Have you ever experienced a point in your life where it feels like everything has gone wrong, nothing has happened the way “it was supposed to” (according to your idea, anyway) and you can’t stop the spin of anxiety and negativity you seem to experience every day?
And I’ve been looking for answers and a way out.
I may have found one.
I came across The Truth Practice on Pinterest, and I Pinned the piece “10 Ways to Practice Mindfulness and Reduce Anxiety.” As I read through it, I was inspired to challenge myself: to 30 days of positivity.
So, for 30 days, I will not think negatively about anything I am experiencing, and I will not voice negative thoughts. Notice I don’t say “try.” In the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not; there is no try.”
For me, saying “try” gives me an out. I am challenging myself; I will catch myself when those negative thoughts swoop in before they can take hold in my mind.
Here are the 10 things I will be focusing on in the next 30 days:
1. Stay in the present moment
2. Don’t analyze the situation
3. Accept there is only so much that can be done
4. Trust in something bigger than yourself
5. Find beauty in every moment
6. Stop labeling everything
7. Take action (if necessary), then move on
8. Surrender to what is
9. Focus on one task, one activity, one thought at a time
10. Embrace being surprised
These sound terrifying, especially numbers three, eight and 10. I know me, though, and I know those particular concerns are the main cause of my anxiety.
I didn’t know where to begin. How do I go about vanquishing dark and negative thoughts?
Then I had an idea: make a “negativity list.”
I wrote down any and all negative thoughts I have had recently, releasing them. I prayed over the list, focusing on asking God to release me of my negativity and that I would hear Him during this challenge.
Then, I ripped up that paper into small pieces and threw it away. And, in all honesty, I already felt better, as if part of the weight had already been lifted.
And, really, I haven’t given a second to those thoughts since. In fact, I don’t even remember what I wrote down.
How did it go?
Week one went about as well as could be expected, given I have to learn to retrain my mind.
Initially, I began to make connections to what sets off my negative thoughts. Once I made those connections, it felt a little easier to control them.
Unfortunately, this gave me a bit of a false sense of comfort. I began to feel as though on day one I conquered it all because I had already learned what it felt like quite a bit.
But it’s sort of like that first real day of class: you go in thinking this is so cool! I got this, easy peasy. Then you get further into your semester and your thinking changes to did I not learn anything?!
I think I expected things to suddenly be different, brighter and lighter. I would be positive for a minute and suddenly my world would flip upside down (or rightside up?) and everything would be alright. But, surprise, that isn’t how it works.
Then, I stumbled onto some mighty, existential questions.
Does saying “no” count as being negative?
Does finding what you don’t like count as negativity?
Is saying “I don’t want to” or “I don’t want that” negative?
These are questions I have started to explore, though I am nowhere near answering them.
Re-framing my mind to be positive did seem to give me more energy to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. It did seem to make the mundane less, well, mundane.
I prayed more, too, and paid closer attention to the Bible study I am currently working on. While it can bring out powerful emotions and can begin to make me feel depressed, once I release that energy through prayer, I feel better.
Maybe not perfect, maybe not 100 percent positive, but I can feel the change my God has already brought to me.
Listening to podcasts also helped a great deal. They helped me to divert some of that negative energy by listening to something more interesting and that might educate me in some way. (If you’re curious, some of my favorite podcasts are TED Radio Hour, LORE, and, because I’m a huge "Harry Potter" fan, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.)
I also took Belle to a dog beach during week one, and that helped not only my positivity, but also my self-confidence.
Once the newness of the challenge wore off, though, I hit what I call a “neutral day.” I didn’t feel positive, but I didn’t feel negative. I just felt…there—in the car, at work, at home. And the only thing that helped was having Belle nearby.
What did I learn?
I learned three very important things in the first week.
The first: don’t expect monumental change right away.
Being positive is a lot harder than I thought. It’s not just about telling myself hey, I’m doing alright! Most of the time, I can’t tell myself that because I don’t believe it—I’m not okay, and just saying it won’t make me okay.
But the small changes, like re-framing my hatred of getting up early into positively reminding myself that I wouldn’t have to rush to get out the door, ended up making a big difference, and they actually helped to set the tone for the rest of the week.
The second: for me, positivity and confidence are linked.
If I feel confident in myself, even if it’s in how well I have trained Belle, I instantly become more positive. I need to find other times and other ways I feel confident to replicate that feeling. This was one of those small changes I was talking about.
Belle graduated from training this week, so I automatically felt more confident in bringing her to a place to play off-leash. I think I exuded that confidence, which meant she listened better.
Her positive reactions to her commands then gave me more confidence that I had done the right thing and trained her properly. It may seem like a small thing, but, to me, it was huge.
The third thing I learned is a little deeper: I truly need to allow my faith to guide me.
I have always been honest in saying that I am a Christian. I think I tried to know my God, though, without reading His Word, and I think sometimes I tried to know the “right, Christian answer” without really knowing my God.
Now is my time to actually get to know Him. I won’t lie: I’m terrified. But I have to believe He has healing and an amazing path in store for me.
I am looking forward to how He changes me over the next several days.
If you would like to read about my daily walk in this journey, check out my blog. I’ve also been using #positivitychallenge, so feel free to join me on Twitter as well.So, which of the 10 ways to practice mindfulness terrify you? Are you ready to get positive?