Are you guys familiar with the story of Pollyanna?
It’s a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter about a young orphan who always tries to find something to be glad about, regardless of the situation. One Christmas morning, instead of a doll she wanted, she gets a pair of crutches, and her father tells her to look at the bright side of things- she doesn’t need to use them.
My mom calls me Pollyanna all the time. I always try to concentrate on the happy, good things in life- even when things get tough. But what happens when things get too tough, even for Pollyanna?
Having suffered from anxiety I have
spent wasted so much time constantly worrying about things, people, situations, always imagining the worst possible outcome. I have since become pretty much a different person- my outlook on life has changed tremendously ever since I started practicing gratitude.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
You can’t expect to live a positive life if you spend most of your time being around negative people. Being around those who discourage you from following your dreams, people who constantly complain and nag, gossip, people who put you down or make you feel bad about yourself, people who are jealous- they will literally drain the energy out of you. It doesn’t matter how happy-go-lucky of an attitude you have, if you surround yourself with people who have a crappy attitude, it will immediately “rub off” on you. There were a few people who I felt the need to cut ties with over the last couple of years, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop talking to every single person in your life who’s a little negative. If someone you love always complains about their life, or circumstances, you can help them by telling them to shift their focus onto the good things in their life (you can always find those, regardless of your situation). BUT, if you have someone in your life who always thinks they know what’s best for you, someone who criticizes you, makes you feel bad about yourself or shows any sign of jealousy towards you, they need to go. A true friend is not only someone who helps you when you’re down, but also someone who is happy for you when things are going great. Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head.
SPREAD YOUR SPARKLE
Whenever I have an “off” day, there is one thing that always makes me feel better, and that’s making other people smile. When you’re grumpy, sad, angry, you’re much more likely to argue with someone else. Getting into a screaming match with someone close and making them feel bad will not make you feel any better, trust me on this one. If on the other hand, you make someone smile, even if it’s a complete stranger, you’ll immediately feel happier. A few years ago, I was coming home from work, in a horrible mood. I stopped by the supermarket. The clerk that was helping me during checkout was this cute older lady. As she was helping me pack my groceries I noticed that she was wearing this gorgeous ring on her ring finger: it was really delicate with a tiny diamond. Without thinking I said, “Wow, that’s such a pretty ring” still with a frown on face. This lady, who looked like she was having a bad day, looked at me with the biggest smile on her face, her eyes immediately lit up. She told me that the ring was a gift from her daughter who lives in a different state and who she doesn’t get to see very often. She then went on to say that her daughter, her son in law and her baby grandson are set to visit her the following weekend and how she couldn’t wait to see them since she lives by herself and is a bit lonely. We had a nice little chat, after which I wished her a good day and she said that her daughter will be very happy to know how much I liked her ring since it was a very special gift. You know, to some it may seem like such a small, insignificant thing, but guess what? By the time I got home I forgot all about that jerk of a client who got on my nerves at work. All I remembered was how happy that lady looked when I gave her a little compliment and I couldn’t help but smile.
DON’T BE A VICTIM
It’s very easy to say “I can’t be happy because I didn’t have a happy childhood”, “I can’t be successful because I don’t deserve it”, “why should I put all this effort into this, if no one will notice anyway”. “I can’t move on from this”, “I can’t handle this”, “I’m too old”, “I can’t do this, it’s too late for me”. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I’m here to tell you that yes, you can. It doesn’t matter what happened, or what is now happening in your life; you can move on, you can grow and you can be happy. But you first must realize that you need to leg go of all those negative, limiting thoughts and emotions. Once you do all of that, the success will follow (whatever your definition of success may be; whether it be opening up a business, getting a college degree or finding love).You cannot expect to live a positive life if you constantly put yourself down and play the “victim card”. Are any of you familiar with Liz Murray’s story? Her parents were desperate drug addicts, both of whom died of AIDS. She found herself homeless when in high school and had to steal food in order to survive. Now, at age 34 she is a Harvard graduate and a New York Times best-selling author. She could have easily used her circumstances as an excuse, but she clearly chose not to.
DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Something got on your nerves. You first start thinking about how angry you are, then you start feeling really angry, then you go ahead and say out loud how angry you are. You throw a mini tantrum, maybe kick something, raise your- and perhaps someone else’s- blood pressure, and you remain angry throughout the rest of day (if not longer). It all could have been stopped if you were to replace that one, negative thought. It’s not always easy to ignore things that irritate us or make us angry/sad/disappointed/fill-in-the-blank, but we can stop the domino effect from taking place. When you start feeling down, do something that you truly enjoy. Go for a walk, a run, play with your dog, talk to someone you love, write, read a favorite book, open a nice bottle of wine and spend 3 hours in the kitchen cooking a glorious 5-course meal, just for yourself.
Last couple of weeks have been very emotional for me. One of the most important people in my life is my grandmother. She’s been suffering from cancer for the last couple of years. I call her all the time and we sometimes talk for hours. Lately, I noticed that she’s just so tired and weak that our phone calls went from being nearly two hours long, to lasting only fifteen minutes. It hit me hard. It made me feel so sad, I was so upset, I couldn’t concentrate on anything- this is why my blogging schedule has been a little off for the last couple of weeks. All I wanted to do was to curl up and cry. But, as I wouldn’t write for a couple of days, wouldn’t take pictures the minute I got home from work, I stopped cooking- I stopped doing all the things I enjoy doing so much and that made me feel even worse. After a couple of days, I just had to get back to my routine, had to get busy, had to stop. I thought about all the wonderful times from my childhood- when she taught me how to make those fluffy apple pancakes I love so much, the times we’d do yard work together, how every Saturday she’d buy us those huge pudding-stuffed pastries. I put up my favorite picture of my grandmother on my desk and thought that I need to stay strong. For her. I need to stay busy, keep working, keep encouraging her, make her laugh and continue to send her all my good energy.
Whenever I feel myself getting upset over something, I start taking slow, deep breaths. Mindful breathing can help calm you down very quickly. If you haven’t tried meditating yet, I highly suggest you give it a go. It’ll help you clear your mind, make you feel at peace. You can start with some guided meditations.
Ultimately, If you’re having a really bad time, and nothing seems to cheer you up, just give yourself a break. Give yourself one day to feel sorry for yourself, throw yourself a mini pity party. Then it’s back to business.
Know that negative thoughts have their purpose too. If we didn’t have negative thoughts, we’d have no idea how good it feels to have good, happy thoughts. When you feel yourself getting upset over something, it’s important to not try to stop those negative thoughts from flowing, but rather replace them with positive and happy thoughts. I know from my own experience that over-thinking and worrying can lead to horrible anxiety and that’s no fun. Ever since I changed my way of thinking I’ve had quite a few people call me “a freaking Pollyanna” and I usually take that as a compliment. I’m not trying to tell you that life is a fairy tale, where only good things happen, as long as you have a smile on your face. I’m saying that in most of those “negative” situations, you have a choice, and the way you handle and approach them, is all up to you.