Positive thinking

I carry a lot of anger with me; anger with those who disagree with/are different from me and anger with myself. However all this anger is paired with a great deal of hope and even love. I generally think of myself as an upbeat person, but the more I look back and reflect on my internal dialogues throughout life, the more I realize that I can be a very negative person. I really don’t like that about myself, and I am working on changing that. I want positive thoughts to trump negative ones and I think for this post I’m going to reflect on the various scales to which this kind of cognitive model can apply. I am starting where I have the most shameful negative thinking and working my way to more general and less invasive thoughts.
The first and most immediately applicable place where I can work to improve my positive thinking is in my personal life. Not so much in the family and romance categories (though those are included), but just in my day-to-day interactions with people I don’t know. I find that I judge others far more than I should. I do it without even realizing it. I need to practice more humility and forgiveness. Yesterday I bought a small journal that I can carry in my purse. It’s purpose is to be a log where I can track my negative thoughts/opinions and hopefully use these observations to better understand why I have them and how I can prevent them. I have already written in it and benefitted from it. I knew I was going to be put in a situation where my superiority complex might rear its ugly head and simply being aware of that ahead of time allowed me the presence of mind to silence nasty thoughts. The outcome was a potential new friend and me feeling a little bit better about myself. 🙂
Moving up a notch on the scale brings me to the aforementioned categories of family and romance. When a family member or love interest disagrees with me I am often more willing to overlook it because of love. This is great, but the drawback is that I am more comfortable expressing dissatisfaction and I often do so without thinking. I should be more comfortable expressing myself, but I need to be more sensitive to others’ feelings. It’s a different kind of negative energy that wells up inside, and I need to learn to recognize it and not speak or act immediately. I may find that after a few minutes I don’t even care anymore enough to speak my mind. What I stand to gain from that is one less dispute that could interfere with a perfectly lovely day.
Finally I guess would be negative emotions related to political and ethical issues. Who isn’t angry at some aspect of the way the world works? I definitely have a lot more to be angry at in this range on the scale but because the degree to which politics and ethics affect me in my day-to-day life is not immediately apparent, I am only really confronted with the associated frustration and negativity when I consciously choose to dwell on these issues. I think it is healthy to have political and ethical disagreement. Negative energy and anger can be good in this area because you can use it to drive a passion for change. Being mad at the way homeless are treated for example, can empower someone to start their own shelter or soup kitchen.
I’m sure I could take this exercise even further, but the “cognitive model” I am trying to work with would get more ambiguous. In retrospect, there is a time and a place for negative emotions, nobody wants to be a doormat. I like to put my negative opinions out there into the world so that they can be challenged. I can often be blinded by fear or anger and miss valid arguments from an opposing entity. Part of the purpose of my journal and this introspective approach to increase my positive thoughts is to challenge my own ideas and opinions. Everything has its pros and cons and compromise may be the only way to reap the most good out of a situation.
I’ll cheerfully close this post with an article from MayoClinic on the health benefits of positive thinking.
*Edit:* After reading the MayoClinic article I realize I did forget to consider negative self-image. I am certainly guilty of blaming myself for things that go wrong, and I will include negative thoughts I have about myself in my little purse-journal. Hopefully I will be able to change my thinking and be able to report on my progress down the road.

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