Sunday, April 16, 2023

Bump Up Your Positivity Meter


Conquer Negativity Where It Starts—in Your in Your Mind and Self-Talk

Article © 2023 by Joyce Mason

Few people see themselves as negative, even the Debbie Downers or Guys Stalked by Dark Clouds of Toxic Thoughts. The latter are just like Pigpen from the cartoon Peanuts. They are constantly followed by an energetic dirt cloud. It’s invisible but feels like a poisonous force field to everyone around them.

I have recently experimented with cleaning my mindset for spring. I decided that rather than “giving up” any of the traditional fare for Lent, I’d try giving up negative thoughts and especially negative self-talk. No picking on myself. One of my friends, also a Radical Virgo said it would be easier to give up chocolate.

People often tell me I’m one of the most upbeat people they’ve ever met. Still, even though that’s my orientation, my mental house is as hard, if not harder, to keep clean than the one I live in that’s made from brick and mortar.

So, with Lent and Easter over, I have decided to review my work to date on this exercise and share some tips I’ve discovered, not just from this exercise by from the life experience I brought into it. When it comes to self-talk, no one said it better than one of my favorite artists.

“Don’t belittle yourself. Be-BIG yourself.”

--Sister Corita Kent

Whether it’s your attitude toward yourself or the world, be big with positivity. Know that all things fit into a larger picture. It’s a spring cleaning or cleanse you can do any time of the year.

Ten Tips toward the Plus Side

1.   Fast from Toxic Relationships. We’ve all known them, people who you hate to see coming because you feel like you need to put on a lead vest

like you do at the dentist. It will protect you do from the fallout of an X-ray or a radioactive person. There is no one worth having in your psychic or physical space who literally gives you a pain in the gut or a headache. It’s hardest with close relatives, but if you can’t have a clear conversation with them about why you avoid them, it’s time to save yourself. This one is probably the most obvious but often the hardest to do because of how we “should” on ourselves.

One of the first clues that a person is toxic is that they cannot admit that they may be part of the problem. I have met incredibly intelligent people who actually believe it is everyone else’s fault 100% of the time. From a purely logical standpoint, how could this be true? What they are really saying is that everything has to be their way: their perception, their values. You don’t count. This is definitely a call to be-big yourself. Be big enough to stand up to them.

A sidekick to this behavior is often poor boundaries, especially when it comes to what most of us would consider nosy questions. They want to know everything about you, whether or not it’s appropriate for the intimacy level (or lack thereof) of your relationship. They act as if it’s normal to probe, and the part of you that wants to be nice buys in. Best to assume they don’t mean anything by it (which avoids having to confront them).

The way to bust this sort of behavior is to push back. Stand in your truth. “I’m not really comfortable answering that.” Let them know when you’re angry. You may be surprised. If they really care, there may be a breakthrough. If they care more about being right and their one-sided worldview, they may leave you before you have to leave them. You’re no fun for them anymore once you can’t be bullied. That’s what this really is in plain English. It’s like the story of the Emperor with No Clothes. The unspoken rule is not to speak up or speak out. If you wonder if it’s just you, it rarely is. Check with others.

2.   Monitor Your Dialogue, Inner and Outer. If you keep a journal, reread key entries now and then. Your journal it is a chronology of where your head is at. If not (or in addition), read your personal emails. They will provide eye-opening data about how you perceive the world. Are you complaining a lot? Swearing a lot? Woe-is-me-ing? Them-and-us-ing? It’s fine, in fact absolutely necessary, to express your feelings. What doesn’t serve you is to generalize the fact that the man at the bank acted like an a*hole means all bankers or all service people are the same. Anger and other unpleasant feelings are best let in to be expressed and let go as fast as you can let the wave pass. Don’t hold onto it. Don’t invite them to move into your house (you) indefinitely. We all know how fast house guests get old, especially negative ones. Thoughts and attitudes are strong magnets. If you let negative experiences build up to worldview like “people are jerks”, guess what you draw? Just sayin’. That’s how Debbie Downers are born.


3.   Have a Good Talk With Yourself. There’s nothing that pains my spirit more than someone who says out loud to themselves, “Damn me” or “F--me.” It hurts me because I used to do that, and I’m an empath. OMG, we didn’t get enough of that from dysfunctional adults growing up?


It is every adult’s job to reparent themselves.


We may have been stuck with less than ideal families, but we are in charge now. We create what we experience, and the best experiences are created from the inside out. Try this:


a.   Make a list of the 10 top things you love or appreciate about yourself. For people who have a lot of mental housecleaning to do, this may be hard. You can expand this list over time. Keep a copy. Read it whenever you are tempted to beat on yourself. Berating you is never a good thing.

b.   List your accomplishments every day. Sometimes just getting up is a big accomplishment. I list chores, entertainment, goals reached, and times I was tempted to pick on myself and didn’t. (Or started and stopped myself.) These habits create new pathways in your brain that help you see yourself as a fully competent, imperfect but ever-evolving human.

c.   Give yourself a pep talk whenever you need one. Using a mirror when you talk to yourself is especially powerful.

