The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges
~ Martin Luther King Jr

Recently as I was driving I found myself yelling at every driver…too fast…too slow…you’re in my way…

You name it I was saying it and it wasn’t nice…and as I was getting revved up, I found this feeling staying with me all day and on the ride home.  I have an hour drive both ways to work, so it is not always a pleasant ride especially when you are so negative.  And then it hit me…my God I am so negative, but why?  What is going on?

The answer is life is going on and it can be down right nasty some days, but does it have to be??  So I sat myself down and pondered this…I was not liking how I was feeling and I had to change it quick or I was going to be in trouble…

Suddenly the light bulb went on and it hit me hard…I had gotten myself into a cycle of negativity, and the topper was I was feeding the negativity.  It really became clear when I was reading Brené Brown’s book, Gifts of Imperfection.  She talks about scarcity, and how from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep we just keep saying how we never have enough (fill in the blank)….time, money, sleep, looks and on and on and on…

How can you ever be happy if you are always thinking you never have enough….so how could I get out of this cycle?

First Frog in the Pond

This cycle of negativity feeds on itself and grows and before you know it you are a downright grouch.  And it gets worse.  This negativity feeds stress, and gets that ramped up so now your body starts to react with your mind.  For me it means lack of sleep which leads to migraines which leads to wanting comfort foods which leads to eating or binging on sugar and bad carbs which leads to body aches and pains not to mention weight gain which is exacerbated by the lack of sleep…well you can see how this can get uglier and uglier.

These physical issues then wreak havoc on my mental state.  I get depressed, moody and can even wind up in an emotional tailspin not to mention the intellectual shutdown that occurs…pretty sad, but I am finding this cycle is all too common in our hectic, crazy lives these days.

So enough of this negativity.  I have decided to stop feeding it and instead try to select some alternative emotions to practice.  After all feeding negativity is a bad habit, one we learn , and it can be quite situational at times.  You cannot ignore it for it will not just go away.  So I have to relearn…to practice staying in the moment and finding the good, wonderful things happening around me.  Being grateful for just waking up today, having a job, a reliable car, food, friends, family…let’s face it we are really blessed with so much.  Those blessings can sustain us when negativity tries to come calling.

The best way to step out of the cycle is to first identify when you are in it…once you can see it, you can step out of it.  Besides blessings, I use humor.  There is nothing better than a good belly laugh to redirect your mind and body.  So I try to infuse humor where I can.  Talking with trusted friends is a good way to help you stay out of the cycle too, but be careful because as we talk about the negativity, it can come back quicker than you know it.  Redirecting myself with hobbies or exercise has helped as well.  Going for walks, being in nature, working in my garden and even writing help me to deal with the negativity that comes my way.

With the change in weather I can be in nature more, revel in my garden although it is sparse in flower, it is none-the-less a positive place to be…this weekend I planted the early veggies in the garden…radish, lettuce, spinach, arugula, scallions, peas and kale.  And how wonderful is that to know that with some nice organic fertilizer, sun and time my efforts will be rewarded with plants growing from tiny seed, reaching above the soil toward the light and warmth rewarding me with sweet deliciousness.  I try and seek that light and warmth for myself.  Feeling the life around me as it feeds my soul.  New discoveries in the garden, new blooms to bring a smile.

It is a daily struggle to keep myself from feeding the negativity, but by putting all my energy into making the most of my day (recognizing my day, my life is enough) that is what keeps it at bay.  How do you stay out of the cycle?

Celebrate what you want to see more of.

~ Thomas J. Peters

44 Replies to “Optimism”

  1. I can very much relate to this feeling, Donna. But just like you i am finding I catch myself now. I am aware of it and can look at it as a “separate form my soul” kind of thing. That is not always easy though, for sure! Call it corny, but I use Angel Cards as my reminders for redirecting. Finding those things that help redirect is important. I am also trying to cultivate gratitude more – being thankful for all I have to fight that scarcity thinking Brene refers to.

    Thanks again for such an inspiring post that is real and true. Happy Monday!

    1. Not corny at all…send me info about those cards…always like to explore new things…redirecting is definitely a great way to end the cycle…

  2. Feeding negativity is like rolling a snowball, isn’t it? It doesn’t take much to get it started and we just keep rolling away and adding to it. As you say, if we recognize what’s happening we can stop it.
    Wonderful post to start my Monday with!

    1. I love that analogy..a snowball rolling is how it can feel…recognizing I am headed into the vicious cycle is a big part..thx Ginny!!

  3. I, too, have my moments. And I catch myself from time to time, but sometimes I am working too much or there is a situation that is driving me crazy. And I know I need to do something about it. Many times, I find myself hating those dark moods, but more recently I am beginning to appreciate them because they are my indication that something needs to change.

