Turn Your Frown Upside Down: Can You Decide to be Happy?

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Photo courtesy of Lauren

As I wander through the world each day, I regularly find myself face-to-face with someone who radiates negative energy.

With each encounter, I walk away from the situation mystified at how much energy these people are simply throwing away. Energy that could be used so much more effectively toward making life better.

It’s not that I never get upset or mad. There are things that irritate me, and (although infrequent), I do have some conflicts in my life. As a matter of fact, I think a life completely void of struggle would be quite yawn-inducing.

However, there’s huge difference between having some conflict in your life and having some life in between all of your conflicts. Although I wouldn’t say I was ever a totally negative person, I can definitely tell you that I used to be a lot more cynical than I am these days.

Those people who seem to be absolutely brimming with negativity are generally unhappy or unfulfilled in their own lives, so they squash happiness, ambition and success wherever they can. If they’re miserable – you should be too. Innovative ideas thought up by others are picked apart and insulted. Jealous of the good things happening to those around them, they display obvious resentment of those who have what they want.

Eventually, putting out constant negative energy will push friends and family away from someone as they seek relief from the continual complaining and general air of discontent.

Does someone close to you display this type of behavior? Is it possible that you’re the Negative Nancy? Luckily, negativity doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being. After a period of pretty intense self-reflection and a great deal of research on the habits of unhappy people, I learned how much better it felt to be positive.  Some helpful advice to nix negativity from your life:

  • Force it (at first):  Refraining from making negative comments or engaging in unnecessary conflicts and debates won’t come naturally for someone who’s been practicing a whole lot of negativity for (possibly) years. The most effective way to shift into positive gear is to purposely set out to do so. Fastidiously police your behavior and set increments of time in which you are prohibited from saying anything negative at all. Start with small time segments to ensure success.
  • Reinforce positivity:  When you are able to avoid being contrary for your goal time period, you’ll immediately feel good about yourself. The simple fact that you were able to go against your natural instinct toward negativity will give you a feeling of peace and accomplishment. Sit with those feelings, and reward yourself accordingly.  This will make it even more desirable for you to continue on your journey toward positivity.
  • Smile Therapy:  Even when you don’t necessarily feel like smiling, do it anyway. Many studies, including one performed at the University of Cardiff in Wales, have reinforced Charles Darwin’s idea that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensi­fies it.” We typically smile because we’re happy – but as it turns out, the reverse is true, too. You can feel more happiness because you’re smiling.
  • Observe and Repeat:  As you begin to realize the exorbitant amount of energy you’d been wasting on negative thoughts and actions, it will become much easier for you to observe and analyze your thoughts and why you’re having them. You’ll gain the ability to stop negative thoughts before they become spoken words.

Over time, these practices will become habit, and may even become a natural part of your new outlook on life. In your efforts to live a more positive life, try not to be too hard on yourself if you stumble at first. You’re making a valiant effort to use your energy for good instead of evil! Forgive yourself for your imperfections, and pride yourself on your desire to improve.

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