Remember Debbie Downer, the Saturday Night Live character who always found a way to kill the mood at family celebrations by inappropriately mentioning feline AIDS, blood diamonds and whatever else is wrong in the world? She would have plenty of material to work with these days. However, there are some serious consequences to constantly diverting to the negative.
Finding the proverbial glass not only half empty but cracked and ready to splinter as you hold it prevents people from overcoming obstacles and thriving. Plus learning how to gain more authentic positivity, not the “cheerleader claiming that everything is great when it clearly isn’t” kind, does wonders for your well-being.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of positive thinking can include an increased life span, decreased rates of depression, better coping skills and improved psychological and physical well-being. Sounds great, right? Then check out these four ways to stop being a Debbie Downer and claim a more positive life:
Start tracking how many times each day you think or express a negative thought. Jot down every instance on your smart phone, tablet, a notebook, or a recording app for a week and see where you land. If the tally comes back way into the double-digits or more, it is time to address your negative perspective — especially when the option to be positive was there all along.
For example, think about stay-at-home orders during the pandemic-related lockdowns. It is easy to focus on what you cannot do, see or experience. If you are single, you can go down a negativity rabbit hole worrying never being able to date again or if anyone who swipes right on your profile is worthy of a socially distant drink. Or, you can see how the extra effort of speaking multiples times on video or phone is really helping you connect with quality people, slowing things down to help find the healthy relationship your heart seeks instead of a one-time hook-up. It is all about perspective and you get to choose it.
Join a positive community.
Search for a like-minded group to help you celebrate successes, get encouragement when challenges arise, and reinforce what is positive in your life. Start by choosing an area you are passionate about — it could be cooking, running marathons, social justice, origami or whatever floats your boat.
Hey, I enjoy exercising most days of the week. So it was a no-brainer to join a private Facebook group of about 40 professionals worldwide, most in their forties and fifties, who are focused on exercise and well-being. We cheer each other on, set weekly goals, vent when life goes sideways, and generally keep the positive motivation going non-stop. Throughout COVID-19, civil unrest, economic turmoil and all of the other recent turmoil that can drain your energy and spirit, it has been a lifeline of positivity.
Dr. Jennifer Nash, of Jennifer Nash Coaching & Consulting, was raised in a conservative family that focused on avoiding risk and preparing for worst-case scenarios. Positivity didn’t feel like an option. Her evolution began when she left home for college and began encountering different kinds of people and perspectives.
“It took me a long time to figure out that I can choose to see the positive instead of just focusing on the negative,” she explained. “Being exposed to different ways of thinking and broadening my horizons in that way helped me see the good. It allowed me to recognize opportunity and potential, not only for the people around me, but also for myself in ways that I hadn’t seen before.”
Becoming self-aware of her beliefs and how she could shift them moving forward helped Nash gain the confidence to earn an MBA at one of the top business schools, build a fast-track consulting career and earn her Ph.D. Today she fully leverages that optimistic mindset in her work as an entrepreneur, an executive coach, consultant, speaker and author.
Monique Russell, an Executive Communications Coach specializing in Emotional Intelligence, says choosing to have a positive attitude is going to allow you to have a better relationship with yourself. If happiness seems unattainable, she recommends turning to a good therapist or counselor to determine if you unresolved trauma, grief or conflict. The right resources can help you heal, make sense of past events and choose a different path and attitude moving forward.
Russell practices what she preaches. “I got unstuck by getting involved with a positive women’s group and learning how to create a vision board, which gave me a more hopeful view of the future. Then I used the tools of therapy and coaching to maximize my individual human potential.”
Just because you have always been the Debbie Downer of your group does not mean you have to maintain that persona moving forward. It is never too late to choose a more positive perspective and reap all of the goodness that it brings into your life.
As Jack Canfield, bestselling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series noted, “Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.”