how to find the good at work

Find-the-Good-at-Work


Today's post is part of Find the Good February, a month dedicated to finding the good in your life (and in yourself!). Each week features a unique theme, and this week's theme is WORK. 

 

Next week marks Positively Present's SEVENTH year anniversary! It's crazy to me that so much time has passed since I first launched the site, and even crazier that it went from a hobby (that I didn't even talk about...) to a full-time career! I love what I do, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue work that feels meaningful to me. That being said, it's still work. There are amazing, exciting days (like this one) and there are days I'd rather just stay in bed rather than tackle the less-than-fun tasks (taxes, I'm looking at you!). 

Whether you love what you do or you dread going to work each weekday, for most of us, work is a part of life -- and a part where we spend the majority of our time. (Especially if you work for yourself -- the line between work and life is always blending.) If work is where we spend the most time, shouldn't we make an effort to make the most of it? 

I know, I know -- it's so much easier said than done, especially if you don't love what you do. But, since it's Find the Good February, I think it's only right that we make an effort to find the good at work and make the most of the 9-to-5 grind. Here are some ideas for finding (or creating!) good things at work. 

 

SMILE AT PEOPLE. 

This might sound like a small thing, but smiling can make a big difference in your workday. Even if you don't feel smile-y, give it a try anyway. Smiling makes others happier, and it's even been shown to make you feel happier too! 

DISCUSS NON-WORK TOPICS. 

If you don't love your coworkers, you might not be thrilled at the idea of chatting with them any longer than necessary, but a little light-hearted conversation can make your day (and theirs) more enjoyable and interesting. 

GO OUTSIDE. 

Most of us are stuck inside for most of the day at our jobs, which can make them a bit draining. Make an effort to go outside for at least a short while every day and appreciate whatever nature you can find. 

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DO. 

I've started writing down everything I accomplish in a day and it makes me feel so much more fulfilled. You'd be really surprised by all you get done every day, and a "done" list is much more satisfying than a "to-do" list. 

This is seriously one of the BEST ways to find the good in your workday so I've created some PDFs that you can download and print to keep track of all you're getting done. 

Things-I-Did-Colordownload the COLOR version here

 

Things-I-Did
download the BLACK & WHITE version here


TAKE DEEP BREATHS. 

Work can be super stressful (even when you love your job), but no matter where you are or what you're doing, you have the power to control your mind and how you view a situation. Stay centered by taking deep breaths when you feel stressed. 


REFLECT ON YOUR SKILLS. 

Someone is paying you to do what you do, which is pretty awesome. A great way to find the good at work is to remind yourself of your skills. No matter how great or small, you're skilled at what you do. Be proud of that! 


MAKE WORK A HAPPIER PLACE.

If you feel happier at work, it'll be much easier to find the good around you. I recently wrote an article for LiveHappy, "5 Tips to Make Work Your Happy Place," and it's filled with ideas for creating a more positive work environment.  

 

Regardless of how you feel about your job, you have the power to cultivate positive, empowered thoughts about your work. Having worked at quite a few jobs I hated, I know how hard this can be sometimes, but the more you seek out the good and focus on that, the more you'll see of it. As the old saying goes, "You'll find what you look for." If you keep looking for ways that work sucks, you'll find all of the negatives. But if you focus on the good things about work -- i.e., you get paid to do it, there are some aspects you enjoy, you have a few nice coworkers, etc. -- you'll find more and more good things. And if you really can't find anything good about where you are, now is the time to make a change and find a job that you enjoy! 

  

 

Loving-Your-Self

Finding the good in the world around you is a form of self-love. Want to empower yourself with some more serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.


announcing... find the good february!

Find-the-Good-February

 

Today is the first day of Find the Good February: a month dedicated entirely to finding the good all around (and within) you! Read on for more details and info on this week's theme: finding the good ONLINE ... 

 

WHAT'S FIND THE GOOD FEBRUARY? 

I'll be honest: I've been dreading February for months. It's so silly, but the thought of a valentine-less Valentine's Day made me feel really down. Last month, I was feeling bummed (due to the post-holidays blues) and not at all looking forward to the cold and (romantic) love-less February so, instead of wallowing, I decided I needed to change my attitude big time. (As my mom used to always tell me when I was a kid, I was in need of an "attitude adjustment!")

