How to Be Positive in a Negative World

It's easy to slip into negativity with all that's going on in the world. 2020 has certainly been "one for the books," with the utter devastation of COVID-19. However, experts like Dr. Howard Beazel, Psychologist at Genesis Behavioral Health, says it's important for individuals to find ways to keep their mental wellness in a healthy state.

One tactic he recommends is to recognize the reality of the situation and understand what you can and cannot control. "It's okay to be a little distressed; it's healthy to recognize the reality of it. Recognize what you do have control over. I don't have control over my neighbors or people in the street, but I can wear a mask. I can wash [my] hands. That control gives you some sense of competency, and that tends to lead to more positive things."

Another strategy is to distinguish between “social” distancing and “physical” distancing. What we really should be practicing is physical distancing.

“We need to make extra effort to be as sociable as we can, because the COVID-19 situation is making it so much harder. There are ways to be sociable,” states Dr. Beazel. “I have a daughter who lives in Singapore, but we communicate fairly regularly by telephone and FaceTime. We need to keep connected with the people we love and care about. And at times like this, we probably need to make a little extra effort to do so.”

Positive Strategies, Pandemic or Not

There will be a time when COVID-19 doesn’t seem so suffocating. Even then, there will be scenarios when individuals may feel down and become overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Dr. Beazel offers a few tips to meet the negativity and overcome it.

1) Evaluate what you think makes you happy… does it really? We’re often taught that money can bring happiness. While that may be true to an extent, true joy typically comes from meaningful relationships.

2) Practice positivity! Like anything, the more you practice the better you’ll become. Be intentional with your positivity. You can even document it in a journal, such as acts of kindness you encounter or things for which you’re thankful.

3) Understand the physiological response negativity causes. The more negative we tend to be, the more stressed we tend to be, which affects the body’s autonomic nervous system. Repeated stress can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, as well as chronic headaches and gastrointestinal issues.

4) If you can’t remove yourself, physically, from a stressful or negative situation (e.g. being stuck in traffic), practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Regular exercise is also helpful for keeping your mind on an even keel.

Overall, Dr. Beazel says success in any of these strategies relies on being purposeful.

“I think we all need to do things on purpose, especially at times like this. I focus on the positive, but I do it on purpose. Sometimes I have to practice and step back and say, wait, let's take a breath. Let's relax. Let's look at this differently. Let's see if there's a better perspective here. That'll work better for me. Try to engage meaningfully with others, try to get [your body] moving, and try to see things from another perspective.”