For 15 days, we’re exploring the topic of making our health and well-being a priority as part of the 15 Days to a Healthier You series. You can read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, and Day 3 here.
A few months ago, a friend who knows me very well and has earned the right to speak truth in my life gently confronted me by saying, “Crystal, do you realize that you have a very negative view on life?”
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think because I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty positive person. I’m the person who will see the good in hard situations. I’ll find the blessings from failure. I’ll look for ways to bloom wherever I’m planted.
So at first, I was really taken aback. But this friend went on to explain how I’m always talking about how hard things are.
“You tend to have a negative perspective on life. When you look back, all you can see is how hard everything was. Is there ever a time in your life when you look back and think, ‘Life has been wonderful!’?”
Ouch! Ouch! I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew it was true.
Without realizing it, I’ve spent so much of my life looking back with negative-colored glasses. I look back on the week and will recount the hurtful, the discouraging, the hard. I’ll often say, “I had a really hard conversation” or “Last night was hard” or “That was such a hard time in our life.”
Now I’m not discounting that life is hard sometimes. But in all honesty, I have so much to be grateful for. So much. And I, of all people, should be looking for the beautiful, the praise-worthy, and the positive.
So, inspired by my friend and because I wanted to do something a little radical to change up my perspective, I made this commitment:
I will only speak positive words about everyone. I refuse to say negative words about anyone to anyone.
Little did I know how much this seemingly simple commitment would change my life.
As soon as I made the commitment, I was shocked at how I kept catching myself starting to say something negative. I had no idea how much negativity was spewing out of my mouth.
I could have justified it by saying, “Well, I’m just stating facts!” But even if those were true facts, did I really need to be telling Jesse or my close friends how a comment on my blog had bothered me. Or did I need to be complaining about a situation where I felt hurt or upset?
In addition, I was shocked to discover how much negativity I’ve allowed to take up residence in my brain. My whole thing is to choose joy and choose love, but I didn’t realize how I was often “choosing negativity”. I hate to admit that, but it’s true.
I was looking at situations around me and picking out the hurt, the hard, the pain, the discouraging, the struggles. I was also making up stories about situations — spending a lot of time thinking negative thoughts or stressing over what appears to be a negative situation or purporting a negative perspective on a situation.
It reminds of this quote from Rising Strong: “In the absence of data, we always make up stories.” It seems I’ve become quite skilled at jumping to conclusions and concocting stories when I haven’t taken the time to fact-check and make sure that assumptions are true. My brain can run wild with stories that aren’t true — just based upon a small little thing.
For instance, if I’m in a situation with a friend and she acts kind of cold toward me, I have sometimes made up a big story — that I’ve offended her, that she doesn’t like me, that she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore… when it could just be that she has something hard going on and she’s struggling with it. Or maybe she has been hurt by me about something.
Making up stories about a situation and then getting frustrated or hurt by someone based upon stories I made up or basing my actions and attitude toward someone on stories I made up is no way to live! It’s a surefire way to spend life feeling discouraged and disappointed — and likely needlessly, in most situations!
3 Ways This Challenge Has Changed Me
This challenge has truly changed my life! Here are 3 specific ways it has impacted me:
1. I’m talking a lot less! This challenge has opened my eyes to the fact that I say a lot more negative words than I realized I did. When I am only saying positive words, I have fewer words to say — which is a good thing. 🙂
2. I have a whole lot more space in my brain. By not speaking negatively of others, it has caused me to nip a lot of my negative thoughts in the bud and replace them with positive thoughts. I realized that I had been devoting a lot of brain space and energy to thinking about situations that were bothering me, upsetting me, or feeling hurtful to me.
3. I’m a lot happier. When I don’t dwell on the negative or rehash the negative with others, it gives me space to really notice and appreciate the beauty around me. It also gave me energy and space to pursue more creative things and to brainstorm great ideas for our business and family.
Of course this doesn’t mean that frustrating or hurtful situations haven’t come up. Sure, I’ve dealt with many things since I’ve made this commitment that would have usually triggered me into a tailspin of stress or negative thoughts or story concoctions.
Rather than dwell on what seemed like someone saying something hurtful or someone doing something that bothered me, I’ve decided to look for the good and the beautiful all around me.
I’ve been a whole lot happier because my focus is on the beautiful, wonderful, positive things in life. And I’m finding that I love life a whole lot more when I focus on those!
Need some ideas on what to replace the negativity in your life with? Here are two ideas:
1. Replace the Negativity with Gratitude
Your attitude can make or break your situation. You can choose to focus on what you don’t have or you can choose to be thankful for what you do have.
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. When you have a thankful, grateful spirit, you’ll automatically have more joy, zest for life, and energy. It’s the natural outflow of gratitude. And not only will you have more energy, but I promise you’ll just plain enjoy and appreciate life a lot more if you choose gratitude.
Struggling to be thankful when you feel so much negativity and frustration about a situation? Try writing down a list of your blessings. As I’ve found, when you start writing down your blessings, you just may have trouble stopping!