The first thought that popped into my mind was to create a self-love campaign (based on some of the content in my e-books Finding Your Self and Loving Your Self), and I was initially really excited about this idea because, as you know, I believe self-love is absolutely vital. (It is, after all, the foundation for all of your relationships!) But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to focus on something even broader than self-love -- and that's when I got the idea for Find the Good February! 

I made the decision to dedicate the entire 29 days of February to focusing on finding the good in life -- online, at work, in my relationships, in myself, etc. Because, honestly, the best thing to do when you're having a hard time is to focus on being grateful for what's going right (instead of focusing on what's going wrong). So that's what Find the Good February is all about!

Get ready for a month of blog posts, Instagram goodness, and more -- dedicated entirely to finding the good in life. Each week will feature a different theme around the topic of finding the good, and this week's theme is all about finding the good ONLINE! 

 

FIND THE GOOD... ONLINE!

If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of negativity going on in the world, and a ton of it takes place online. There's bullying and negative comments and all kinds of hostility (especially when it comes to the upcoming presidential elections here in the US). It can be disheartening at times, but this week in Find the Good February, we're going to focus on two things (1) all of the wonderfully positive content online, and (2) celebrating and spreading positive content as much as we can! 

This week, I encourage you to...

  1. FIND POSITIVE CONTENT. 

    I know it's hard to find sometimes, but it's out there. There are people all over the world writing and creating and sharing uplifting content. It's so amazing that we can all be connected online in so many ways and that we have the power to create and share things with others. This week, seek out positive online content. Try not to click on anything that promotes negativity, and, instead, focus on the things online that bring positivity, encouragement, and joy into the world. 

  2. THANK THE CREATOR. 

    The best thing you can do when you discover positive content online is tell the person who created it how much you like it. Those who create and share online content would love know that you enjoyed an article, painting, photograph, meme, tweet, etc. Drop the creator a quick email (or leave a comment on his/her site) to let him or her know how much you enjoyed what s/he created. Even if this person is a big-time creator and receives tons of messages, take the time to leave yours too. You never lose out by sharing your gratitude!

  3. SHARE POSITIVE CONTENT. 

    Another excellent way to focus on the goodness online this week is by sharing the positive content that you find, spreading the goodness and allowing others to experience it. When you find something really uplifting, spread the word about it by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. Or, if online sharing isn't your thing, email a link to a friend (or, if you're really old school, print and mail an article or image). Not only will you brighten your someone else's day, but you'll also help creators spread positive content. (As an added bonus, it also just feels nice to share something positive with others!) And don't forget to use the hashtag #FindTheGoodFebruary

  4. SPREAD SOME ONLINE LOVE. 

    It's important to find and share positive content this month (and always!), but another great thing you can do is create your own goodness by sharing the online love this month. Like as many things as you can on Facebook and Instagram. Retweet tweets and leave comments on your friends' Facebook and Instagram posts. Do you know how long it takes to leave a comment like "Love it!" or "Looking good!"? A matter of seconds -- and it can make someone's day. Clicking a "like" button takes even less time. Of course, the world shouldn't revolve around likes and hearts and comments, but these are small little things you can do that really make others feel nice, so why not spend a few extra moments this week doling out some serious online love? 

  5. HASHTAG IT! #FINDTHEGOODFEBRUARY

    I'd love to see what kinds of good things you find online. When you share on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #FindTheGoodFebruary so we can all share in the good things that we find. :) Hopefully this can become an annual event and every time we're struggling to stay positive or need some inspiration, we can click on #FindTheGoodFebruary and find all kinds of great, empowering, enlivening content!

 

MY FAVORITE ONLINE FINDS

To kick off the week of finding online goodness, I'm going to share some of my current favorite online finds with the hope that you'll enjoy them too! The first thing I've been really loving is the CaseApp website, where you can design your own phone case! I created the one below so I can remind myself to find the good all month long. Want to create one? From today until February 8, 2016, get 20% off on a custom case from CaseApp with the code POSITIVELY20. (If you want to create this exact one, you can download the PNG file here.)