    1. Michelle I love how you appreciate these dark moods…what a very different way to look at it…yes it does mean something must change and now it will be my job to discover just what…I have a few ideas…thx

  4. Like Ginny said, negativity really is a snowball, isn’t it? (And you are so ready to be done with snow for the next few months!!) I find that anything that restores perspective and gets me to stop thinking about ME is useful–a practice of thankfulness, a few minutes outdoors, or best of all a real, full-blown back-to-nature experience. A big sky, woodland, a lake, a mountain–anything where you can let silence soak into you and realize how small even the big problems are in the larger scheme of things.

    Hope you find many good things to revel in today.

    1. Ahh the silence of wonderful nature…may need a nature walk soon..but as you say Stacy we have to direct the perspective away from us…very useful advice..thx

    1. Yes there in lies the problem Alistair …finding that perspective has always been a challenge…but that is a challenge I am up for…realizing I may be feeling this way and playing the “Glad Game” (a wonderful moment from a favorite childhood movie, Pollyanna) may be the ticket for practicing this habit of glass half full…

  5. It’s that hamster on a treadmill feeling. If I can just step OFF the treadmill, and take that one step forward. Sometime I need someone to take me by the hand, and lead me back to the path that goes forwards, not endlessly round and round.

    1. I love this visual…many days I feel like that hamster and I do need that hand to help me back…thanks for lending that hand today Diana!!

  6. I spent most of my youth “feeding my negativity”, blaming everyone except myself for my unhappiness. Things changed when I took responsibility for my own feelings.

    1. Yes I remember those days and taking that responsibility…every so often I need a slight kick to get me back in gear…thx

  7. Donna, I can relate to those feelings as well. We all get them from time to time, to one degree or another. Fighting them, staying in the moment counting your blessings are all good strategies. I think about people I know who have terribly difficult challenges in life, some that will end their lives sooner than they’d like. I realize how trivial my complaints are and immediately my mood changes for the positive. Stay strong!

    1. Marcia, I too have begun to not wallow in my feelings or miseries…I have decent health and I know I am lucky..it does give me a better perspective…feeling under the weather this weekend and today did not help the cycle recently….thx for the support!!

  8. Life does happen and often negativity and trouble has a way of just slipping in. Just this morning I heard from a friend I had not heard from in a long while. I was happy she called, but her news was sad. Her mother died, her home robbed and she just had a cancerous lump removed. That is negativity she had a time climbing out of. I feel bad for not contacting her because a kind word and a understanding demeanor is what she needed. A story like that is all I needed to realize how lucky I am and how important it is to keep in touch. It certainly washed away any negativity around me. You never know what is happening in someone’s life, so a kind word is always the best approach.

    1. How well I have learned this lesson which reminds me I owe a few people some phone calls too…life seems to get away from us, but I always seem to feel better when I contact friends who are far away…thx Donna for reminding me!!

  9. I find myself getting negative more often, and I really have to watch myself. But at least recognizing it is the turning point to changing it!

    1. Yes Holley recognizing it and then trying to work a plan to turn it around…my next mission is that plan and then keeping it going…

  10. Donna, Some very bad things have happened in my life in the last 15 years and, strangely enough, that has helped me to put things in perspective, to really focus on what is important. I have three healthy, communicative, and wonderful sons, a business I love, and a purpose in life to help people become better and more sustainable gardeners. It’s funny but my blog has really helped me realize a lot of this. Carolyn

    1. Carolyn I think one of the single most wonderful things for me has been my blog as well…it has connected me to so many incredible people who I look forward to communicating with often…including you…I am at that crossroads that is forcing me to make some serious changes in my life and figuring it all out has been a rocky road and quite frustrating at times…the things that keep coming back are forcing me to deal with issues and I will get there..the support of friends has been so wonderful and I thank you!!

  11. The whole “not enough time” thing is the most difficult for me. I agree, we are fortunate to have homes, food, transportation, loving families, etc. But sometimes there just isn’t enough time to do the things we truly love. Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to simply garden all day long (and certainly winter puts a crimp in that). Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though? When I start to get the “not enough” thoughts, I realize how much I need a personal change or simply a long vacation. And I’m feeling it right now, too, Donna. Hang in there!

    1. Beth I think that is the single most frustration for me…not enough time and being locked into working when I really am ready to move into the next phase of my life and career. I have to have patience that I will be able to move there soon…..thx

      1. For me, letting go of negativity started to happen when I accepted that I wasn’t in control of my life – and that things were fundamentally ok anyway! I have tended to be a frustrated idealist, wanting things to be perfect and then secretly angry that they were not. Oddly, the biggest gift for me happened after I quit a job that had become too demanding. I felt like I was being eaten up. It was a very hard decision, yet a few months afterward I began to experience God in a way I never had before. I think this was because I was open to receiving the messages of love that are all around us. Now each day I try to see these messages, which for me first started coming through nature and growing plants.

        1. Sheila I hope to be able to move soon but I have a retirement system that I have been paying into for almost 30 yrs…I risk big concessions if I don’t wait until I am 55 and have 30 yrs…this could be 1-2 yrs more due to a part time working situation this year. Like you I have been seeing these spiritual lessons through my garden and will continue to connect there…thank you for your insight

  12. I am sorry you have been feeling so bad but I am glad you found a way to counteract it. I feel angry too, everybody does, it is not that uncommon. As spring advances you will feel happy again.

