Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Do people often tell you to “look on the bright side?” Do you complain a lot? Do you usually expect the worst? Has anyone ever called you a Negative Nancy?
If so, you may be a pessimist. To break it down, pessimism is a perspective of generally looking at things from a negative point of view, and optimism is generally looking at things from a positive point of view.
Why does it matter?
“A negative mind will never give you a positive life.”
A habitual negative mindset cultivates toxicity in our relationships and even with ourselves. It generates roadblocks that hold us back from pursuing dreams and possibly even our life calling. A chronic negative mindset even has the power to create chronic illness.
I used to be a pessimist with severe depression. For a long time I was always sure of the most negative outcome of everything. I hated getting my hopes up about anything because I knew I would end up getting let down and get hurt. I couldn’t understand the metaphor of the glass either being half-full or half-empty. It made no sense to me because either way you look at it, it was “only” half-way and not complete in either direction. It was incomplete. Everything that happened was tainted by a negative mindset and a grim outlook. I was a pessimist and it really took a toll on my mental health.
As I got older I began seeing things in a new light. I retained the fear of getting my hopes up, but I started “giving the benefit of the doubt” more. I thought I was a much more positive person, but circumstances kept me still pinned to a negative outlook because it seemed like everything always went wrong.
After getting out of a toxic and abusive marriage, I underwent an instant transformation. As I leaned into God’s spirit I started seeing life in a completely new way. The following steps outline the process I went through to now be a positive and optimistic person, despite there still being negativity all around.
*Discaimer: If you have trauma in your life, it is imperative that you receive the appropriate therapy to deal with those memories and experiences so that you do not “avoid” or “stuff” them. These steps are to be used for the habit of having a negative perspective and outlook on life.
1 Thess 5:16 “Always be full of joy, never stop praying, be thankful in every situation – because this is what the Lord wants you to do.”
It’s true that a thankful heart is a happy heart. How can you be grumpy and negative when you are truly thankful for something? You can’t! Recognizing that everything is gift, every person is a gift, every encounter and experience and even every trial is a gift can completely shift your mindset from greed and entitlement to gratitude and humbleness. When we accept every trial as a learning opportunity for the future, we can be thankful for it. What I started doing is every time I started to complain about not having something I wanted or that would make my life easier, I stop myself before I speak (or sometimes after I catch myself) and instead say “Thank you for what I have!” This mindset literally cleanses the palate and refreshes the heart!
Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
This virtue fosters a forgiving heart. It can be extremely hard to forgive some people (believe me, I KNOW…) but in thinking about your every day encounters, think about the person in the car next to you that can’t drive, or the cashier that doesn’t know how to make change and holds up the line trying to figure it out, or the kid that speaks disrespectfully to you in the store. It’s easy to get angry and blow hot and judge them. A pessimistic point of view will immediately judge these individuals independently from anything else. An optimistic point of view considers WHY they did these things and realizes that there is a very good possibility it is not their fault. They are lacking knowledge that they should have learned from someone else. Could it be their fault? Sure! But do you know that? Nope. So considering that the way people act could have an underlying foundation that is no fault of their own helps us forgive them.
3. Take Every Thought Captive
Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
It takes practice. It takes training yourself to stop yourself in your tracks and redirect your thoughts. However, once you decide that you want to live a positive life, you have to also decide to take every thought captive and make sure it is positive. If it is not, ask yourself “What’s the positive view for this?” “How can I look at this differently?” and then put into action, intentionally thinking of things that are good and noble and true, etc.
4. Mindfulness & Meditation
Number 3 becomes much easier when you learn to be mindful and begin to practice the art of meditation. It essentially trains your brain to follow a new neural path way that you teach it. Mindfulness is the art of being completely present in the moment that you are existing in – not the past or the future or in any other space than the one you are occupying. It teaches you to place no judgement on thoughts or emotions, but simply acknowledging that they are there and letting them go. Meditation incorporates mindfulness, and is a great way to practice it so that when life happens, you’re used to the process. Through the practice of meditation, we are able to “quiet the noise” in our brain by allowing thoughts to pass freely without judgement or attention, similar to a cloud passing by – it’s there and then it’s not.
If you would like to explore these processes more, consider scheduling a complimentary coaching call with me to discover how coaching can help!