Join us on Instagram every Tuesday throughout March as TV presenter, host of the ‘Only Human’ Podcast and talking therapist Jeff Brazier, and former Scottish International and Harlequins rugby player Tim Visser discuss a variety of issues in our new series #StrongMinds.

Each week, Jeff will be sharing his thoughts here to give further information and context to the topics discussed during the session.

Episode Four – Positivity

Where do you think positivity comes from? Is it something you are born with? Does it depend on how good your life has been? I personally believe there is choice in how positive one allows themselves to be, but I do also think it comes easier to some than others.

Do you think you can be ‘too’ positive? I learnt through therapy that I had ‘used’ positivity to block out having to feel anything I didn’t want to face. It was a coping mechanism that helped me survive some challenging situations. It also meant that I wasn’t allowing the negativity in and there has to be a balance of both.

What I have come to accept is that being comfortable with negative emotions as much as I am the positive ones makes me a more rounded person. It also makes us far more accessible to others. I know there are people that are more comfortable with negative feelings than they are the opposite and familiarity plays an important role in deciding where on the scale we feel ‘safest.’

If we can understand more about how positivity works, then we can decide if we would like to increase our positivity level or leave it where it is.

WHERE WE LOSE

Current Influences – what do we expose ourselves to?

We are really good at putting control in other people’s hands, letting others dictate our life. We also blame things like the weather for our mood. Living in Britain means we will certainly experience rain, so conceding our happiness to precipitation feels a little careless.

Taking responsibility for our mindset and how much of that is positive is a vital step. Did you have the news on this morning? Was it good news? Did it make you feel anxious, concerned?

Maybe listen to an uplifting or educational podcast instead. You are impacting your mood on a daily basis by what and who you allow yourself to be near.

Exposing the lies – in what ways are you keeping yourself safe?

What reasons have you given yourself to not be positive? This is the work of your inner voice we either agree with and obey, or doubt and ignore. Your relationship with the ‘second self’ will dictate pretty much your whole experience of life. It’s there to keep you safe, but how safe do you want to be?

The lies we tell ourselves hold our limiting beliefs in place and when we challenge those justifications, truth and possibility will shine through. Exposing yourself may feel like a scary prospect but it’s not until that moment of honesty with yourself that you can progress and alter your habits in order to create a more positive outcome. Self-regulation is the act of keeping ourselves from getting ‘too low’ or ‘too high.’ We would all benefit from reflecting on our self-imposed ceilings and questioning whether they are in the right place for who we are today.

We should set ourselves a challenge that feels uncomfortable. When we disprove the doubt, we rubbish those habitual, reflex responses of ‘no’, or ‘I can’t’, and replace them with ‘let’s just see what happens’. An openness to failure is vital to creating opportunities to earn the right to feel positive.

A nod to the past – are we just echoing other people’s opinions?

Past influences form limiting beliefs, character traits and behavioural patterns, which remain in the background until challenged. They also set a false ceiling for our sense of self and restrict how positive we allow ourselves to feel. Our childhood experiences can condition us to believe that we are not capable or worthy of being more positive but in our adult life we have the power to disagree.

We can subconsciously stay a victim and echo those mistakes for the rest of our lives. It’s a bit like being a passenger in your own car. Get your hands on the wheel. Take control of the vehicle and start driving to where you want to go, otherwise one day you will find yourself in completely the wrong destination.

Expectations – are they helping or hindering?

My brother told me several times that he cannot do what he used to be able to. He is not lying to himself, physically he couldn’t walk in the gym and lift what he used to or spa for as long as he did. It left me thinking, what value do we get from reminding ourselves what we cannot do?

It represents hanging on to a time that no longer exists. The more we do that, the less we apply ourselves to what we can do today. I understand my brother’s frustration at his niggling injury, but I also see how a focus on what we can do in the present is the only mindset that will encourage progress and progress breeds positivity.

Sometimes we have a problem that takes a while to fix, finding a way around the problem does not mean that we solved it, it just means that we found a way to cope or achieve despite the challenge.

WHERE WE WIN

Gratitude & Affirmation – focusing on what is good or what you want to be good

Gratitude is the art of paying back a kind gesture, a stroke of luck or an acknowledgement, anything positive which happens to you, with a thank you. Why do we need to pay anything back? Because it is an opportunity, often underestimated, to bring about more reasons to be grateful into our life.

