I had the privilege of hearing Jon Gordon speak at a Capital Associated Industries conference recently. He is the author of several books but the one quote I took away from the lecture was “Be positive! You can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.” How true is that! When was the last time you were stressed while praying or meditating? So when you’re running late for work; be thankful that you have a job and a car that’s working.
Jon Gordon’s recent book is “The Positive Dog”. It talks about how positivity in your relationships and at work will not only make it better for you but for those around you as well. Haven’t we all been there? You know who the Debbie Downers of the world are; and you try and stay clear of them. The guy who is constantly saying that the sky is falling? Yeah. Skip lunch with him. You’ll have a gun to your head if you hang out with him for too long. Positivity rules. And it is the ultimate stress buster.
Here are some tips on how to increase your positivity:
1. Stop. The minute you start catastrophizing some adverse event, you need to STOP. In Martin Seligman‘s book “Learned Optimism”, he recommends physically hitting the wall and saying “Stop!” If there isn’t a wall handy, try a rubber band on your wrist and snap it (hard) and say “Stop!” As Seligman says, this disrupts the thoughts. So if you are thinking your daughter was in a car accident because she is 10 minutes late, just smack yourself and say “Stop!”
2. Truth. As Byron Katie says in her book “Loving What Is”, is it the truth? If you are telling your self that your boss hates you, that your spouse doesn’t love you or that you’ve blown your diet; take a second look. Stuff a sock in your Inner Dictator, and ask yourself if it’s true. Dust off the evidence and analyze what you know to be absolutely true. What evidence do you have other than what your Inner Dictator has said? The boss is in the middle of an acquisition and is overwhelmed. Your spouse is working overtime and needs some appreciation. One brownie and a glass of Zinfandel is not blowing a diet. Make sure you know the truth.
3. Spill. Set the timer, grab a pen and spill your guts on paper. Dump all the worries, self-doubt and demons on some good old college ruled paper. This is amazingly freeing. Suddenly the stage of your prefrontal cortex is wide open, now that you have all the villains, bad actors and stage hands safely cleared off. Getting it all on paper and out of your head is such a relief. From there, light a match and literally “burn up your worries”. Spill your guts so you can look at the positive.
4. Blessings. Count your blessings. Inspiring coach Michele Woodward recommends counting three things you are thankful for before you get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I cheat and count ten things I’m thankful for. Being grateful starts your day off with optimism. It might just be the roof over your head, your hardworking spouse and your dog (who is happy to see you no matter the circumstances…actually I’m usually the one that feeds her and she knows where her bread is buttered). An attitude of gratitude is an attraction magnet. Who would you rather hang out with, Sue Ann Nivens or Simon Cowell? I’m guessing the one who counts their blessings.
5. Discourse. Martin Seligman also recommends getting a close trusted friend and modeling the self talk in your head through some discourse. Your role is to take the positive angle and your trusted buddy takes your normal self talk of pessimism. So your buddy starts off with “You messed up that project and everyone is disgusted with you. You are so lazy”. You respond with, “It’s true I delivered the project late but the project itself was spot on. I know my boss was upset it was late, but he appreciated the quality of the project. I’m a hard worker. I was just a little overwhelmed and that caused me to be late.” The point is, that if you get good at arguing for you instead of against you (in your self talk), it will become second nature to stand up for yourself against your inner dictator. Grab a buddy and engage in discourse.
It’s amazing how much stress can be created by our inner dictator. Embracing optimism and positivity can have a huge impact on your ability to roll with the punches. The most important thing that Martin Seligman has found in his research is that you can learn to be optimistic. I hope a few of these techniques will help be a stress buster in your life.