  13. Donna your post finds me nodding my head. It is so easy to slip into a negative state of mind but for me, the most grounding experience is to have a grateful heart. It’s hard to be negative when you’re looking around for things to be grateful for 😉 Gardening is my second favorite life balancer. I hope you’ll find some lovely satisfaction in the spring garden and will find yourself feeling better soon.

    1. Cat I am working on it…I read a wonderful blog today that had these words of advice when you feel negative or are having a bad day…Reset, drop it and breathe…I love the idea of resetting my day and that is the part I think I need..the way out of the funk…I will get there…thx 🙂

  14. It is an easy trap to fall into, and I catch myself doing it on occasion. You’re right though, I think the key to getting out of it is to steer yourself, deliberately, toward the positive. Not always easy to do, but always worth it. My personal therapy is being outside, and while March was one deluge of a storm after another, I think my own grouchiness/impatience started to get the better of me. I just wanted to be out of doors, with dirt under my nails. It’s amazing how since the weather has improved, and I’m back outside, how much better I feel. Clearly I need an indoor garden to keep me happy over winter 😉

    1. I am determined to indoor garden this winter…I think it will help…I need more time in the garden even if it is a walk with the camera…seeing what is blooming and smelling the scents of spring blooms can only make me smile…

  15. Luckily I don’t suffer of this kind of problems as I’m satisfied with what I have. Actually I have quite low standards… 🙂
    The problem is my husband.

    1. a great way to look at it..actually my main problem is I have high standards for me…not so much others but I am a perfectionist which gets me into trouble… 🙂

  16. Hello Donna, like so many others I found myself nodding along to that post. That downward spiral is so easy to find yourself on. I agree, finding good things to celebrate and trying to live in the “now” – assuming that the “now” isn’t hellish – can help a lot. Sowing seed and making bread are two things I find I can start in a negative mood but by then end it has gone, evaporated in the comfort and repetition of doing something so simple and yet so positive. Something that has hope at the heart of it – that the seeds will germinate and the bread rise. I also used to find that playing very loud music on the commute home helped put a smile on my face, at least by the time I reached home! Love your frog.

    1. Right now it is a bit hellish but getting outside even to walk around the garden, observe wildlife and take pictures takes mind off of things and onto something wonderful…I laughed at the loud music because I too use that as well…how funny…music can change our mood so suddenly 🙂

  17. I too found myself in a state of negativity and that is not me. My hubby was kind enough to let me deal with my hostile feelings towards the world until one day I blew up on a dear friend. I then knew I needed help. My hubby knew what was going on way before I did and he was a sweetheart to deal with a pre-menopause woman! To the doctor for conformation and happy pills!

    1. What a nice husband…I have moved into the post-menopause phase of my life so no happy pills for me…but I have many good friends and a great hubby who also help me…how we rely on the kindness of others..:)

  18. What a great optimistic post. Words well spoken we should all heed.

    P.S. Skeeter emailed me today asking how she comments on your blog. I see she figured it out!

  19. Dear Donna, Kudos to you for applying self-help to your problem. My blog has done wonders for me, especially through my recent illness when the prayers and good wishes of other bloggers truly sustained me. We are indeed blessed. P x

    1. Pam we are so blessed and I never knew what a tremendous wonderful thing this blogging would be…it is a life saver..thx for your support!

  20. Dear Donna, I had to chuckle when you mention anger towards other drivers. I have been there . . . silly me.
    I find having a good book tape or listening to some beautifully moving music can help with a long drive. Dali Lama has a great tape on compassion that you may have heard too. You have a very difficult reality in having to drive two hours a day for your work. That would be so hard for me, who mostly hates to get in a car. Whatever you can do to help you make that time meaningful would be so healing. Maybe a tape recorder so you could create posts while you drive or create poetic metaphors about what you see? I hope you have lovely scenery . . . that helps.
    We are all guilty of getting in that painful and harmful circle of negative spinning. It is important for me to consider all those that suffer so much the world over, to help me put my own angst in perspective. Still there are some things that continue to haunt and mostly due to mistakes made so many years ago. Healing must have forgiveness . . . so often we are all too hard on ourselves. Hopefulness and humor are helpful.
    Great that you can write and share about this too. Good luck and keep open that positive creative side of you, for it far outweighs the negative. Every great thing of light casts shadows. It is how we wear them . . . ;>)

    1. Dear Carol thank you for sharing your thoughts with me on this post. It is one of the lessons I have to keep in mind…I have read some things from the Dali Lama regarding compassion but will look for the tape…and I need to start a new music mix for work and driving to pull me out of the negative cycles that can erupt..a tape recorder may not be a bad idea either and yes the scenery is beautiful on the way in….little traffic, the sun rising, wildlife all over as I cruise down the NYS Thruway…on the way home is lots of traffic and so then I need the positive mood shift more I think…In appreciate your insight so much!!

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