Some days, I text pictures of myself like this to my family and close friends… just to make them laugh! 😉
2. Replace the Negativity with Laughter
It’s well been said, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It’s amazing how smiling, laughing, and seeing the humorous side of life can just make life more enjoyable.
We laugh a lot at our house. We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at each other, and we sometimes laugh for seemingly no reason at all — or at least we forgot what it was that we were first laughing about. 🙂
We say dorky things. We act like goofballs. We have inside jokes. We use silly voices and accents just because. We sing opera… even though we can’t sing opera. 😉
I’m always on the lookout for a funny story to share with Jesse and the kids. And we also love to watch comedy clips or funny movies as a family.
When you start feeling discouraged by a negative situation, try distracting yourself with humor instead of worry and stress. Not only will it likely lift your spirits, it might keep you from going down a rabbit hole of discouraging thoughts.
Day 4 Project
- If you’re brave, join me in the No Negativity Commitment. Maybe start with just committing to stick with it for a day or a few days and then see if you can extend it? If you’re planning to join me, leave a comment letting me know you’re in!
- Pay attention to how many negative thoughts you think over the next 24 hours. As much as is possible, look for ways to replace those negative things — either with gratitude, or laughter, or serving others, or something else that re-focuses your brain on something positive and upbeat.
Resources to Check Out:
- A Complaint-Free World (I’ve not read this one yet, but I just got it recently because it came highly recommended by a friend!) and/or One Thousand Gifts.
- Read my article on How Choosing Gratitude is Changing My Life.
- Want to motivate yourself to focus on the blessings? Get a copy of my Choose Gratitude Blessings Journal.
- Need a laugh today? Some of our favorite clips on YouTube are from Tim Hawkins. Have any favorite good, clean, family-friendly funny clips to share? Leave a link to them in the comments. I’d love to check them out!
I love this and admit that this is how I try to live. Do you have any advice, though, for going too much the other way? I have a friend who loves me dearly but is so blunt with me at times that I feel as though I’ve been physically slapped. In my commitment to “stay positive,” I haven’t admitted to her or anyone, maybe even myself, how much her criticism and “tough love” approach hurts me. I’ve avoided her rather than have a negative confrontation and this is bad, too. How do we find a balance in these situations?
I don’t even know where to begin. We are going through a really tough situation at our church right now and the negative thoughts just keep coming. I feel so incredibly beat down by the negative, condemning thoughts that have been rolling through my head for the last few days. I know that speaking negatively (and obviously thinking negatively) are things that I really need to work on. I am going to commit to this for the rest of the week. And then try to keep going the week after that. I’m going to write out the pledge and post it in my home where I will see it all day. I want so badly to get out from under this cloud.
I’m in. I realized this morning that I’m teaching my kids negativity. My son is on a spring trip with the school band and all he can do is text negative comments about the trip…I taught him that! Where is his joy? I need to change now!
WOW I will join you! I needed to hear this, thank you so much for sharing! I always get something important out of your blogs but this has and will continue to change my (and my precious family’s) life! God is so good 🙂
Wow, this post was a true eye-opener for me, honestly. Your attitude really does impact your day and the way you view it, and I think that I’ve been a bit more negative that I would’ve liked to admit. I need to just stop thinking about all this negativity and start focusing on how truly beautiful life is. Thank you for the wake up call-I will definitely be working on this challenge. For a life change. <3
Crystal, you would absolutely love the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen!! I just read it and it was hands down the best book I’ve read this year. Everything you’re talking about here makes me think of it and Brant writes with such humor and humility. It’s a quick read and it will make the deep corners of your heart smile at the goodness of God’s love and grace for us.
Crystal Paine says
Thank you SO much for recommending it!!
Ellen @ Mommy Happiness says
Thank you for this post! I am in and will be working on this! I have been feeling down about a couple different things and just can’t shake it…wasn’t sure what it was until today…part of the reason I realized it was due to negative thoughts and dwelling on things I can’t do much about was this post…and almost immediately the weight was lifted…there is something I can do!! I try to be an encouraging person and a writer of hope, but I was finding it hard to do when I was having trouble finding it myself…a new focus on the positive is what I need!! 🙂
Crystal Paine says
I am so, so grateful!!! Thank you for sharing! Your comment really blessed me!
Erin @ My Mommy World says
This post really resonated with me…the overwhelming majority of the thoughts I have in any given day are negative, and I didn’t realize it until now.
I’m going to try to follow your example this week to take my thoughts captive and express gratitude. Thanks for setting the example and encouraging all of us! 🙂
I know that I already commented on this post yesterday, but I had to give an update. I too, am one to share negative thoughts, with my hubby. And, I even find myself saying to him before I start the conversation “now, I know it’s okay to share “whatever” because you are my husband, so it’s not gossip or being negative.” Well, if I have to start the conversation out that way, I probably shouldn’t be sharing it, even if it is with my hubby. And, I’m not saying you can’t share things with your hubby that you don’t share with others, but I tend to really voice my negative thoughts or bad feelings toward something with him, when there is really no purpose to doing so. And, yesterday, after reading the blog post, I purposed the entire day to make sure I didn’t say anything negative, bad, or a gossip way even to my hubby, and my goodness, did it make a world of difference. I can’t believe how much I was speaking, that wasn’t positive. Thank you for being so open and honest, and this will be day 2 of not being negative. It sure makes your day much more positive and less negative, that’s for sure.
