I mentioned last week how I feel heavier and a bit drained when I return to the U.S. – it’s a result of the negativity generally espoused versus what I’m used to hearing living in an expat enclave on a touristy island. Frequent topics of discussion in the U.S. revolve around the news, the weather, and sports. But also very frequently, those topics are all covered in a negative light, focusing on the worst aspects of each rather than highlighting any potential good.
This is not to say that only in the U.S. do these conversations happen – this is absolutely a universal theme. Misery loves company, we all know that. For some reason, people seem to think it is easier to complain and to talk about negative themes than it is to promote happiness.
We need to do better.
It is not difficult to find the good in each day; it is not difficult to discuss optimism and beauty. We need to focus on those themes and to stop negativity in its tracks.
I challenge each of you to start setting boundaries among your friends and family and coworkers.
Instead of continuing that conversation about the latest local tragedy in the news, bring up the heartwarming story you read for discussion.
Instead of commiserating with your coworker about it being yet another Monday, highlight what fun activities you have planned for the week.
Instead of griping about the weather forecast, revel in today’s sunshine. The forecast means little if it never comes to be. And what use is your worry either way?
I challenge you to listen to your own negativity and to be conscious of it. Actively choose to focus on positive stories, uplifting people, and optimistic outcomes. Actively seeking happiness in your daily activities will create new habits. Dismiss the negativity in your life – you will notice a difference in each small conversation and interaction. Each of these small steps accumulates to create a larger difference, not only in you but in everyone around you as well.
I challenge you to begin actively seeking happiness. Right now. Here are a few very small actions you can take immediately to move toward a more positive day and a happier life:
- Don’t watch the news. I know that sounds crazy, because being uninformed is dangerous as a citizen and as a neighbor. But I’m not condoning ignorance. Actively seek out news and information rather than watching a news channel. By reading newspapers, magazines, and blogs, you will be better able to gather information on a variety of topics than you are if you sit in front of a television and listen to someone tell you what is important. Listening to local news on TV consists of car crashes, robberies, death, and destruction. Reading stories from around the world will also discuss death and destruction, but there are endless stories of good and love and hope as well. You can choose more of those. Actively seek out your information; don’t passively watch the television.
- Facebook has an Unfollow option. While Unfriending someone might seem harsh and even uncouth, you can Unfollow friends so their posts don’t show up on your newsfeed but you still remain friends. Those friends and family members who constantly post things that bother you – whatever that topic may be – can simply be unfollowed. No harm, no foul, but you won’t have that negativity in your face every time you check your Facebook.
- Each morning, identify 3 positive topics you want to discuss at some point in the day. Whether it be an uplifting movie you watched, or an inspiring person you met, or the fact that your child is happy at school – decide on 3 simple ideas that make you smile and then talk about them. You can’t rely on other people to make you happy – you need to establish those habits for yourself.
- Each day, make it a goal to change one negative into a positive. If you get stuck in traffic on the way to work, instead of getting angry and frustrated, take the opportunity to let your mind wander and to see what new ideas pop into your head! Moments of inspiration can happen anywhere but we don’t often allow ourselves the time and space to simply be. Don’t allow a delay to anger you – take advantage of the time it grants you instead.
These are just a few small suggestions that can make an enormous impact in your daily life if you simply decide to start actively seeking happiness. I can personally vouch for each of them, though I find it much more necessary to be proactive while in the U.S. than I do in Roatan. Regardless, we all slip into that negativity cycle every now and then. The key is to recognize it and to actively decide to change it for the better.
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