Around the Campfire with Laurie: Finding the Good (Positive Perspective), Even in Frustrating Situations
Whether you have read the book or seen the movie, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day,” or can just tell by the title, some days are just tough. When things don’t go our way, don’t go as planned, or don’t go as we would have hoped, it can be disappointing, frustrating, infuriating, and just plan sad. What I am here to tell you is that when those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad moments happen, YOU can not only impact how these moments affect you, but also lessen the chance that these moments will happen to you in the future. Yup, it’s all about perspective. The way you choose to look at, react to, and then train yourself against, upsetting situations and bad days, can make all the difference in the world.
When something frustrating happens, instead of looking at all the things that went wrong for too long, force yourself to think about the things that are good and going right. For example, let’s say that you are really excited to buy a new pair of sneakers and by the time you get to the store, they are out of your size. Now that is disappointing, frustrating, and potentially upsetting, right? But what if you decide to save the money you would have spent for something bigger instead of buying the sneakers? Or what if you then look around at other sneakers and find a pair that you like even more? Or simply remind yourself that they are just sneakers and the store can order your size and you will have them soon. My point is that you can look at the good that can come out of a frustrating situation and / or put the frustrating situation in perspective for yourself. This will help make the frustration less frustrating and keep you focused on the positive things around you.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When something frustrating, upsetting, or disappointing happens, you are absolutely allowed (and should) feel those feelings. It is ok to be sad, angry, disappointed or frustrated. The key, though, is to feel those feelings briefly and then, as Elsa from Frozen says, “Let it go….” When you allow yourself to hold onto the negative feelings and wrap them around you like a coat of armor they stay with you and will affect the rest of your day and your perspective going forward. That will make you assume the worst and feel negative more often. Instead, feel the feelings, let them go, and then wrap yourself in the Warm Fuzzy coat of positive feelings and positive perspective. Now, this takes work. You have to intentionally try to look at things differently if you want to change how you feel, but the good news is, you can do it.
Letting go of the negative and embracing the positives around you can, and should, be practiced and exercised. Positive perspective is a muscle and if you don’t use it repeatedly it will not be as strong. Here is a great exercise to strengthen this positive perspective muscle for yourself: at the end of each day make a list (on paper, in a journal, on a calendar, or electronically) of the good, happy, positive things that happened that day. They can be big things (you made a team, aced a test, hung out with your BFF, etc…) or little things (there was a beautiful sunset, you had your favorite meal for dinner, the movie you watched was really funny, etc…), it doesn’t matter, just write down anything good that happened that day. Each day you will find yourself noticing the good more and more. Then, on a day that feels a bit more terrible and horrible you can look back at this list of positive things and feel a little more grateful for all you have over time as opposed to being so upset about whatever happened that day.
Another thing to remember is that, as human beings, we notice the things that we pay attention to. For example, if I ask if you if you see red cars a lot, all of a sudden you are paying attention to red cars and seeing them a lot. The same is true for noticing the good and positive things around you. Look for them. Find the good. When you are outside, is the sun shining? The breeze warm? The snow falling? The colors of the sky beautiful? Take notice, find the good. When you are doing work or practicing a skill or talent, are you getting a little faster, a little more confident, and a little better? Take notice, find the good. When you are with your friends or family are you laughing, are you sharing with them, are you giving to others, are you having fun, do you feel good about yourself? Take notice, find the good. If you train yourself to take notice and find the good, soon enough you will notice the good more often and hold onto the positive more easily. This will make you a happier person and help minimize the terrible, horrible moments that happen to all of us.
The best part is that positive perspective is contagious. The more you practice finding the good, the more the people around you will do the same. Training your brain to be more positive will help others be more positive and that will not only make you happier, but also help to make the world a better place to be. In honor of yesterday’s MLK Jr day, remember Dr. King’s words, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” It’s true. Hate, frustration, disappointment, anger, and negativity are burdens too great to bear. If you embrace the Warm Fuzzy – get it, Warm Inner Glow? Fuzzy? 😉 – feelings of happiness, joy, gratitude, kindness, understanding, connection, positive perspective, taking notice, and finding the good you are not only changing yourself, but changing the world. I would venture that when we are at camp and we spend so much time focusing on the positive and noticing the good that it is part of what makes camp feel so special. Imagine if you did that all year round? So don’t be like our friend Alexander who did not take notice of all the good through out the terrible, horrible no good, very bad day. Practice positivity and take notice so that you find the good more often. You, my friend, will find that you are your own Warm Inner Glow and the world around you is warmer and fuzzier then you once noticed. There is no better way to be. My wish for you is that you take notice and find the good. xoxo