  CaseApp Sample


The next thing I've really been loving in the online world lately is YouTube. I've never really understood all of the hype about YouTubers until the six months or so when I really started watching them. There's something really wonderful about following along with others' adventures and getting a glimpse into their lives. Some of my favorite YouTubers of the moment: Zoella, Sprinkle of Glitter, Anna Saccone, and Tanya Burr. Check them out for some lifestyle tips, inspiration, and more.

Third on my list of current online favorites is: Caroline Winegeart's Made Vibrant. I've been loving Caroline's work for quite awhile now, but I recently took her course (Your First E-Course) and was reminded of how talented and awesome she is. Her weekly newsletter always makes me think differently and feel inspired (and this is coming from someone who hates weekly newsletters!). Plus, she's been doing this amazing Abstract Affirmations series that combines her beautiful artwork with inspiring words and I absolutely l-o-v-e it. So, if you're a creative soul looking for bright, beautiful, brilliant inspiration, check out Caroline and Made Vibrant! 

Those are just a few of the positive online finds I've rounded up, but you can keep on top of my favorite things (and find new sources of inspiration) with my weekly Positively Present Picks, featuring links I love, books I'm reading, and a brand new playlist every Friday.  

 

I'd love to see what goodness you find online this week! Feel free to share it in the comments section or with me via social media. And feel free to share your own work / writing / sites too! 

 

  

Finding-Self-Cover

You know where else you can find good stuff? In yourself! If you're looking for some more soul-searching inspiration, check out the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.


feeling sad? try these quick pick-me-ups!

When-Youre-Sad

 

January is always a bit of a sad month for me -- and I know I'm not alone in this. For a lot of people, it's a gloomy, gray month filled with the dreaded post-holiday blues. It's back-to-work after a couple of months of fun-filled activities, and it's a especially tough time for anyone who suffers from SAD. About a year ago, I drew the image above when I was having a hard time after the holidays (it's always such a letdown when they're over, isn't it?), and I spotted it recently when I was flipping through my old sketchbook. 

Just like last year, this January has been less-than-stellar for me. I've always disliked this month, though I'm not sure if it's because of the post-holiday blues, the weather, or just the coincidence that things seem to get harder for me when the first month of the year rolls around. Whatever the reason, January is usually tough. And this one has been no exception. It's been filled with a lot of uncertainty and moments of unhappiness. When I rediscovered this image I created, I realized that it would be a good time to start taking my own advice -- and to share it, just in case anyone else out there could use some suggestions for those sad days. 

Whether you're going through a sad situation (a loss, a break-up, etc.) or you're just having a bit of a down day, these are some of the best ways I've found to feel a little happier when I'm feeling low. If you have any other tips or tricks you use when you're feeling sad, I'd love to hear them in the comments section below! 

 

WRITE YOURSELF A LOVE LETTER

Self-love is a great place to start when you're having a down day. Take a few minutes to write up a letter to yourself about all of the reasons you're awesome. This might sound like vanity or excessive self-pride, but it's actually really helpful when you're feeling sad. It shifts your focus from what's wrong to what's right. (If you find it too hard to write a love letter to yourself, give a gratitude list a try. Gratitude is a great way to focus on happiness!)

 

SMILE IN THE MIRROR

Smiling at yourself in the mirror can be a great little pick-me-up, even when you don't at all feel like smiling. (In fact, science shows that smiling might actually make you feel happier!) If you're a lipstick-wearer, it can also be fun to add a bright red or pink lip. It'll add a little fanciness to that smile of yours. You'll probably feel silly when you first try it, but that's part of the fun. Usually you'll feel so silly that you'll start laughing at yourself, which is a great mood booster. 

 

TAKE A NAP

While I'm not a big nap-taker personally, I know there's a lot of science that says a well-timed nap can make you feel a lot better (particularly if you're sleep-deprived, something that can happen when your feeling sad or stressed). Even if you don't love naps, give yourself time to rest and relax. Sadness --  even just a little dip in your mood -- can be exhausting, and you deserve a nice little rest. When you're sad, give yourself permission to take time for rest. 

