How I fight negativity with positivity to live a happy life.

Meeting Pessimism with Persistence: How I Deal with Negativity

I used to let naysayers get to me, but finding ways to inject light into the dark has changed all of that.

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The first time I met my future mother-in-law, I was sixteen years old. My hands shook as I carried a homemade pecan pie up the front steps of her home. It was our first meeting, and I'd only been dating her soon for about two weeks. He was turning 17 and this was the big family event of the season, and I was on the arm of the guest of honor.

She looked me up and down, gave a terse grin and invited me inside. I should have known from that initial encounter that this would be a difficult relationship, and that notion has since proven true. I followed that same boy to college a few years later, then to the alter only three months after we graduated. We have two children now and still live in the same, sleepy town. We're crazy about each other, but if we do argue about anything, it's my strained relationship with the other woman in his life.

At her core, she means incredibly well. She's a great listener, shares in the passions of others and is always looking to learn. Yet, there are some people whose negative outlook can't help but cloud every aspect of their lives. There are feelings of resentment and of bitterness. There are unfair judgments and hurtful assumptions and the feeling like I may never measure up.

In the past, I've let such negativity directly impact my outlook. Of course, this isn't the first pessimistic person I've come across in my 31 years. I've had plenty of friends, family members and especially co-workers who have shared in my mother-in-laws sentimentality. When I was younger, a single unkind remark was enough to completely unravel me for the rest of the day. I can count on one hand the elementary school teachers who called me down and what they said. I've never forgotten the sting of embarrassment.

Now? I can tell that my skin is thicker. It takes much more to wear me down and break me. I can take an unkind comment in stride. On those days when it feels as though the world is absolutely against me, I can run a hot bath, close my eyes and tune out all the distractions, reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day.

Maybe it has something to do with getting older. I've heard celebrities say that once you reach a certain age, you stop caring so much about what other people think of you. Or, perhaps this newfound contentment came about as a result of becoming a mother. With two children underfoot, I don't exactly have the luxury of time to wallow in my upset emotions.

While these could be contributing factors, I believe that what has helped me hold steadfast to my positivity as much as the world tries to push back against it is that I've been able to tune my inner compass more directly toward that light. I've made spreading happiness and emulating joy my focus and my priority. In return, I've found that even the darkest and heaviest scenarios are still met with a silver lining. This type of mentality achieved by activating one's Reticular Activating System or RAS.

In short, this is a network of nerve pathways located in your brainstem. It is responsible for filtering out unnecessary information and allowing you to focus on just what's important. Have you ever been at a loud party and listened intently to every single conversation going on around you? No way! Your brain would be overloaded with tons of impertinent data.

While that's a scientific explanation, the truth is that understanding how RAS works is as simple as the mantra "You get that which you welcome." If you welcome greed, negativity or bitterness, it will seem as if those storms follow you around everywhere you go. On the other hand, you might spread sunshine solely because it's what you personally choose to focus on. My mom is this way. Even if I sit at her kitchen counter and spill my sob story, she'll find some way to spin the instances into a positive slant.

I'm not sure I'll ever get along fully with my mother-in-law. We have vastly different tastes, personalities and goals though we can both agree that one particular guy is pretty special. As we work toward mending and improving our relationship, I intend to apply the RAS logic to my own lifestyle. I will embrace and accept love, light and encouragement and just as freely, I will give it away.

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Bethel Church's Gay Conversion Program Is A Huge Problem And We're Not Talking Enough About It

Religion doesn't give us a right to purposefully abuse a community.

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About a year ago, in May of 2018, Bethel Church in Redding, California came out publicly against a set of proposed laws which would make it illegal for a licensed mental health professional to perform 'conversion therapy' in order to change the sexual orientation or same-sex attractions of a person. The head pastor of the church asked for members of Bethel Church to act against the three bills (California AB 1779, AB 2943 and AB 2119), urging them to contact their congressmen and ask for them to prevent the laws from passing, all in order for them to continue their harmful ex-gay ministry.

Today, Bethel Church is under scrutiny for the role out of their ex-gay conversion initiative, CHANGED. The website of the initiative movement claims that any change is possible through Jesus, and encourages those who identify as LGBTQ+ to abandon the "pain, rejection, and despair," of being LGBTQ+. (CHANGED website). This movement is not the first, but just the next in a long line of organizations claiming to provide change for those who identify as LGBTQ+, despite this being an impossibility. Ex-gay programs, in actuality, only serve to push those who go through them farther away from the love of God.

Conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people has been proven not only to be completely ineffective but has also been found to cause intense mental issues and in many cases, a strong correlation to suicide. Those who have gone through ex-gay therapy programs such as Exodus International or Focus on the Family's Love Won Out have admitted that even after successfully completing the program they had not experienced a change in their same-sex attraction. The founder of Exodus International even claimed that by his estimation, 99.9% of those who had gone through his organization's therapy had not experienced any change in their orientation. Exodus International was considered intensely controversial, and their methods considered by most, if not all, mental health professionals to be incredibly damaging. Those who come out of conversion therapy experience intense feelings of depression and often experience a lack of self-worth.

As a Christian, I grieve every single time someone claiming to believe what I do comes out and condemns the LGBT community. It hurts to see one community I am a member of being hateful towards another community I am just as proud to be a part of. This news stung a little harder because I for a long time have loved Bethel Church's worship band. Their songs have spoken to me in ways I cannot fully describe, helping to bring me closer to the God I believe in. A God who I can say for certain would never advocate for something as damaging and destructive as conversion therapy. The same Jesus who Bethel's songs worship is the same Jesus who calls us to love everyone. Bethel Church is not following this call, and it is important that we speak out against conversion therapy, and not allow our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to carry out such a harmful program.

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The Beauty of Releasing Anxiety Over the Future

What you learn when you learn you don't need to know it all

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I come from a long line of women who worry. We stay up late at night wondering if we got it all right that day. We stress over the details and sweat the small stuff more than we should. Surprisingly, for the amount they fret, my sister and mother are the epitome of calm. They're collected and graceful, whereas I'm a constant bundle of nerves wound tighter than a brand-new yo-yo.

This year, however, I resolved to change all of that. I determined that 2019 would be the year I released all the anxiety and fears around the future. It would be the year I stopped concerning myself with matters of tomorrow and focused instead on the beauty and blessing of today. We're only six days into this new year, but I have already felt that gigantic weight lifted. Why, you might ask, did I choose this particular year? I will turn 32 this April and I've had plenty of turns around the sun to think about getting it right. I've had time to relax, time to recharge and time to start anew.

So, why this year? Put simply, I can tell this is going to be one unlike any other. We're moving out of our home in the next few months, in preparation to begin an enormous remodel project on a nearby family home. As we do so, we're going to be living with my in-laws, our oldest starts kindergarten in the fall, and we're both planning to ramp up our careers by taking on new challenges.

In short, I could easily approach these new obstacles with a jittery heart and nerves that are shot before the day even begins. Yet, each day has its own struggles and if I were to look at this year as a whole, I'd be overwhelmed by the extent of it all. Between school, sports, work and this project, there is no shortage of concerns to worry over, issues to fret about and worries to wonder on. It is for this very reason that I'm stepping out on faith and giving the headaches over, relinquishing the lock-tight control I once held over my own day-to-day chaos.

The thing is, I can see where it's all going. I can already see our dream home that will sit on the lot behind the cornfield. There are two creeks on the property, a sod field in the back, and Japanese cherry blossom trees that I can't wait to watch come alive this spring. I have dreams of eating popsicles on the back deck while the sun goes down in the summertime and I can see the kids running in the huge, open front yard, the one that takes us 10 minutes or more to walk up and down the driveway. I can see the measures we are taking to make the home as energy-efficient as possible paying off with lower power bills. I know the garden we plant in two years will be our biggest and best yet.

I know this will be the home my children remember growing up in. We'll take prom pictures here and first dates will end on the front stoop. Still, the process of getting there, of going home, is a long and laborious one and I could easily crawl under the covers and seek to escape from it all if I think about it for too long.

Instead, I'm getting up early in the mornings these days. I'm having quiet time to reflect and recharge my faith. I'm reading more text and devouring fewer screens. I'm taking more walks (another resolution) and spending at least a little bit of time in nature every day. I'm looking my children in the eye when they speak to me rather than rushing by them on my way to the next, more important thing. I'm making a gratitude list at the end of every day with five things that blessed and inspired me. I'm going to bed earlier and sleeping more deeply, my heart fuller than it's ever been.

I'm releasing my ambition to plan every day to a tee. I'm letting life happen and enjoying the ride of letting go.

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