Simply reflecting on something good, no matter how small, is the basis for an uplifting conversation or a healthy, happy mind. In contrast, many of us are only too adept at reminding ourselves what we do not have, should have had, or will never have. Whether you adopt one approach or the other it seems you will always get more reasons to be proven absolutely right.

Use your thoughts wisely, you are either investing in your future if positive or you’re gambling with it if not. Affirmations allow us to manifest the life we want. The act of saying something affirming to oneself breeds positivity because we are in alignment with who we are and what we want. A negative person will tell themselves that it does not work or that it feels stupid and they’re absolutely right – but only because they’re imposing that ceiling. A positive person will be open minded and not judge whether it will work or not, preferring to enjoy the possibility of what might follow.

Setting yourself up for success – Investing in good habits

What is a good habit? One that serves our passions and interests by taking us closer towards things that we want and enjoy. We know all about setting ourselves up to fail – unrealistic expectations, lack of self-encouragement, failure to plan and prepare etc. The reverse requires the same amount of effort but does not always come as naturally.

Knowing the right habits comes from identifying our values and goals. Habits then serve as the steps we take in order to live out these values, feel in alignment with our passions and grow our positivity with a knowledge that we are on the right path.

If we plan to get up at 6am and train before anyone else wakes up and succeed, positivity grows. If we then plan to make a healthy smoothie for breakfast and we complete the task, positivity grows and so on. It doesn’t matter how big the task is, feeling a sense of accomplishment always feels good but here’s the point – it is so much more likely to happen if you plan for it.

What will your day look like tomorrow? What habits do you want? When will you do them and how long for? How will you ensure that you are realistic in your expectations? Putting that plan in place then grants you a permission to feel that your day was a success and if you can apply that structure every day your positivity can only grow as a result.

Remember there is no such thing as the perfect day. Be kind when the bad habit creeps in, as long as it’s a minority, you can reorganise your day tomorrow to go one better. It’s always a work in progress.

Adjusting our language – throwing out the broken records

Words are the symbols we use to communicate to each other and they are incredibly versatile; they can be used to make people feel great, but sadly they can also be used as weapons to harm.

Relating this to our positivity works from two points of view. Firstly, how you use your words to be kind to others. Secondly, how you use your words to be kind to yourself. Let us consider the language we use to communicate with others. If you say kind things to people you meet, what might they communicate back to you in return?

Feeling uplifted, appreciated and validated, more often than not they will respond with a similar amount of positivity as they have just received.

What about if I use my language directly against someone? ‘Oi mate, your clothes are shocking, did you get dressed in the dark?’  What are the effects of my choice of words? The person will experience a drop in confidence, feeling inferior, upset, offended or belittled. The same applies when you talk to yourself in this way.

We do this to subconsciously, which stops us from feeling too positive, too happy, too content! We’re keeping ourselves at a safe level of positivity because we worry that if we have too much, someone might take it away from us.

Change your words – change your beliefs. Your identity and values are yours to develop and saying something positive about yourself out loud is the way to start yourself on a better path to positivity.

Collecting the small wins to grow a sense of achievement

Let’s view this as collecting evidence as to why we should stay feeling positive. We all make lists but how many of us keep an achievement list? Don’t get me wrong I love crossing something out with a highlighter as much as the next person, but no sooner have we completed five tasks we’ve added another five to the list!

Seeing visually and separately what we have actually done is a reason for us to congratulate ourselves and a cause for positivity. Journalling is a great way to reflect on what we’ve achieved and what could have gone better. In the pursuit of positivity, we must never forget that we are human.

We can’t increase positivity without accepting that there will be some negativity to deal with, either from ourselves or from life generally. Don’t aim for 10/10, go for whatever feels realistic and when you hit that score three days in a row, aim for the next one.

Reward is important too. Celebrate the wins. It invites them to happen more often. Don’t just acknowledge the once-a-month achievements, there is success in every single day for all of us and promoting a winning culture comes from feeling good about the act and acknowledgement from others. It makes us want to achieve again, and again.

We all like a well done, sometimes we have to make sure at the very least it’s coming from within.

#StrongMinds will run at 8pm every Tuesday evening throughout March on Instagram @DavidLloydUK, or you can catch up via IGTV.

You can read Part 1 of this series, Transitioning out of lockdown, here.

You can read Part 2 of this series, Self validation, here.

You can read Part 3 of this series, Managing grief, here.