Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” James Allen, in his book of that title states: “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” Wow! How scary is that!! He compares our minds to gardens which may be intelligently cultivated or left to run amok or wild with no attention to what “grows” there. He goes on to state: “Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.” In other words, nothing can come from planting corn except corn and nothing from nettles but nettles. I take from this that positive thoughts definitely produce a better harvest than negative thoughts.
At my age I have lived thru and have memories of World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam Conflict, and all the battles since and the ensuing trauma, sadness, and devastation associated with all of them. But for some reason, I am having a more difficult time nurturing positive thoughts at this time in my life than at previous periods.
Now, granted, there are probably a myriad of contributions to this negativity in my case, just as in all of us. I just read a book titled “Positive Psychology” by Bridget Grenville-Cleave. Positive psychology is relatively new to the mental health field, but is becoming increasingly more respected. Forty percent of our happiness is determined by intentional thoughts and activities, in everyday, ordinary things. Our society and culture pays more attention to and gives more weight to negative rather than positive emotions and thoughts. In other words, we are more likely to remember (and take seriously) an insult, criticism, or negative information as opposed to a compliment or positive feedback. Evidence suggests that positive and negative emotions and thoughts are not equal. Negative thoughts reduce our level of well-being more than positive thoughts increase it.
Our mental health requires us to eradicate this imbalance of positive and negative thoughts. Is there a pill you can take? No! But there are some very practical efforts suggested by people studying positive psychology. I am labeling these efforts “replacement therapy.” If we want to increase our own well-being and that of people we associate with, we need to deliberately look for ways to replace our negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones.
Some things to try:
- If you have unpleasant tasks to do, tackle the least favorite one first, leaving the more pleasant one to the last.
- If you are part of a committee or team at work and the goal appears to be elusive, take time to actually list all the goals that are being accomplished and give yourself credit for them.
- End presentations, conversations, and directions with a comment that promotes possibility and encouragement.
- When news, communications, reading materials conjure up those disappointing, negative reactions and thoughts, take a “break,” actually walk away, or if this is not possible, walk away mentally and concentrate on something positive to “replace” the negativity.
- Perform five acts of kindness everyday: Hold a door open for someone, pay someone a compliment, give way to another driver, and allow someone to get ahead of you in the grocery line, or give up your seat for someone.
- “Take the high road”— walk mentally in a direction that ends on a “high note”.
- At the end of every day challenge yourself to re-frame every bad experience you have had, every negative thought lurking in the valleys of your mind, into something positive.
All these suggestions instigate self-control. Self-control is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets! So what are the benefits of positive thoughts replacing negative thoughts?
Positive psychology lists the following:
- Living longer
- Higher earnings and better appraisals at your place of employment.
- More likability, perceptions of intelligence, competence, and attractiveness.
- Greater persistence and improved performance on difficult tasks.
- More efficient decision making.
- Better mental and physical health and better ability to manage illness.
Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to a show tune called “Accentuate the Positive; Eliminate the Negative.” Whereas it is a catchy tune and great lyrics, it is not realistic to surmise we can actually eliminate all negativity— we can’t eliminate it, but we can replace it with positivity.
Ending with a “positive note,” we all need to remind ourselves that we do not stay positive without remembering our faith surrounds us with an aura of blessings and unconditional love every minute of every day. Our faith is our armor as we navigate the battlefield of negativity we are bombarded with each day, and becomes our main “replacement tool” in ensuring positivity.
Dani Kolsrud, TVLC Mental Health Representative