his tendency to avoid similar condition (certain type of touch, smell, voice/sound) would trigger his subconscious back to the past and his reaction won’t differ much.
- Hippocampus – It is responsible for both long-term and short-term memory. A negative impact on this particular part of brain causes memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s (most common in old age); also inability to form new memories.
- Prefrontal Cortex – This part is known to develop comparatively late among individuals. In fact, research says that it is under-developed in teenagers and doesn’t reach complete maturity until around 25 years of age; except those who might have gone through external stimuli in their early years. It is accountable for one’s decision-making ability, impulse control/emotional reaction, etc.
Still wonder why most teenagers always have overwhelming reaction on many situations, and why do they make wrong decisions frequently?
I would also like to address trauma here. Clinically speaking, if a person undergoes one event or a series of events that are beyond normal during their young years or even later in any phase of their life, the likelihood of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and CPTSD (Complex PTSD) raises to many folds. Examples include: neglectful childhood, physical and/or emotional abuse, exposure to any form of violence, and so on.
As said earlier, a child’s Prefrontal Cortex doesn’t fully develop, his or her brain will be affected if they experience traumatic events, in addition, and so will their future responses. Once they reach adulthood, they usually remain hypervigilant even if the past events have been already passed.
What would you suggest to such children? Are they reluctant to happiness? Certainly not! Their mind has been conditioned to believe that the world is a terrible place to live in, and that, anything negative may occur in their life.
This does not imply that it is beyond the scope of a person to meet the objective of happiness, no matter how miserable their life might have been. But, it DOES take time. Although it’s complicated to explain how many months or years it takes to fully attain that, since it differs in each individual. More so, flashbacks about their past may still appear but can be managed enough to not hinder their daily routine.
Thinking positively is not a distant dream. Many people overestimate it like some kind of treasure that is beyond their reach. This is because they underestimate their own capabilities. In my opinion, belief in oneself that it is not something that only few could get, but something which is available in plenty, is the beginning of positive thinking. Following are some of the tips for positive thinking for those of you who have difficulty in attaining that.
General Tips for Positive Thinking
1. Know that your feelings are validated: One cannot attain happiness if they continue ignoring their emotional needs. It would mentally drain you if you hide yourself from your own soul. If you have been through an extreme misfortune or still undergoing it, your feelings are supposed to be validated. If you do not find somebody else doing it for you, you must still treat yourself with great care. Positive self-talk on a daily basis would help, either in the morning or night, or both. Seek therapy, if possible.
We live in a society where (pretending) to be happy is entertained beyond the limits of one’s capability. You are supposed to put a smile on your face deliberately because being joyous is pretty and grievance is feeble, thereby trivializing the drastic aftereffects that may take several years to be addressed in the first place. Instead, the patterns of negative emotions should be allowed to flow right through your heart and then released. And when the right time arrives, it shall pass like a think air.
2. Self-realization and acceptance: I highly recommend to take a look at yourself and do countless analysis, not in a critical or judgemental way, but by keeping neutral opinions about your life, you, and the world around. Doing this will eventually help you to accept many aspects. For instance, if you think that your parents were emotionally unavailable for you or neglected you, they perhaps didn’t have their own parents to surround them and that they were unaware of expressing love for their own child (you) when their parenting began.
3. Set low expectations: Expecting less is a theoretic concept for many of us and we fail to practically implement it. But once we start to lower our expectations, we tend to receive better outcomes. Actually, the perception of the result matters. If we anticipate less, we do not feel disappointed often, and vice versa. It’s difficult but not unachievable!
4. Practice dissociation or detachment: This term would sound foreign to those who never had significant suffering or trauma. Skip this, if it serves you no purpose. To those who had, have you ever felt yourself being emotionally and/or physically detached to your surroundings? This is because your brain subconsciously practiced feeling nothing during that past extreme event.
To elaborate it, let’s take an example. Have you ever watched Discovery or National Geographic channel in which (a) lion(s) hunt(s) its prey, say deer, and there comes a moment in which the deer stops rebelling against it with practically no movement at all? Immediately after that, the lion bites its neck and the prey is dead. This is because the deer discovered that it won’t longer be able to escape, so in order to not feel anything physically, it dissociates.
Now my point is that, just like the deer you are no longer a scapegoat of (your past events), but you can still manage your emotions if you think that you feel overburdened. Know that your brain is fully proficient to continue that behavior even if done purposefully.
Although I do not suggest to keep detached all the time. It is fulfilling only if you know when to dissociate or associate and make conscious decision to switch to or from your true self. It is highly likely that you start to minimize the effects of sadness, and you better focus just on the good parts of your life.
5. Deep breathing or meditation: Meditation or Dhyana takes practice of a few months or years. A lot of people don’t get it because it is an individual experience. The purpose of meditation is to keep relaxed as much as possible so as to attain wisdom. This happens only if we stop being curious and get along with the flow.
Some people are afraid of meditating because they begin to witness emotional turmoil that suddenly reappear on the surface that was put beneath their subconscious mind for years. Most of us don’t want to face ourselves, and the meditation delivers exactly that. Once this phase passes, it does wonders at spiritual level. The attainment of positive thinking is bound to happen after that. In fact, being positive and meditation go hand in hand. Although one may need to have some kind of guidance without which the experience cannot be proper. If done alone, it may also be misunderstood.
6. Acceptance and changing perspective: The world around us is constantly changing in terms of efforts that are made to progress, yet remains the same when it comes to people. A person may accomplish materialistic desires to better his lifestyle and living standards, yet would not want to make modification in himself, the outlook he probably keeps, and so on.
My point is, the basic habit of any individual remains the same. If he is selfish in the very core of his heart, he will remain selfish because he does not want to change himself. If we meet such people, it is our duty to accept that they won’t change. Instead, we need to keep a comfortable distance with them. This helps not to get angry regularly.
Most of us are in search of happiness but fail to reach that mark, especially for long term. This is because we do not comprehend with what exactly we want in our life. Instead, we constantly chase our desires that may fulfill us materialistically, but not let us associate us within, spiritually.
We start believing in the false projection of our society that apparently impose us to stay happy because we have the basics of living – money, clothes, food, and shelter. In other words, you are supposed to feel satisfied and thankful because you have all the basic necessities.
Being positive has no connection with what you have right now or what you don’t have. If you look around, a poor child may appear joyous whereas a rich teenager might be so depressed to the point of being suicidal. Ever wondered, why so? Ask yourself this question!
In conclusion, I would like to state that being happy and optimistic is a gradual process. Positive thinking requires a whole process of transition, provided that there is some form of progress in each phase if a person is willing to make changes within. A lot of times what happens is, we keep on thinking negatively without conscious realization and it turns out to be a never-ending loop of emotional garbage. A person ought to dump all of it in order to attain their full potential of positivity.
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