July 15, 2018

Prioritizing Positivity

“Think positive”
“Be optimistic”

How many times have you heard these sayings before? At times, keeping a positive outlook can be easier said than done. In today’s blog, we are discussing the importance of prioritizing positivity in our days for optimal wellness.

Take a look at your current ‘to-do’ list. What do you see? I bet a long list of tasks. Now I want you to ask yourself, how do each one of those tasks make you feel? And where on that list are you prioritizing yourself?

So many of us are using our achievements as a unit to measure our success, rather than using our day to day stated feelings to gauge our true success. How do you really feel about what you do?

Emotions play such a big role in our overall well being, yet their importance is often overlooked. What’s more, there is a significant difference between our temporary emotions and our overall sense of being, and the two are often confused.

Let me give you an example, if we get caught in traffic and are late for work, we may feel frustrated. If we lose our wallet and someone returns it to us, we may feel thankful. Or we may remember something embarrassing that has happened in the past and feel ashamed. These are states we embody for a short period of time and are often caused by our reaction to an external situation. These emotions dissipate quite quickly, and we can learn to control them better by choosing to respond rather than react.

But what about our overall feelings? Not just a short-term feeling, but how do we really feel on a daily basis? What puts us in an upbeat mood, allowing us to go through our days and weeks feeling motivated and positive?

Research on positive emotions has been shown that even short bursts of positivity throughout the day can be enough to hinder the effects of negative emotions, boost physical health, and even impact gene expression. In turn, this increases our sense of positivity and happiness. But where do these short bursts of happiness come from?

You have probably heard that happiness is a choice and that we shouldn’t allow external forces to dictate our inner states. However, this is much easier said than done. The concept of prioritizing positivity doesn’t claim that positive emotions just show up when we choose, rather states that putting conscious effort into creating situations that create positive emotions is key to our overall happiness and well-being.

My strategy for my emotional life consists of defining the emotions I want to experience on a daily basis, then defining the recipe for creating those emotions.

But before I can define the recipe, I have to become aware of what kind of situations, events, people, and things EVOKE what emotions. I have to develop emotional insight in my life. I have to PAY attention. I have to ask myself – how did that make me feel? Did that situation make me happy? Was I pleased? Was I hurt? Without judging my emotions as good or bad, I have to pay attention to what events trigger what emotions. What bothers me? What makes me feel tranquil? I have to get to know myself. Developing more emotional insight is imperative in defining emotional recipes.

I choose emotional states I want to experience every day, and the emotional states I am unwilling to allow into my life. Achieving my emotional goals entails managing my attitude, evaluations, mental focus and expectations. This is called emotional control. I will focus only on what I want and why I want it. I’ll create the emotions I need to achieve my goals.

Want to gauge how much you’re prioritizing positivity in your life? Ask yourself the following questions:

How many times to do you express gratitude on daily basis?
How many times a day do you take a moment to breathe and center yourself?
Do you structure your day to maximize your own happiness?
Do you say ‘no’ to commitments that aren’t in your personal best interests?
Do you spend your time outside of work and obligations engaging in activities that you enjoy?
How would you rate the quality of your close relationships, and how often do you interact with these people?

Essentially, prioritizing positivity boils down to how you plan your day, and many people will plan their day solely around achievement. To-do lists generally say I’ve got to do this, I gotta do this for this person, must accomplish X amount of tasks before the end of the day, but what our daily schedules lack is time for our personal wants and desires. Even if it is checking in with your spouse to see how they’re doing, spending ten minutes journalling down some thoughts, sharing some laughs over lunch with a coworker, small bursts of positivity throughout our days is key to our flourishing.

I like to think of positive emotions almost like nutrients, that experiencing more positive emotions give you more moments of this broadened awareness and having more moments of that broadened awareness helps you discover and build, enduring resources like resilience, social connection, physical health, and overall well-being.

Emotions are energy in motion and our energy goes where our attention goes. So we have to ask ourselves, where do we put our attention on during the day? It’s not a matter of finding more time for more ‘positive’ activities, rather than prioritizing them throughout the day. If you can schedule in 3-5 ‘positive tasks’ each day on a consistent basis, not only will you find yourself with a shifted perspective on things but you will also feel more fuelled and productive on other tasks that you may have. The key is consistency; just like how one gym session won’t give you results, the same goes for prioritizing positivity.

Take a five-minute break from work and call your best friend. Go for a long nature walk after a productive day. Strike up a conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. Hold the door open for that large group coming through. Take a moment each night and write down three things you are grateful for. Meditate for 20 minutes upon waking up. Smile at the stranger walking by. People underestimate how essential these mild everyday uplifting positive states are to our health and well-being.

So the next to-do list you write, amongst the tasks and obligations, don’t forget to make some happy time for you!

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