 

TREAT YOUR SELF

Inspired by this episode of Parks & Recreation, one thing you can try when you're feeling bad is give yourself a little treat. Go grab a favorite scoop of ice cream, order a pizza, schedule a spa day, buy yourself a new book -- whatever it is you love, treat yourself to it! Of course, sadness can't be bought (or eaten...) away, but I've found that it's really nice to have a little treat when I'm feeling sad. 

 

PUT ON A GREAT OUTFIT

When you're down in the dumps, it's so tempting to sit around in sweatpants, fueling that sad feeling. While I'm not at all against sweatpants (I love them), I've found that it's really useful to get up and get dressed in something you really feel great in. Consider what outfit always makes you feel great about yourself and put that on -- even if you're just staying at home. Decking out in your best gear will give your mood a boost. 

 

DRINK SOME TEA

Drinking tea has a ton of health benefits, which makes it a great go-to when you're feeling sad. Not only is it healthy, but I've found that the warmth of it can be really soothing (especially during the cold month of January!). Sadness won't ever be cured with a cup of tea, but it's a nice way to add a bit of warmth and calm into your day. For an additional happiness boost, give a new kind a try. Doing something new is a good way to perk up your brain! 

 

CALL A FRIEND

One of the absolute best ways to cheer yourself up when you're sad is calling a good (and positive!) friend. You know that person who always knows how to find the good in a situation? Or the one that makes you feel like a rockstar when you're down? Call him or her up for a chat -- and a mood boost. Another great option is to create a connection with someone positive. Check out the Happiness Amplification Project to learn more about increasing happiness.  

 

LISTEN TO HAPPY SONGS

Sad songs can be alluring when you're feeling sad, but, believe me, happy songs are the way to go. Check out my Stay Positive! playlist on YouTube if you don't have a lot of happy songs in your life. Happy tunes can really boost your mood, and they work even better if you move to the music. One of my go-to tactics for down days is putting on some positive songs and dancing around my apartment. It sounds (and probably looks) silly, but it's a great way to feel happier. 

 

BUY YOURSELF FLOWERS

I'll admit -- I'm not big on flowers myself. I'd much rather have a box of chocolates or a playlist full of songs. But I know a lot of people benefit from the bright hues and floral scents that flowers bring to a room. So if you're feeling down, pick up some flowers for yourself as a little mood boost. And if flowers aren't your thing, find a way to focus on colors, sights, or scents that make you feel happy. 

 

LIGHT A CANDLE

Another great scent-related mood booster comes from lighting a candle. Not only is it pretty (and it sets the mooood), but if you pick a scent you love, it'll perk you up a little bit. I personally love anything that is sickeningly sweet (think: fresh baked cake, frosted sugar cookies, etc.), but there's a candle out there for every single scent preference. Try making your dinner a candlelit one or taking a bubble bath surrounded by scented candles.  

 

WRITE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

Writing is my outlet when things aren't going well. Whenever I feel sad, I grab a pen or my laptop and pour out my feelings, and, man, does it feel good. Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, writing about how you feel can be so cathartic and clarifying. Often it's when I write that I find solutions to my problems or uncover a perspective I hadn't thought of before. And the great thing is -- you can get it all out you and not show it to a soul. 

 

MAKE SOMETHING

I love creating things, and it's one of the quickest ways for me to boost my mood. Not only does it feel good to make something that no longer existed before, it's also a great way to get out of your mind (and rumination on sad thoughts) and direct your focus to what you're working on. While it's never a good idea to ignore your feelings, sometimes it's good to take a break from them and create something with your hands. 

 

TAKE A WALK

Another way to break the rumination cycle is to go for a walk. Take a turn around the block, visit a local park, or go for a power-walk at your local mall. It doesn't matter where you walk -- just get out of where you've been feeling sad and experience a new environment (with a little light exercise thrown in!). Add a soundtrack if you like (like my Relaxing Walk playlist) to keep excessive rumination at bay. 

 

READ A GOOD BOOK

Nothing feels quite as wonderful as good book (at least, if you're a book nerd like me!). A really captivating book can take your mind away from your sadness and allow you to focus on a story that's far away from wherever you are. Choose a genre that really appeals to you and set aside some quite, alone time to spend turning pages and becoming absorbed in someone else's words. You can check out what I'm reading on GoodReads (and check out my book here!). 

