5 things I changed to become a positive person
Being a positive person and having a positive outlook has helped me incredibly with my Crohn’s. This is why I feel it is important to share with you the journey that I took to become a positive person.
In my early 20’s I found myself in a pretty negative relationship. At the time I thought this guy was the best thing that ever happened to me and we would be together forever. Wow was I in love. They say love is blind and boy, was I blind! There were so many warning signs right from the beginning of the relationship and I ignored them all. I let myself be treated badly – I was cheated on, used and made to feel like I could do no better. I always thought that I would never let a man change who I was, but somehow the real me was a distant memory and I became a shadow of who I once was.
It took four years for me to get out of that relationship completely. I was burnt, broken and badly in need of some self-love. Alcohol and food became my best support and I was doing nothing to look after myself. I realised that I needed to make some changes and I needed to do it asap. I had always been a bright and bubbly person but that person was temporarily unavailable, so how did I gain her back? I was so lost at the time, I was looking for solutions everywhere. I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick fix and knowing that was actually a good thing. I knew this was going to be ‘operation life overhaul’ and I would have to be in it for the long term. Quick fixes don’t stick, but slowly creating a sustainable way of life would help me build a solid foundation of self-respect and positivity that will stick for the rest of my life.
Here are 5 things that I did to help change my life around and to help myself become a more positive person:
1. I surrounded myself with positive people.
I know this is something we all hear often: ‘You are a product of your environment.’ It is more true than I could have ever realised! Without even realising it I had got myself into a pretty negative situation where I was surrounded by people who used put downs towards each other all the time and called it joking. They thought everything in the world was against them and nothing in life panned out for the best. No wonder I headed into the darkness quickly!
It is pretty hard to fight off negativity from all angles, especially if you are in love.
After my breakup I stayed around these people for a while, continuously putting myself back in this situation. Why move on when your self-esteem is smaller than the size of a pea? Well, finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I could not stand life being so hard and I couldn’t stand around letting this situation continue any longer. I cut all ties with the ex and the friends that hung around with him. Best move ever!
I started spending time with a different group of friends who I had unfortunately neglected. These friends cared about things like being happy and making the most of their situations. This move saved me. Although I didn’t become Mary Poppins overnight – believe me it was hard work!
However, being around people who looked at the world differently started to shift my perceptions and I was able to start making small moves to where I wanted to be.
Eight years later and now I only surround myself with positive people. I have learnt to tell the difference in people's outlooks pretty quickly. I know this sounds heartless and I could be missing out on some amazing people who just look at the world with a more cynical lens. But for me, these people transport me back to a time in my life that I don’t want to go back to. I don’t regret my previous relationship because it has taught me so much and shaped who I am today. But I don’t want to go back.
Surround yourself with the people who support you, support your dreams and share a common outlook.
2. I changed my vocabulary
‘Really? That doesn’t even sound like a real thing!’ I have had people say this to me before. But believe me, it helps!
Changing the way you word sentences from negative to positive, helps to shift your mindset.
Here’s an example - A friend asks you to go to the movies. You kind of want to go but you know you should use the money to pay for an internet bill or you are trying to save the money to go to Bruno Mar’s concert. Normally I would say to people, ‘I can’t afford it’. I hear this sentence all the time and it has negative connotations around it. You are focusing on what you lack. But changing that to, ‘I’m sorry, I want to go but it’s not a priority right now’, brings your focus onto your priorities and not what you think you lack.
A book that initially helped me more than anything else was Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn. This book talks about the Law of Attraction – what you put out into the universe, you get back. This is exactly the same with the words that we speak. You put out negative thoughts and you get negative back. You put out positive thoughts and you receive positive back. It sounds simple doesn’t it! I wish it was that simple. It takes a lot of work.
The first few months I did this, I struggled. I would catch myself saying something with negative connotations and feel incredibly guilty. It got easier as time went on. Now people ask me if I ever get angry or if I get upset. Of course I do! But I have learnt to articulate these emotions in ways that are constructive and helpful to my growth in all situations. This was especially the case while I was in hospital 3 months ago. I was given the news that my Crohn’s had got 100% worse and I would need immediate surgery. I was devastated (You can read more about that reaction in my previous blog - A Scare to Make You Care). However, after my initial shock I was able to change my inner dialogue from devastation to hope. I knew this surgery was going to improve my quality of life, so I changed the way I focused on what was about to happen. In my thoughts and my conversations I focused on the positive and let the negative lay to rest after my initial feelings of anger had had their time.
I will be doing a more in-depth blog about how to change your inner dialogue in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled.