4.   Talk to Yourself But Also Listen. This is really an extension of #2. Stop long enough between thoughts to hear what you just said to yourself. Is it positive? Is it life affirming? Considering the damage the accumulation of these thoughts can do to you, yes. You have time.

5.   Accept Your Mistakes with Grace. In the past month, I have caught myself many times starting to pick on my imperfections or scold myself for my errors. Apparently, one of my favorite phrases prior to a self-whipping is “How could I have … (gotten it wrong in some way).” I am starting to catch my own catchphrases and to recognize I’m about to jump off the deep end of self-recrimination. “No, Joyce,” I tell myself. “You’re not stupid. You’re not just getting old or absent-minded.” The longer we live, the more opportunities we have to get it either right or wrong. Our brains are crowded after decades of living, and modern technology demands that we process information faster than we have yet quite evolved to do it. Noticing our mistakes is for righting the boat, not jumping overboard because we made an error. It’s for course correction. Treat it as such.


6.   Don’t What-If Yourself into Worst-Case Scenarios. This is the double-edged sword of a great imagination. Over the past couple of years, I have had my share of health challenges. The scariest was a terrible case of bronchitis where I was constantly coughing, wheezing and for the first time in my life, I had trouble breathing. In each of at least four different health conditions, I worried it was the beginning of the end. It took this Lenten practice to remind me that health ebbs and flows. Ebbing doesn’t mean you’ll never flow again. Being determined to have the best possible health is always the best attitude, even if sickness (which is often a cleansing or a re-set) has to take us there. If you must do death scenes in your head, do them intensely and get it over with … and laugh at what a drama queen you are. Then get on with remembering this whole gig on Earth is a tragi-comedy. Think well and get well. You only die once per lifetime. Why do it on your mind over and over? And shorten what time you’ve got or make it miserable with stress?

7.   If You’re Here, You’re Still Under Construction. I love the line from Richard Bach’s Illusions:

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't.

Be a life-long learner. Once we adopt that role, there’s no end to the excitement, even at The End—the ultimate adventure.

8.    Never Lose Your Sense of Humor. Laugh often. I was blessed to be raised by hilarious parents. The two biggest things they taught me were to laugh at myself (mom) and to admit when I’m wrong (dad). As I often say, I feel closest to God when laughing. Then there’s that wonderful quote by author Anne Lamott, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” Church fonts should contain carbonated water to remind us of this principle. Stand-up comics are so funny because they take the slings and arrow of life we all relate to and find their ridiculous, crazy core. It is a divine comedy, and when you can find the laugh track, it’s impossible to remain negative about much of anything.

9.    Can’t Get Your Meter into the Plus Zone No Matter How Hard You Try? Get Help. My niece once told me I’m the sane one in the family. Ironically, I’m one of the few family members who go or have gone to therapy. I even go for maintenance when I don’t have something I really need to work on. It’s kind of like a vaccine with no side effects except one. It makes me feel better. An objective, caring listener can tell me if I’m barking up the wrong bush or kidding myself. What’s crazy is to think anyone could get through something as complicated as modern life without it. If you haven’t, give it a try. The only thing you have to shrink is your negativity. Most insurance covers mental health care these days; too, so shrinking your pocketbook might not be involved at all. If you have to pay out of pocket, you’re worth the investment.

10.       Find Your Spiritual Niche. Healthy spirituality supports positive living. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual or a good person. I know atheists and agnostics who are actually better “christians” than some who claim that faith. People who are not deity-oriented are often very humanitarian. It all comes down to love, and whatever thought system you need to create and see more of it in your life, go for it. It’s the glue that binds together the disparate parts of humans and their brethren. There are so many good parts to every faith and orientation. From Christianity I got the Golden Rule. From metaphysics I got that the Golden Rule is so important because we are each other. From Judaism I got an extra dose of the importance of ritual, as I also got from Catholicism. From Druidism I got how nature is a temple, or as I read in a recent Facebook post, the ultimate Holy Land. From Buddhism I learned that meditation is the force that rewires our minds for everything I am talking about in this article. This is just a sampler. We tend to think in terms of what we don’t like about other faiths or paths. What about studying them a bit and finding out what parts of them are worth celebrating? I have been an eclectic in my spirituality for many years, pasting together a worldview that, as the Dalai Lama says, makes love my religion.


If you try this experiment, I’d love to hear how it things change for you. My journal showed me that only 4-5 months ago, I was on the brink of despair. Now I am on an adventure in hope. I feel lighter. One of my favorite things about myself is that I love others warts and all. I am starting to do the same for myself. It kind of tickles.




Photo Credit:  Meter Positive Negative © Flashvector |

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