A lot of people would have you believe that trying to stay positive and upbeat all the time is the path to happiness.
While I agree that maintaining a positive attitude and looking on the bright side of things is important, it’s definitely not everything. If you’re so focused on the positive that you’re in denial of the negative parts of your life, you have a problem.
Ignorance isn’t bliss if you’re efforts to ignore are in vain. Trying to repress your problems and look on the bright side of things isn’t going to solve anything. In fact, it can make them worse.
So if staying positive and putting a smile on your face isn’t everything, then what is? I think the answer is really taking a closer look at why you’re feeling like crap in the first place. Simply smiling and looking on the bright side is like trying to put a band aid on a cut throat. It just doesn’t cut it.
Here’s my advice on hacking at the root of negativity, instead of clipping the twigs and the leaves:
- Pay attention to what’s making you feel negative. It all starts with awareness right? A lot of people don’t want to face their negative emotions. And for good reason, it’s unpleasant. But if we deny all our negative feelings, we’re really denying ourselves and before long, there won’t be much left.
- Realize that negativity is there to help you. Negative emotions and responses are there for a reason. They’re trying to tell us something just isn’t right. Instead of just feeling your negative feelings, try to dig deep and see what’s causing them. You might have to go through a few layers of emotions before you find the root.
- Is it really important, or are you just whining? This is one of the most important questions you can ask and really forces you to be honest with whether you’re just whining, or if your feelings are legitimate. After all, a really negative person, can make even the best situation seem terrible. In the same way an overly (unhealthily) positive person can make even the most negative situation seem positive.
See, this article. If you think you’re just whining, complaining and making excuses, you probably are. This is the test if it’s something that can be fixed with an adjustment of your attitude, or if it’s going to take some deeper work.
- Untie the knot. In Buddhism, there’s a concept called internal formations. Basically, when you have a negative emotion: anger, fear, frustration, depression, or despair, it’s telling you there’s something you need to take a look at. By simply accepting our negative feelings, we can witness the source and being to “untie the knot.” When we find the root, we can go to work at what caused the knot to take form, and begin to discover how we can release it.
- Look at the root. After we untie the knot, it’s important that we look at the root of the knot in the first place. Let’s say you’re feeling like crap because you don’t like your job. So you untie the knot, you take a day off of work and recoup. But going to work at the root, means solving the problem that caused the knot in the first place. If you really hate your job, figure out why and find a way to fix it. That might mean changing positions, working with new people, or simply quitting. Do whatever it takes to solve the problem directly, instead of making a quick fix.
We can either use the personality approach, trying to remain positive, focus on what we’re grateful for, etc. Or we can be honest and realize that our negative emotions are trying to tell us something: something sucks and we need to do something about it.
It’s the difference between taking the red pill or the blue pill. Do you want to live in truth, or denial?