Negative messages are everywhere in our world today. It’s almost impossible to avoid the tragic news stories, the hate speeches, the violence, the death, such as the senseless murder of a 9-year old girl in Arizona this past weekend and the loss of life due to the floods in Australia. We can’t do much about this cacophony of negativity that surrounds us unless we’re willing to live as hermits and turn a deaf ear to the cries of the world. I’m not advocating that. We need to interact with people, we need to open our senses to what’s happening around us, make changes when we can. We need to live the life that has been given to us, for as long as it’s given to us. But with so much negativity bombarding us everyday, how do we maintain our happiness, our hope, our balance, in a world that seems tilted steeply toward the negative?
I’ve been contemplating this “meaning of life” type question for a while (scary, huh?) and the best answer I can come up with is that it’s about maintaining a healthy positivity quotient–the ratio between the negative and positive messages your brain processes each day.
Those messages come from two places: 1) the world outside, and 2) your own mind. Yes, your mind.
Life is mostly what you make of it. The morning traffic jam–is it an annoyance that raises your blood pressure, or an opportunity to turn off the in-car DVD player and sing songs with your kid for 10 extra minutes? The lack of money in your checking account a cause to rail against the economy, or to be happy that you and your family can’t afford unhealthy indulgences such drugs, alcohol and fast cars? There is nothing wrong with a simple life.
I’m not saying that we should all try to become the annoyingly-perky type that smiles as the Titanic sinks. Heaven protect us from that! But you can change what you see in many events if you look hard enough–and generate a few more positive thoughts to balance out the negative, raising that positivity quotient.
What’s more, I think we can make huge gains in our positivity quotient by what we do, as well as what we think. When you do something good for yourself, you feel happier. That’s another reason for us 100-day challengers to write every day. If we want to be writers, we feel good when we’ve written. We feel like we’re getting closer to our goals. Writing every day, even if it’s only a sentence or a few paragraphs, raises our positivity quotient.
People also feel better when they do good things for other people, or to make the world as a whole a better place. Pay It Forward is genius, for many reasons. One is that every act of kindness we perform, even anonymous ones, makes us feel good about ourselves. It cancels out some of those negative messages we can’t help but absorb. It raises our positivity quotient.
I love my volunteer work with animals, whether it’s fostering a stray dog or packing up and heading to Arkansas to get 116 horses out of a bad situation. But I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t do it just for the animals. I do it for me. Nothing makes me feel more positive than knowing I’m making a difference, doing something good. Even in the midst of a horrible situation in Arkansas, one that frankly I can still easily work myself up into a negative rage about without trying very hard, my positivity quotient increased exponentially. Doing good deeds makes you feel good. If you don’t believe me, try it!
I don’t know anyone who lives a perfect life, most especially myself. We can all get absorbed by the latest tragedy, or angry that we don’t have everything in life we want. I guess it’s okay to indulge and pout a little, but travelling too far down that road can be dangerous. I really believe in the mind–body–spirit connection. I believe that if you take in too much negativity and don’t find ways to balance it out with positivity, that the imbalance affects your overall outlook on life, your spirit. And when your spirit is hurting, it’s going to translate into your body in the form of unhealthiness–high blood pressure, obesity, disease.
A high positivity quotient may not be the cure for cancer…but who knows? It may be one step toward preventing it.