Stay positive!

‘Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion.’ (Pirkei Avot)

Positivity. (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are pessimists and there are optimists.
Some people appreciate the smallest of things in the world around them, and others seem to have everything but appreciate nothing. Negative people increase our stress and can drain and exhaust us, as we seem to absorb their pessimistic attitude.
Fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who simply radiate positivity, as I write I think of a friend who went into the hospital for a “simple procedure” and became paralyzed from the waist down. He has had numerous life-threatening complications and undergone multiple surgeries, and while many of us would have long ago wished for a speedy exit, this person is incredibly grateful to be alive, despite still being in hospital a full year later. He absolutely radiates positivity, even when life presents him with yet one more incredible challenge.
While pessimism may be partially genetic, and in some is due to environmental circumstances, much is within your control. Life offers many choices, and being happy is one of them. You determine how you choose to see the challenges in your life.
How you handle them, in turn, will determine who you are and who you become.
You can see each aspect of your day as offering an opportunity to improve your world, or see the day as one huge obstacle course to plod and suffer through, one heavy step at a time. You can walk around with a smile, or feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.
In general, positive people believe that they can have an impact on their world through their actions, and search out peace and contentment. Negative people feel the world impacts on them. Bad things “happen” to them, and sadly, they feel they have little control over their life.
A pessimist is reactive and feels “done to” by others.
He carries a heaviness and an unhealthy sense of doom and gloom. He may be an incessant worrier, thinking “what if” and “catastrophizing” – always seeming to expect or imagine the worse, thereby increasing his anxiety.
He often lives in the past or the future, and doesn’t pause to enjoy the present moment.
You actually have within yourself the ability to change your attitude and, in turn, modify your entire brain circuitry. Modern technology allows us to actually see changes in the brain when something feels good. This translates to your needing to look for the many gifts that you have in your life, and actually learning to appreciate them, rather than simply being unaware or taking them for granted. How you choose to do this helps determine what you do with your life, and how you will ultimately feel.
Here are a few thoughts for increasing what I call your “positivity” (or happiness) factor.
1. Count your blessings each and every day. Keep a journal and write down five things that happened during your day which you appreciate. This requires really noticing the little things around you. Whether it’s nature’s beauty or something someone did that you are grateful for, recording and retelling the positives from your day can magically focus you on things you may have otherwise ignored.
2. Put balance into your life and look for ways to reduce your stress. Slow down the moment and simplify your life. Do the things you enjoy, and surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Go for a walk, cook a meal with someone, visit an art gallery, sit down to a picnic lunch and above all, just laugh.
3. Write notes of gratitude to others. Write a letter to two people and tell them why they are special, and how they have enhanced your life. Put a small note in your child’s schoolbag or on your partner’s computer, in his shirt or under her pillow.
4. Reframe negatives into positives. Check out your language, your tone, your facial gestures and your posture. Are you exuding the positive?
5. Have realistic expectations. Don’t get stuck on thinking “it” or “you” are never good enough.
6. Put things in perspective and let the unimportant things go. Don’t ask why, ask what. What can you do to bring more positive into your life?
7. Reduce stress by only taking on issues that are yours to take on. Let go of things that feel heavy.
When appropriate you can be empathetic and supportive, but don’t neglect your own needs. You are responsible for your own behavior – not that of others. You don’t need to try and change the world.
8. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Being assertive can help you feel positive.
9. Perform random acts of kindness. Smile at strangers. Pay it forward. It can feel amazing. Volunteer to do something that takes you a bit out of your comfort zone, so that you can grow. Growth can be surprisingly exhilarating.
10. Enjoy a Shabbat-like atmosphere. Spend undisturbed quality time with family and friends who make you feel good. Enjoy a meal together, get some rest, laugh, learn, play games and turn off your cellphone.
Find time to relax with a good book, eat and drink healthfully and pay attention to your body.Make sure that you control technological devices, rather than feeling they are controlling you.
11. Exercise your body as well as your mind. Learn how to breathe deeply and properly, and practice meditation and other relaxation exercises because they will actually make you feel better and calmer.
This is the best way to control your anxiety, stay in the moment and feel good, so learn how to do it properly and invest the time in practicing it. It is free and goes anywhere! You can do deep breathing at a red light, at the office, at home, before bed, during any stressful situation and anytime you would just like to feel better! If you still need help in facing your challenges, bringing the positive back into your life and learning how to put things in perspective, seek professional counseling now. You might be surprised to discover how much you can achieve in just a session or two, and you will definitely feel better for it.
What are you waiting for?
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana. She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000 and her book, Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts, was recently published. Send correspondence to or visit her website at