 

WATCH A FUNNY FILM

Another great way to cheer yourself up is to watch a really funny film. My go-to film for sad days is Elf. I don't care what the season; if I'm having a down day, it's going on the TV. If you have a film like that -- one that you always want to watch when you're feeling down, a sad day is the perfect time to put it on. And if you don't have a favorite? Ask a friend for a recommendation or check online for good ideas. 

 

LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE

The absolute best thing you can do for yourself when you're sad is focusing on the big picture. Whatever's causing your sadness might feel overwhelming and all-encompassing at the moment, but it will get easier to cope with in time. In most cases, what's got you down today won't matter in a year -- or even in a month. And even if it will, the pain will lessen as time goes on. Also, I've found it helpful to look up at the stars and realize just how small I am in this crazily huge universe. It helps, I promise. 

 

Like it or not, sadness is part of life. We all have our down days. We all have the moments that break our hearts, the times when we just feel like crying. But there are lots of little things you can do to help yourself cope with sadness. The tips I've listed above are useful for bouts of heartache or a bit of post-holiday blues. If you think you might be suffering from serious sadness or depression, please reach out to a loved one or a therapist and seek help. We can be happy every moment of our lives, but we all deserve as much happiness as possible. If you're just feeling a little down, hang in there. You're not alone -- and it will get easier!

 

 

Finding-Self-Cover

If you're looking for some more soul-searching inspiration, check out the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.


what are you doing for others? : 100 great ideas

What-are-you-doing-mlk

 

If you love quotes like I do, you'll know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of many wise words. While I was searching through his quotes the other day, the one above stopped me in my tracks. Due to the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time focusing on the self (and encouraging others to do the same). A lot of my work is based on turning one's gaze inward and finding ways to make life better from the inside out. Self-love and self-knowledge are some of my favorite topics to write about because I believe the relationship you have with yourself is the foundation for all your relationships. (For more on building this foundation, check out Finding Your Self and Loving Your Self.) But, of course, cultivating self-love and a positive attitude is only part of equation for living a positive and present life. Another huge aspect is doing what you can to make the world a more positive place. 

When I first read this quote, I immediately thought, What am I doing for others? What am I doing on a daily basis to make the world a more positive place? What I love most about what I do for work is that I have the power to positively impact the lives of others online. I have the opportunity to reach out to others and share what I've learned about living a more positive, more present life. While this is nothing on the level of a positive impact of someone like MLK, it does feel good to know that, in some small way, I might be doing something for someone else. And, even if you don't have a positivity-focused job, I bet you have some area of your life in which you positively impact others -- coworkers, family members, kids, friends, etc. 

We all have the power to do something kind for others, to make the world a better place by taking positive action (even if we don't all have the opportunity to be inspirational activists and leaders like MLK!), but sometimes when life gets busy or we're overwhelmed by our own stress, we can forget about the positive power we wield on a daily basis. In honor of MLK (and positive, forward-thinking leaders everywhere), I encourage you to embrace that power and do (at least!) one small positive thing on the list below to make someone else's life just a little bit better.  

