So here we are still living in this new upside-down world of Covid19 and quarantine. It feels like I woke up in some weird alternate universe. Nothing is the same. For some of us, including me, the quarantine has been extended far beyond what I thought it would and has had a significant impact on how I live day to day and my outlook on life.
If asked, I would say I consider myself a positive person), At least that is what I thought. I did not notice the slow erosion of my positive disposition (real or imagined).
Since I advocate getting feedback about how others we are closest too experience us, I decided to practice what I preach :>) So recently, I asked my eldest granddaughter, Ivy, her experience of me. She thought for a moment and then said, “you are a realist with pessimistic tendencies.” What? Imagine me with wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Not the response I was looking for, but there it was. I asked for an example and she was ready :>) Recently, we were talking, and she mentioned she wanted to pursue film making in school. She had taken an earlier class (before Covid), had definite giftedness in this area, received high marks and loved it. My first response was,” well you better have a back-up plan.” I felt I was simply focusing on the practical, and perhaps I was, but it sounded and felt negative to her because, well, it was negative. I should have listened longer, remarked about her earlier experience, encouraged her and perhaps later mention a back-up plan. Well, so much for me being Ms. Positive. A little reluctant to immediately accept this review, I decided to ask another person who knows me well to see what their response would be and it essentially confirmed Ivy’s experience. Yes, the truth hurts but will set you free, if you do something with it.
So that led me to wondering, what could I do to make a mental shift and be more positive and still be realistic. Shortly before this conversation with Ivy, I had ordered a book called Flourish by Martin Seligman and it was sitting on my pile of other books to be read. As I began reading, I was immediately captivated by it, especially because it hit on exactly what I had been contemplating – how to change my outlook. Among other things, Seligman talks about gratitude and the dramatic changes it made with clients who were depressed or had a pessimistic outlook. Viola! Here was my antidote to negativity.
Seligman mentions specific exercises to do to change and improve a dark mood and mental outlook. Reading this reminded me of Dr. Cloud’s book, The Law of Happiness.
In Chapter 10, Grateful People are Happy People, Dr. Cloud says, “all the research in the last decade and one of the most powerful findings, proven over and over, is this: grateful people are happy people. People who are grateful, practice gratitude regularly have significantly different levels of happiness than those who don’t. And it is one of the strongest messages that God tells us over and over; be thankful. And research agrees. When we are thankful and also express it to others, we are happier. People who express gratitude are not only happier but have more energy and better outlooks on the future, they are physically healthier, having fewer ailments than those who don’t express gratitude. They have less emotional and physiological issues as well. Experiments and clinical experience have shown that when people are given structured gratitude exercises like writing down things, they are grateful for, keeping a gratitude journal and expressing gratitude – they become happier.” I knew that but somehow had forgotten this over the last 5 months.
My recent reading of Flourish and review of Law of Happiness inspired me to begin a daily structed gratitude exercise a few weeks ago (Read Law of Happiness or see Flourish for details). I have noticed a difference in my attitude since beginning this practice I am going to keep at it . I hope my granddaughter soon has a revised view of me. Not just for her, but because I feel more positive already, more hopeful about the future.
If you have noticed a negative leaning during Covid and are not currently doing gratitude exercises, it might be time to make it a regular part of your daily life. Things can only improve, and you might even smile more behind your mask! ?