They say that gratitude is the highest form of prayer. I think enjoying your life is a form of gratitude. I want to enjoy my life and treasure its moments even when it’s hard. The easiest way for me to be able to do that is to keep my life free of negativity. Negativity is a complete soul suck. Nothing good ever comes of it.
Two years ago I went on a 90 Day No Negativity Challenge. I thought I would take a little break from all the negativity that seemed to be swirling around me. I was eventually nudged into what Thomas Merton calls the wilderness of my own interior journey. If we are lucky we take that journey several times in our life time. The challenge was a defining time in my life and I’m still experiencing its impact. On the surface not very much has changed. I still teach school, drive an old truck with music cranked up too loud and sing better than I fiddle. I paddle when there’s water and time and try to keep the house from falling down around my ears. I still think I’m going to meet a blue eyed, guitar playing cowboy who paddles a red Caption.
There are two subtle differences in my life since my challenge. One is how happy I am even when things are not going well. And things don’t always go well. I get sick, a tree falls on a neighbor’s fence, I lose money that I can’t afford, you know all those things that fall under the heading of being a grown up. The other difference is the quality of people who are in my life. At the end of the challenge some people simply no longer fit my life and while I mourned their passing I trusted the unfolding of my life and let them go. The majority of people in my life now are people like I want to be and hope I am. They are souls who embrace the fullness of life with confidence and joy that is contagious.
Here are my top ten tips for keeping free of negativity. If you are anything like me, you know, human, you need the reminder.
1. Stop complaining, criticizing, or blaming.
It is the worst thing we do to ourselves and each other. It is not reality. It doesn’t mean you are wise or have any answers. It simply means that you aren’t happy and only you can change that. Stop complaining for one day or one moment and see you aren’t happier. The things you complain about will still be there, but you will either change them or let them go.
2. Stay silent.
This is a big one for me because I like words and I like to talk. A woman I knew as OldBlonde who supported me on the challenge said, “The person who stays silent has all the power,” and “If it’s not a question, it doesn’t need an answer.” Rebecca bounced into my classroom during our planning period with this quote, “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” Words to live by for sure.
3. Joe Friday is an angel.
Do you remember Dragnet? “The facts ma’am, just the facts.” This should be simple, but listen to how often you embellish the facts with your fears that you justify and take a gospel. Your perceptions about why someone does something are not facts, they are your perceptions and more often than not they are wrong.
4. Stay in the moment.
Where’s your attention? It should be on right now, not what was or could be. Notice how often you are living in the future you are afraid of or the past that still haunts you and return to the joy of the present moment.
5. Know what your triggers are and prepare for them.
Mine is first thing in the morning. I’m least prepared for the onslaught of my own thoughts before I’ve had a pot of tea. I’ve learned to chant or pray the minute I’m awake. When I am chanting or praying there is no room for negative thoughts. I align myself with something more powerful and much more positive. That’s important because what you put in your mind comes out in your life.
6. Keep some of yourself to yourself.
Don’t throw yourself out to everyone full tilt. Hold back some. You are not mangy dog that is begging to be scratched with a stick as the Sweet Potato Queens would say. I’ve become much more discerning about who I bring into my life since my challenge. I want to be around people who are positive, enthusiastic, and encouraging because they make it easier to be creative and take risks.
7. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t think it.
When I had trouble controlling my negative thoughts I hit on the idea of thinking about how I would feel if my thoughts were projected on a giant screen on the interstate for the whole world to see. It stopped me in my tracks because, (one more time), what you think matters. What you put in your mind comes out in your life.
8. Take care of yourself.
You are the only you the world has and we need your gifts. Whatever that means to you do it. Taking care of yourself and your inner flame is the most selfless thing you can do. I eat better; make sure I get enough sleep, and exercise, and spend as little time with toxic or negative people as I can.
9. Life is an adventure and what happens is all part of the wilderness experience of being human.
Treat it like a trip to a far away land that you paid big bucks for and enjoy it. The trip is paid for. All you gotta do is enjoy it. No one has a monopoly on sorrow or suffering. If you are a human being you will suffer. It’s your response to that suffering that determines your experience. Stop complaining, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with what you need to do to change things. Being negative doesn’t help. It just keeps you stuck and the only person who can change that is you.
The best thing about being human besides cowboys, sex, and chocolate is that every moment of everyday we get to choose. So choose, it’s either fear or love baby. I’m choosing love. What about you?