  1. Write a letter to a friend that lives far away
  2. Call up a relative who might be lonely
  3. Bring your neighbor's paper up to the door
  4. Sign up to volunteer at a local shelter
  5. Bake a special treat for someone you love
  6. Be on time when meeting up with others
  7. Read a story aloud to a child you know
  8. Let someone else go ahead in line
  9. Pay for the person's coffee behind you
  10. Give a generous tip to a service person
  11. Like every photo on your Instagram feed
  12. Send flowers to someone who loves them
  13. Plant something in honor of someone
  14. Visit the gravesite of someone you've lost
  15. Take your dog for a long, fun walk
  16. Give your significant other a massage
  17. Send an "I love you" text just because
  18. Let someone else win a silly argument
  19. Forgive someone who's hurt you
  20. Do someone else's chores for him/her
  21. Play with animals in a shelter (or adopt!)
  22. Make someone else's favorite meal 
  23. Send an email to an author/blogger you love
  24. Connect two people who might hit it off
  25. Make someone else laugh with a joke
  26. Offer to run an errand for a busy friend
  27. Respond with kindness to someone unkind
  28. Smile at every neighbor you see today
  29. Text an old friend to reconnect
  30. Donate things you don't use to a shelter
  31. Send a "just because" gift to a friend
  32. Make (and share!) a list someone's good traits
  33. Send a friend an old photo of you two
  34. Pay for someone's meal at a restaurant
  35. Stand up for someone who's in trouble
  36. Write to Congress re: an issue you value
  37. Donate old books to your local library
  38. Volunteer to read to others who cannot
  39. Spend time chatting with an elderly neighbor
  40. Offer to wash your parents' cars
  41. Post nice comments on social media
  42. Draw a picture for a child
  43. Visit children at a local hospital
  44. Speak up for voiceless animals
  45. Donate time or money to a good cause
  46. Put someone else's needs before yours
  47. Share your favorite blog with a friend
  48. Positively review a product you love
  49. Offer to babysit a friend's kids
  50. Smile at people in cars next to yours
  51. Bring a loved one breakfast in bed
  52. Compliment a complete stranger
  53. Give your pet an extra special treat
  54. Offer to work late for a coworker
  55. Clean up someone else's mess
  56. Warm up a loved one's car 
  57. Give someone a huge, bear hug
  58. Make a special lunch for someone
  59. Get your coworker's coffee for him/her
  60. Offer to take notes for someone else
  61. Help someone with a task you do well
  62. Send anonymous flowers to a friend
  63. Let a car cut in front in traffic
  64. Tell a heart-warming story to a friend
  65. Give a great book to a bookworm
  66. Grocery shop for a parent / neighbor
  67. Drop off dog/cat food at a shelter
  68. Tip someone you don't have to tip
  69. Speak to a manager about good service
  70. Offer to take a photo for selfie-snappers
  71. Write a (handwritten!) thank you note
  72. Fill up someone's parking meter
  73. Leave a positive note on someone's car
  74. Give what you can to a homeless person
  75. Take flowers to a nearby nursing home
  76. Compliment a parent on his/her child
  77. Point out the positive to someone
  78. Tell someone why you love him or her
  79. Put your phone away while with others
  80. Talk to someone who looks shy
  81. Make a playlist or CD for a friend
  82. Pick up litter and throw it away
  83. Give someone else the parking space
  84. Write your mail carrier a nice note
  85. Include everyone in a conversation
  86. Text "good morning!" to a friend
  87. Plant a tree at your local park
  88. Encourage someone's efforts
  89. Bring in a sweet treat for coworkers
  90. Go to Coinstar and donate your change
  91. Sign up to attend a fundraiser
  92. Call your parents (or grandparents)
  93. Buy a product from a small business
  94. Help someone with bags / boxes
  95. Share your gratitude with your parents
  96. Sign up to become an organ donor
  97. Give a homeless person a coat / blanket
  98. Donate in someone else's name
  99. Teach a child how to do something
  100. Ask someone, "How can I help you today?"

 

The things on this list might seem small in comparison with the acts of great leaders, but did you know that kindness is contagious? Yep, it's true! Doing something kind for someone else makes it more likely that person will do something kind and then there's a ripple effect. So, it might seem like doing one small, positive thing isn't a big deal, but small things can have a big impact!

Have any additional acts of kindness to add to this list? Feel free to share them in the comments section below! 

 


happy is not a choice: the difference between happiness + positivity

Positivity
 

 

You've probably heard quotes like "happiness is a choice" or "if you want to be happy, be" or "people are as happy as they make up their minds to be." (I'm probably guilty of using these words. Scroll through my Instagram feed and I bet you'll find "choose happy" or something along those lines amidst my many quote-themed photos.) In theory, these quotes come from a good place. They're meant to highlight the notion that, though you don't always have control of your circumstances, you have control over how you feel. 

Except... that's not true.  

Quotes like "choose happiness" or "think happy thoughts" aim to convey the idea that, no matter what happens, you have control over what you think, but what they actually convey is that you have control over what you feel. But there's a big difference between what you think and how you feel, and the idea that thoughts and feelings are interchangeable is potentially very damaging because, much as you might want to, you can't control how you feel. And you can't control happiness because happiness is a feeling. You can't just choose to be happy when your dog just died or your wife just left or you're suffering from depression. You can't choose to be happy when you just found out your child has cancer or your parents are abusive or your doctor just diagnosed you with a chronic illness. 

