Dear Barb: I am a 25-year-old student completing my last year of university. As long as I can remember my friends have been telling me I’m too negative. I do tend to see the glass as half empty, rather than half full. My relationships rarely last longer than six months and I’m wondering if this is the reason. Do you know how I can become a more positive person before I lose all of my friends?
Kelly in Kincardine.
Hi Kelly. You may be right, as people tend to gravitate to upbeat positive people. Positive people give others hope and encouragement that things will work out. They bring out the best in others, whereas negative people often bring those around them down. Given a choice Kelly, which type of individual would you want to be around?
Also, studies have proven that positive thinking produces positive results. If you attempt to do something and believe you will be successful, you have a good chance of accomplishing your task. On the other hand, if you keep telling yourself you can’t do something, you will most likely fail.
There are many things you can do to become the kind of person with whom others enjoy spending time. Begin with your inner dialogue. Stop and listen to what is going on in your head. If your thoughts are always focusing on the worst that can happen, you need to change your outlook to see the other side of a situation. For example, if a friend introduces you to her new boyfriend, don’t look for what is wrong with him. Instead look for his good qualities. Then, when she asks you what you think of him, mention only good things. She will appreciate this much more, after all maybe what you see as his negative qualities, may not appear that way to her. As well, when approaching a new situation and that familiar voice in your head says, “you can’t do that, don’t even try,” change that can’t to can so the voice will say, “you can do it.” Every time a negative thought enters your mind, immediately replace it with a positive thought. This will be hard at first. You will have to constantly remind yourself as you keep slipping back into old habits.
Another way to become a more positive person is through reading inspirational books. There are many books available on this topic. A book that I read many years ago and I believe is still available is entitled The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (2002). Some other books available are the Feeling Good Handbook (1999) and Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (1999) both written by David D. Burns. Another book that you can purchase online at www.chapters.indigo.ca for only $8.50 is The Power Behind Positive Thinking by Eric Fellman (1997). If reading isn’t for you, many of these books are available on tape.
As you begin to notice the good things that happen rather than the bad, this will eventually become second nature. As a result, your friends will want to spend more time with you, hoping some of your upbeat energy will rub off on them. Also, when you see someone struggling to do something, offer encouraging words.
Many people spend much of their lives behaving a certain way simply because they do not think they can change. This is not true, you can change if you believe you can. Only you are in control of your thoughts. Consider the following quote by psychologist William James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” I hope this helps Kelly.
Burns, D. D. (1999). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Collins.
Burns, D. D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. Plume.
Fellman, E. (1997). The Power Behind Positive Thinking: Unlocking Your Spiritual Potential. HarperCollins Publishers.
Peale, N. V. (2002). The Power of Positive Thinking. Running Press Book Publishers.
E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.