3. Read ‘Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting’.
As I have just talked about in the above section, reading this book was the turning point in my change towards becoming more positive. The book was given to me by a friend’s Mum and she is someone who I really looked up to. She has created for herself an incredible life, full of many different adventures. She follows her heart and has fun doing it. I thought to myself ‘I am feeling the most crap that I have ever felt, so why not try a self-help book?’ After reading it the first time I wasn’t quite ready to take on board it’s teaching. I tried half-heartedly and didn’t see any improvements. ‘Self-help books are a crock and I could be doing something more productive with my time’, I told myself.
After a while though, I had made a few changes. I had started hanging out with a different group of friends and my perceptions had altered slightly. So I gave the book another go. Boy did it work this time! I absorbed the book like a sponge and loved every second of reading it. I followed the exercises and made a conscious effort to start to change my life. Slowly, I felt my inner dialogue start to change and my perception made another shift.
Again, this takes time. This is a ‘it won’t happen overnight but it will happen’ scenario. If you put in the time and the work, you can truly change your inner dialogue. I still occasionally catch myself slipping back into old Maggie habits, but now I have the right tools to whip out and change my direction. I try and read this book once a year. It has good reminders and keeps me on track. I also give it a quick read if I find myself in a tough situation and need some reminders.
This book will definitely not be for everyone, but give it a go. If it’s not for you then there will be something else out there that fits what you need.
4. I write lists to manage my stress.
I have always been someone who ignores my feelings (that is not how I became more positive. Ignoring your feelings is a bad idea!). Ignoring your feelings causes them to build up and this generally make things worse. For example, a few years ago I was working 2 jobs and still studying at university. Job number one, totally fine, I could just turn up do my work and then go home. Job number two, I was a dance teacher and we were in the middle of rehearsing for a show. University, end of year exams. I was under so much pressure from job number 2 to create a great show, including choreography and costumes. I was getting pressure from the boss to make sure all of the dancers knew what they were doing and I was pulling a lot of long hours to make sure everything was perfect (this is a tough industry for a perfectionist). Then add trying to study for exams into this mix and things were starting to fall apart. Instead of recognising the signs early on that things were not going so well, I soldiered on. The stress kept building, but I kept squashing it down. I was living on energy drinks and hope. Eventually, things came to a head and I ended up yelling at a parent and then cried and cried and cried and cried. Luckily the parent was someone I knew very well and after I apologised she helped me to deal with my stress. From that day, I vowed to make a change and I have mostly stuck to it.
So, in order for something like this to not happened again here is what I do to make sure life is manageable.
I write lists!
I love a good list! Lists are one of the best things ever invented, if you ask me. The reason lists are so useful for managing stress, is that they help you get everything out of your head. This gives you the ability to prioritise and rationalise. If you have a million things going on in your head and you feel overwhelmed then you are less productive, and becoming overwhelmed causes the stress to build. But writing everything down onto a to-do list gets it out of your head and gives you the ability to think about what needs to be done and figure out an order to be most productive. I often find that once I have written things down, there never seems to be as much to do as I thought. I also spend less time trying to remember everything that needs to be done because it’s written in front of me. Therefore, creating time for me to do more fun things.
So how does this relate to being positive? Well, more often than not being stressed means your energy is being used to focus on the stress instead of focusing on the things that make us happy. Bear in mind, I am not saying that writing a list will automatically eradicate all of your stress, but it will help to make it seem more manageable.
5. Accepting me for me.
‘I am fat’, ‘I hate my nose’, ‘I wish I looked like her’ or ‘why can’t I look like that’. These are all sentences that we have either used ourselves or we have heard others saying them. I, like many others out there, have spent a lot of time hating myself. This was especially true when I had broken up with my ex and wasn’t yet brave enough to completely let go. We spent a year or so still kind of seeing each other and he still had a massive hold on me. My self-esteem was already low from years of not being allowed to be myself. (Dancing and singing in public was way too embarrassing for this guy). Am I not good enough? Is there something wrong with me?
Where did my self-worth go?
These are questions I was constantly asking myself, but I had no self-esteem left to do anything about it. It was a cycle I couldn’t break. The more these types of questions went through my brain, the more I hated myself.
There wasn’t one big event that finally broke this cycle. And, to be honest, I cannot pinpoint a specific moment when everything changed. But, I do know that eventually I started realising I can change my dialogue. Just as I spoke about earlier. I can change the way I think about myself and I can gain my confidence back. It took years and it is still something I work on. I went on a quest to accept myself. I started small with things like: when I looked in the mirror, I would say to myself ‘You look good today!’ or I would find something to compliment about myself. I stopped looking for compliments from others. I stopped giving myself a hard time over things that weren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter if I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model. I am me and I am the only me. I have gifts and offerings to give to the world!
Accepting who you are and loving yourself is hard. But when you do find that place it is awesome! The best things in life came after I discovered this, and this encourages me to continue to work on loving myself.
Being a positive person is constant work. It gets easier and as time passes you do not have to make such a conscious effort. These are not fail safe strategies to become more positive and they may not work for you. These are just 5 strategies that I have used and have worked for me.