If you've ever experienced any of these things (or any other heart-breaking, painful, or sad situation), you know this is the truth. No matter how much you want to be happy, sometimes you just cannot be. This is normal and to be expected because happiness is a way of feeling, not a way of thinking.  

While feeling isn't something you can control, thinking is. The literal definition of to feel is "to experience an emotion." To think is defined as "to direct one's mind toward someone or something." Experiencing an emotion just happens. You feel sad when something saddens you. You feel happy when something (or someone!) makes you happy. You can (sometimes) decide whether or not you get carried away with your emotions, but you can't control whether you have them in the first place.  

You feel how you feel when you feel it, and feelings can't be changed by words like "be happy!" or "think happy thoughts!" As anyone who's faced serious trauma or heartbreak knows, in the midst of true pain and loss, happy thoughts are not an option. But what is an option is thinking positively. Happiness is not always an option, but positive thinking always is. Let's take a closer look at how they're different... 

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITIVITY + HAPPINESS 

You might be saying to yourself right about now, Aren't positivity and happiness basically the same thing? Aren't "positive thoughts" and "happy thoughts" the same?  No, they are not the same, and the difference between them is very, very important (especially for anyone striving to live a positively present life!). 

Fleeting Emotion vs. Logical Choice

As I said before, happiness is an emotion. Emotions, as a rule, are fleeting. Some last longer than others, but there are very rarely entire days when you are happy. Even when things are going incredibly well and you're having an amazing day, you're not actually experiencing true happiness and joy that entire day. (Same goes for negative emotions too — no matter how difficult the situation, you usually experience a range of emotions, not just "sad," and even in the most challenging of times, positive feelings like hope and even happiness can be experienced.) 

On the other hand, positive thinking is an active choice — the decision to focus on the possibility of good results or seek out the goodness in any situation or person (good or bad). Positive thinking is logical, not emotional. It's more about using your head than it is about using your heart. It's about taking whatever you experience (and feel) and trying your best to make the most of the situation (even if the situation is terrible). 

Experiencing vs. Learning

Happiness must be experienced. Positivity, on the other hand, is something that can be learned and practiced by everyone. No matter what's going on in your life, you can strive for a positive attitude. You can also practice it (and get better at it!), which is something you can't do with happiness. You can fake happiness, but that's not the same as practicing it. You're either happy or you're not. You can't learn to be happier, and you certainly can't force yourself to feel (truly) happy when you just don't feel that way.

A lot of people struggle because of the notion that you can somehow become happier overall by doing something external (getting a better job, falling in love, buying the newest gadget) but those kinds of things only provide a burst of happiness that will eventually fade until we find that next "happiness high." Happiness can be gained from external things, but it won't last because it's merely an emotion. Instead of focusing on experiences, it's much more useful to spend time and energy learning how to find the good in any situation (rather that striving for short bursts of happiness). 

Unique Feeling vs. Similar Thinking

Another major difference between happiness and positivity is this: happiness is incredibly unique. (This is why it's such a hard topic to study and deeply comprehend.) What fills your heart with joy might not even register on my happiness radar. It's kind of like love in a way (except it usually doesn't last as long): it's something we all experience at some point, but it's hard to put it into words because we all experience it so differently and for such different reasons.

Also, because happiness is a feeling, it's experienced in unique ways too. If you and I were both to think of a time when we were incredibly happy, we might have very different reactions to that memory even if we both labeled it as a "happy" time. From a mental and a physical standpoint, we all experience happiness differently. However, when it comes to positive thinking, we can all practice similar techniques. We all know what it means to try to find the good in a situation (even if we find different kinds of goodness). Positive thinking is a logical, thought-driven experience. It's something we can all understand and, most of the time, experience in a similar way. For this reason, it's much easier to share and teach to others. (And, as an added bonus, the more someone practices positive thinking, the more happiness s/he is likely to experience.) 

