Author’s Note: This blog post is about my experience with positive thinking. I realize that talking about “thinking positively” can be considered a problematic topic, because many people have mental illnesses that cannot be fixed simply by thinking positively. I am lucky to be able to force myself into a positive mindset when I really need to, even if sometimes it’s very difficult. This is just my experience, and if you’re someone who needs medication, then I am in no way saying that thinking positively should be a replacement for that.
Sometimes I can get myself into a negative mindset. I am fortunate not to have clinical anxiety or depression, but I do have a tendency to get anxious over small things. I’m very aware that these issues are “first world problems”. In most cases, I’m lucky to even be in a scenario in which I view these things as problems. But the truth is, sometimes my anxiety doesn’t care that it’s a first world problem, and I end up feeling much worse. Now in addition to the worry itself, I feel guilty because I’m worried about an “obnoxious” thing to be worried about.
My mind spirals into negativity. There can be one bad aspect in my life or one concern in my mind, and if I don’t stop thinking about it, my concern can grow in intensity. A lot of the time, one small problem turns into a million problems. I think of how one issue will affect my life in various ways, and I can start to think the irrational and untrue thought of “My life is a mess.”
One day, I was talking to a friend who was having a hard time, and I was feeling like I needed an emotional pick-me-up too. It’s surprising how therapeutic it can be to help someone else who is having a hard time. Not only does it give you a sense of purpose, but also pushes you to be positive in order to make someone else feel better. So, in order to cheer up my friend, I forced myself to say a number of positive ideas, and I think they worked to make her feel better.
In the middle of trying to cheer her up, I realized something important. I was breaking down all of the bad things in my life into many parts, but not doing the same for the good things. This is why I often saw my life as a series of negatives with no positives. I realized I needed to zero in on the positives and break them down just as I do the bad things in life.
A common adage is “Just be thankful you’re alive.” In addition, I am often reminded that I am fortunate to have all my basic needs and then some. I am lucky that I have food to eat. I am lucky that I have a roof over my head. I am lucky that I have a family that loves me. I believe these things are important to think about because this is an exercise in privilege. Some people are not fortunate enough to have these things.
That being said, it can sometimes be difficult to wrap my head around concepts like these because it is so hard to imagine a life without these things I often take for granted. Take for example, being thankful for “the air I breathe”. Thinking of the air I breathe as something to be thankful for can be difficult because I literally can’t imagine my life without it.
When I think about being thankful for my family and friends, I think about each individual member of my family and each friend. Not only that, but I think about the moments I cherish most with each person. I think about the people I can talk to about life but also laugh with about immature jokes. I think about the moments when my mom and I go into this cute (but annoying to anyone else) high voice to talk to each other. I think about how my dad calls me and says he just wanted to hear my voice. I think about the joy that I get from my stepfather, my stepmother, my stepbrother, my friends, my coworkers, my cat, and so many more.
I can imagine life without these people (yes, my cat is a person) and moments, but I don’t want to. When I think about a friend I’m thankful for, I think about how if I hadn’t gone to that party or attended that school, I would have never met that friend. And sure, I didn’t get to choose my family. But I can think about the moments I’ve built with them and how thankful I am that I have built a relationship with my family that a lot of people are not lucky enough to have.
It is so beautiful that we are given the gift of life, but sometimes we can’t realize this until we think of the small moments we are blessed with. Those moments are different for everyone. I’m not claiming to be happy all the time. I definitely get in bad moods. But I know that I have many reasons to love my life. And when I truly break these reasons down, it is only then that I can truly realize how privileged I am to be equipped with everything in my life, from the basic needs that allow me to live, to the moments that give my life purpose.