Perception is everything, and having a positive outlook on life will change your world. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the Law of Attraction or that your thoughts and emotions attract your life. I personally do (which I will absolutely share more about), but I was the queen of skepticism prior to embracing positivity in my life.
My focus was constantly zeroed in on all that was wrong in my life. Divorced, buried in debt, bulimic, battling autoimmunity, unhappy in my career, struggling in personal relationships… Life felt like an endless hike, and I was taking 1 step forward for every 20 steps back. Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool, but it can be a weapon of mass destruction if you are always viewing your life through a lens of fear, anxiety, and doubt.
I first heard the term “monkey mind” when I began practicing yoga. The instructor told us to come back to our breath if we felt our thoughts bouncing around in our head like a bunch of wild monkeys. I recall in one 5 minute Shavasana (a resting meditative posture at the end of a yoga practice) thinking the following in a rapid succession:
- My credit card is almost maxed out, why do I keep allowing this to happen? I’m pathetic.
- I have a wedding coming up. I need to find a new dress to wear (using card above).
- New dress? I am in terrible shape. I need to get my a$s to the gym.
- I’ll have to be at the beloved (eyeroll) singles table at the wedding… awesome.
- What if someone at the wedding asks where I am living? I’ll have to say with my parents. Shoot me.
- Oh god, I turned out just like my parents with my finances. I need to get my debt paid off.
- Annnnd back to the top.
This was in 5 minutes… FIVE
Not only did I have monkey mind, but every thought was loaded with fear, shame and self-sabotage. Imagine if my thoughts were held up to a megaphone. Passers-by might think I should be committed. I am not making a joke of seeking mental health treatment, especially since I have benefited greatly from therapy myself. But, in this case, I was unable to tolerate a 5 minute period of silence without hating and berating myself. I needed to learn how to snap the F out of my destructive cycle of self-judgment.
Why did I engage in this cycle?
No issue had to be faced. No emotion had to be fully felt. As long as I paralyzed myself with fear at every turn, I could stay in my unfulfilling, unhappy, anxiety ridden “comfort” zone.
Coming back to my breath helped in the moment. Being mindful of the air filling your lungs, the rising of your shoulders, the stretching and contracting of your abdomen as you breathe in then release turns the most simple act into a moment of mental and emotional peace. What I needed was to learn how to be present in LIFE, not just for 5 minutes at the end of a yoga class.
How do you begin to break this cycle of fear and dust off that old lens of love & gratitude? That’s the lens you need to use, and trust me, you have it laying around. You probably set it aside as a child the first time someone or something made you feel afraid to just be you.
These 5 practices helped me to break free from the demons in my mind:
Step 1 to Having a More Positive Outlook on Life – Be grateful for what you ALREADY HAVE. When I caught myself focusing on student loan debt, I began to acknowledge what I was doing and shifted my thoughts to the career opportunities my education provided to me. I may have a lot of debt to pay off, but I also have a good job with flexible hours. It allows me to keep my stress level low, pays for functional medical care, and provides me with time to write my story here. This is just one example, but I have A LOT to be grateful for.
Sept 2 to Having a More Positive Outlook on Life – Turn negative intentions into positive ones by focusing on what you DO want. For example, stop thinking “I don’t want to be stuck inside all day” (this is for my fellow autoimmune warriors out there), and start thinking “I want to take the time my body needs to rest and recover.” Stop thinking “I do not want to be in debt,” and start thinking “I look forward to being financially free.” Notice how different the tone is? That uplifting voice is infectious.
Step 3 to Having a More Positive Outlook on Life – Embody the qualities you seek in your future and in others. If you find yourself frustrated by friends who are unreliable, make it a point to be a truly reliable person. If you have experienced deception in a relationship, make an effort to be open and honest with others. If you want your future to be full of adventure, start stepping outside your comfort zone NOW.
Step 4 to Having a More Positive Outlook on Life – Let sh*t go. This is both literal and figurative. Let go of old, stale emotional baggage that is no longer serving you. This may require therapy. In my case, it required EMDR sessions with a therapist to uproot some very deep negative beliefs about myself. In a literal sense, start to declutter your life. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and ended up getting rid of almost half my clothes. Now I get to go to bed at night in a clean, organized room that makes me feel at peace. I am moving on to the paperwork portion of the process next month. Wish me luck (I will seriously need it).
Step 5 to Having a More Positive Outlook on Life – Accept that you will stumble A LOT along the path to mindfulness and peace. Since this is a given you must learn to not judge yourself when you fall. Simply acknowledge that you’ve gone back to a place of fear and compassionately decide to leave. It will get easier every time.
How does the shift to a positive outlooks relate to my struggles with autoimmune disease and an eating disorder? It wasn’t until I calmed my mind and shifted my focus to one of love and gratitude that I was able to love and be grateful for my body. When I focused on the negative, everything I felt, saw, and experienced was negative. When I focused on the positive, it was as if I stepped into Oz (of the wizard variety, not HBO). The brightest colors welcomed me, and it felt like I could finally breathe again. This shift in perception gave me the strength to make adjustments in my lifestyle that were necessary to heal. This included my social life, my diet, the health and beauty products I use, and the relationships I choose to engage in (or walk away from). I started acting on my own behalf, first and foremost.
There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself. – Henry David Thoreau