Big Picture vs. Present Moment

Whatever you experience (good and bad) can impact your happiness levels. It's hard to be happy if aspects of your life (some of which might be out of your control) aren't going well. For example, let's say you're having a really great day at work and you receive an unexpected promotion. This should make you really happy, right? It might — but it might not make you happy for very long if something really unhappy is happening in another area of life. You can't experience true happiness when certain areas of your life are negative, uncertain, or unhappy. Happiness focuses on the big picture. This isn't a bad thing, but it's an important difference from positivity, which isn't at all concerned with (or impacted by) the big picture.

Positive thinking focuses on the current moment and determining what you can gain from that experience or interaction. It's about making the most of whatever is happening to you right now. It should not tainted by what has already happened or what could happen (unless you're recalling a time in which you struggled with a difficult situation and overcame it, reminding yourself that you're strong enough to survive whatever you're currently going through). Positivity is about taking whatever's happening and trying to make it as good as it can possibly be, regardless of what's going on in other areas of your life or what might happen in the future. 

There are some major differences between happiness and positivity, but making the differentiation between happiness and positivity isn't meant to make "positive" seem better than "happy," or to put down happiness in anyway. It's only meant to show that there is a big difference. Here's why this difference matters...

 

WHY THE DIFFERENCE MATTERS

After reading about the differences between happiness and positivity you might be thinking, So what? Why does this matter? It matters because so many people use these very different terms as if they are interchangeable, and this can lead to damaging beliefs in those who read/hear phrases like "if you want to be happy, be happy!" or "choose to be happy!" 

Because happiness is not a choice, when people are told to be happy and they're unable to achieve a happy state (because they're in a bad situation, because they have a chemical imbalance that doesn't allow them to be happy often, or for any other reason), they feel like failures. If happiness is promoted as something that can just be chosen, like pulling an item off a store's shelf, those who cannot seem to "choose" it feel as though there is something wrong with them. On the other hand, if you were to suggest to someone who is struggling that s/he "think positively" (accompanied by suggestions for how to actually do it), those words might actually be useful and encouraging. Happiness is not an action that can simply be chosen, and suggesting it is can actually cause feelings of frustration, confusion, and even self-loathing. 

And speaking of self-loathing, one of the other reasons using happiness and positive thinking are used interchangeably is: it causes a lot of people (most of us, in fact!) to strive for something that is unattainable: a lasting, permanent state of happiness. Due to many popular culture messages about happiness, many of us believe we should strive for happiness most of the time, even when we're sad or struggling, even when we're stressed or heartbroken. 

As Dan Harris writes in 10% Happier, the “pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.” If you're striving for a constant state of happiness — a fleeting emotion that rarely lasts for an extended period of time and that sometimes comes from negative sources, like abused substances, the approval of negative people, unhealthy activities, etc. — you're bound to be, at the very least, disappointed a good deal of the time. You might feel guilty when you don't feel happy when everything is going well or confused when you experience happiness during difficult times.

Making an emotion (happiness) a life-long goal is a pretty great way to set yourself up for a lot of disappointment and stress. While there will (hopefully!) be many, many moments of happiness in your life, no one is happy every single moment of every single day, and striving for that is like spending your life hoping to find an actual pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. This isn't meant to leave you feeling as if happiness is some crazy dream that'll never be made real; it's only meant to show how the pursuit of happiness isn't what leads to true fulfillment. Happiness comes in amazing, fleeting moments that we're all lucky to experience from time to time. And the best way to keep an eye out for these moments (and make the most of them when they happen!) is to focus on positive thinking, on seeking out the good in your life, no matter where you find yourself. 

Rather that focusing on choosing happiness, what we should be focusing on is thinking positively. Remember: we can't choose how we feel, but we can choose how we think about those feelings (and whatever it was that caused us to feel that way). Instead of focusing so much being happy, what we should be focusing on is how we can make the most of our lives (both the happy and the sad parts). 

When we see something that tells us to simply "be happy," we should question that request and think about how the notion of happiness-as-a-choice is actually impacting our lives. Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking happy thoughts or gravitating toward things that make you happy, but it's important to keep in mind that happiness (no matter how great!) is fleeting. If you're looking for lasting contentment, learning the art of positive thinking is the best place to put your time and energy. 

 

 

Loving-Your-Self

Positive thinking can be tough when it comes to self-contemplation, which is why it's so important to focus on self-love. Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.