A friend called recently to say she was channeling my positive attitude.
I laughed. Me? My positive attitude?
I had spent the morning sweating out my fever from a flu that had struck out of nowhere. My vacation to beautiful New Mexico had been cancelled and it was the fifth day of rain and cold out in Long Island where we’d gone thinking it’d be easier for my son to get around with his still-broken limbs.
Positive attitude. Positive attitude. Where had mine gone?
I appreciated the call. It was a good reminder that I am “that person.” I believe in the power of positivity, and I preach it often to my kids.
Still, maybe I needed a refresher on the top reasons it is important to be positive.
1. Optimistic women live longer, according to Harvard research: It turns out psychological resilience can help ward off deadly health conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and infection. I couldn’t help but think that my flu had struck just as I was feeling super glum. And here was research to back up my supposition: infections come when we are least resilient, mentally and physically.
2. Positive thinking actually builds skills: According to Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina, positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind, which allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value. Negative emotions do the opposite. Fear limits possibilities. It’s too scary to do anything, so why try? Wrong! The reason to try is because if you don’t, you won’t build skills and nothing good can happen!
3. Happiness makes you successful: Think about “The Little Engine that Could.” He thought he could and he did. Apparently, optimism pushes people past the hurdles.
4. Positivity means no one can rain on your parade: Jon Gordon, author of “The “Energy Bus,” offers up that there’s no room for energy vampires who try to bring you down. He quotes Ghandi as saying, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet.” Surround yourself with positive people and don’t allow complaining without a solution!
5. Positivity means no more comparing: According to Sonia Lyubomirsky, a University of California researcher, unhappy people spend hours comparing themselves to other people both above and below themselves on the happiness scale. Meanwhile, happy people didn’t compare themselves to anyone.
This last tidbit is a biggie. As I talk to my teens, I realize that my own growing up was filled with comparisons, and I wonder now how much more fun I might have had I just stopped worrying about other people. What if I’d not been so sensitive to silly comments or seeming slights, but just bulldozed through with my own armor of positivity, having a good time?
I do that now, mostly. Certainly, it is what I advise my children to do, and I love it when I see them listen. It is possible. A huge by-product of positivity is better relationships, and you can definitely see why. It is much nicer to hang with someone who has a sunny disposition than that glum Gus who feels like the world is caving in.
I like to hearken back to my better more positive parenting moments to remember how to apply positivity to good ends. Flying, for example. I used to be very afraid to fly until my kids were old enough to look at me on the plane and sense my panic. It was then I had to take a deep gulp of re-circulated oxygen-less air and put a big fat smile on my face.
“Isn’t flying fun?” I said, gritting my teeth against my fear. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
And, wouldn’t you know it, I began to believe it myself. Hurtling through the air, over cities and mountains, through clouds, into sunsets. It is pretty spectacular. And I might not have realized it had I not felt the urgency to convince my kids it was a positive experience. (P.S.: They love flying).
There are so many things like that in life. The things we’re scared of most, the things we have spent years loathing. Imagine you’re trying to be a good role model of positivity and let’s try to rethink: How would you frame that thing to your kids?
I’m working on it. When I call my friend back, I have to have a much better attitude. She’s counting on me, just like my kids are.
Just like I am.
Sunny days, here I come.