I face a problem in my daily life that I know many other people face as well: I ruminate over the negative instead of focusing on the positive. As a student, and as a working professional, letting myself be held back by the things I hate to think about is inherently hinders me from pursuing the things that make me happy. I woke up this morning and I realized that I was really tired of feeling this way, because I realized that I was wasting too much energy on thoughts and daily occurrences that were out of my control. I was then inspired to write this little guide, so that I could walk myself (and hopefully you too) through creating positive spaces anywhere you are.
Let’s start with addressing our barriers
Have you ever thought about why it is so much easier to think about the negative instead of the positive? It’s not like we are helping ourselves by constantly focusing on these things over everything else that is going on in our lives. So, why exactly do we do that?
I can only speak for myself here, and I know that I’ve always had trouble when I feel out of control. I’m really good at making grand plans in my head, but I’m still learning how to deal with situations when things don’t go according to plan. I think that the reason why I focus so much on the negative is because I still try to figure out ways to make things go the way I want. In that process, I try to identify each and every thing that could still go wrong.
I do a lot of metacognition (thinking about the way that I think) on a daily basis, and in that process, I’ve realized that the only reason there seem to be so many negative things and only a few positive things is because in my mind there is only one way that things could go right. Any other way a situation could go is, therefore, wrong. At least for me, that’s the primary barrier to creating a positive environment for myself. I need to train myself to actively realize that there are multiple ways a situation could be right.
What’s your biggest barrier to being positive? Feel free to leave me a note in the comments!
Sometimes, life surprises you in the best ways
A couple of months ago, I was looking for a research internship and had one that I particularly wanted. To tell a long story in short: I applied, I waited, I was told I didn’t get it, and I was devastated. In order to complete some graduation requirements, I needed a research internship, and it was late enough in the term that I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to find one, and I was afraid I was going to have to drop out of my program. There were a million ways I saw the entire situation going wrong. For example, the other internships I’d apply to would reject me because I wasn’t qualified or I wouldn’t find anything else interesting; I’d then be forced to leave my program, and I’d have to figure out how to get where I wanted in other way, and I’d have no idea what to do. I was lucky enough to have family and friends who pushed me to keep my eye on the prize.
My mom (yes, it’s okay to ask your mom for advice even when you’re an adult) told me that instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong, I should zero down my focus on my end goal. After a day or so of crying and feeling sorry for myself, I found another internship, contacted them, and a couple of days later I had an internship. Today, a few months after working for the lab I’m currently in, I’m happier than I ever could be. I get to work with babies (yes, babies!) three days a week and learn about developmental psychology. I love the people who I work with, and I don’t think I could have found a better opportunity.
If I’d let myself ruminate on not getting that first internship I applied for, I never would have realized that I actually had a better opportunity somewhere else. I’d never have gotten to contact other places, and learn more about myself, and what my research and career interests actually are.
What is a positive space?
I define a positive space as anywhere where you feel at your best. Your “best” is however you define it- you are happy, you feel healthy, you feel energetic or relaxed or maybe even both. Maybe this is the space where you are the most productive; alternatively, maybe this is a space where you choose not to be productive. Here, I propose an alternative to all of these: maybe you can have a positive space anywhere you are!
There is no one way to define a “space”: a legitimate space could even be your mind, or however you imagine the inside of your head. But the goal of this post is to help everyone figure out how to set up a positive atmosphere for themselves wherever they might be in any given moment.
The basics of the space
There are a few things that I would consider should be required to create a positive atmosphere. The first is respect. To make any space a positive space, you need to have respect for yourself, and respect for everyone else in the space. This starts by acknowledging that you, and everyone else, might have a lot going on in your daily lives that creates negativity. There might be a lot of sadness, a lot of fatigue, a lot of stress. These negatives contribute to the space, just like the positives do.
Healing, a second requirement, is a remedy for the negatives. A positive space should feel inviting to both your negatives and positives, and should be a space where you can remedy your negatives, and find a way to creative more positive solutions. This doesn’t mean that you need to find a fix for every problem, but just that you should be able to find a way to think about this negative in a more positive way.
A third requirement is productivity, but in an abstract sense. Whatever you do in any particular space, focus on it, give all of your attention to it, and enjoy it while you are able to. Make a note of every moment, small or large, that makes you happy. Everything that you are stressed about- will still be there after this moment is over and you are in a different space. But in that moment, enjoy what is positive.
Add things to “spruce up” the space!
Like, even an actual spruce tree! I love adding succulents to my positive spaces, and all of my positive places have a general, natural feel to them. The idea behind that is that these spaces then resemble the ones that you might go to for vacation. For example, if your ideal vacation spot is a beach in Hawai’i, incorporate the blue of the ocean, the light brown of the sand, and the green of the algae and near by plants.
Have any tips of your own? Comment below!
Share with me and my readers what you might do to create a more positive space for yourself, regardless of where you are!