I’m in. I seem to always be stressed about work and other things. It will be interesting to see if some of the stress goes away if I can focus on the positive, and not on the negative.
Traci c says
I am in…. I too tend to subconsciously focus on the negative. I do point out a lot of positive too though! My youngest is starting kindergarten in 2 wks and this old mama is not ready at all…. I am already getting depressed!
I was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder at 29 years old…. I have read where stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet are big contributing factors… so I am just beginning to open my eyes and realize/admit to myself how stressed out I am on a regular basis! This is coming from someone who apparently has put on a good front for years–I have been told by others how “chill” I seem to them haha! I am a to-do list, do-it-yourself, perfectionist, stay up as late as you can to get stuff done kind of person… so beginning to think through the self-care you’ve been talking about recently is a big mind-shift for me! As well as thinking positively! I woke up two nights in a row this week in the middle of a stressful dream! I thought to myself, hm, my thought life during the day sure does need to change if even my nighttime thoughts are negative and stressful!! Thanks for sharing your journey with us and inspiring us to do the same. 🙂
Thank you for the post. I have recently read “The Temperament God Gave You” book and I’ve realized that (1) I think this way and (2) this way of thinking is aligned with my temperament. I’m trying to be more conscience of my words lately! Luckily my husband also read the book so he lets me know when I over-step my bounds. I highly recommend this book. It has changed our marriage and the way I parent.
Uma @ Centsible India says
I’m up for the challenge. I’ve been thinking about how negative I feel lately even though it’s just stating the facts.
I was just talking to my co-worker last week about being more positive. Thanks for this! I needed that extra reminder. You’re right. It is hard sometimes to stay positive. I catch myself wanting to “vent,” but I want to accept this challenge. 🙂
What a timely post. Yesterday I had an incident that I allowed to get under my skin. It involved my special needs daughter and my “mama bear” instincts roared inside me. But I also knew I couldn’t do anything to change what happened. This morning I was prompted to read and study Galatians 5:22-25 on the fruit of the Spirit. One thing that struck me was that it is the fruit of the SPIRIT – it’s nothing I produce. I can choose joy, but it’s the Spirit working in me as I submit that makes it an attitude of the heart. If I’m having problems with attitude and character, it is because I’m living in the flesh or according to Satan’s lies, not the Spirit and God’s truth. Then I read your post and knew that there were many things I could apply to myself. Thank you for sharing; it takes courage to be vulnerable but I hope you are encouraged to know you are not alone!!
I am in! I have tried being more positive many times over the past several years and always seem to fall back into negativity. Thanks for reminding me of all the reasons to stay the course. I once read a quote that talked about how sometimes it really helps to believe that the people around you are just doing the best they can. Is the checker at the grocery store being super slow and sullen? Tell yourself that she is doing the best she can today and just extend grace. Did your mother criticize your parenting or make a thoughtless comment? She is probably doing the best she can so let it go and move on. If it turns out you are wrong and the person really isn’t doing the best he/she can? Well, it’s really not up to you to “fix” them anyway. I’m challenging myself to believe the best in people. Let’s do this!!!
Wow! I really needed this. I always try to be a positive, upbeat person. While I was reading this I was really convicted of the negativity that sneaks up in my thoughts and conversations on a daily basis. I am quick to jump to conclusions or “make up stories” about a situation that leave me hurt, depressed, angry and confused. This really spoke to me! Thank you so much for sharing this! I am going to challenge myself to get out of the negativity box!
I will try this for 24 hours with you! I am so negative these days–there’s always some reason to be, right? I’m getting your gratitude journal. I do bullet journaling, but my gratitude page gets lost in there. I’d like to work 2 minutes in the gratitude journal every day into my evening. That would be great.
Also, I’m exactly like you with the ‘made up stories’. It’s awful! And it can tie up my mind for a whole day, if not longer. So sad. I don’t think God intended for us to be so bogged down, yet I choose that so often.
Anyway, thanks for the post. Love it. And thanks for you. You are blessing me so much this month, Crystal. <3
I am just like that.
I always though that it’s because I like to challenge myself to do things better and looking on “bad” things helps me to go over them, analyze them and engage in conversation about them hopping to improve. My whole life I was like that, and my family was like that.
“Good is already good, but bad is what needs improvement”…..my dad would say. I like to believe that growing up with lack of praising made me more resilient. I know there are others who see different way, and I respect their views.
It does make me feel better talking about it ( I call it venting), however, I can see that it could be an energy drainer to those who are listening. My husband is opposite of me and I can see that this difference between us is taking a tool on our marriage and relationships.
To me, you come as very positive person, so I would never guess that you have that “problem”.
I have been thru a lot, forced to “grow up” too soon, and I believe that because I need security, I am putting myself to be “on the alert” all the time. Revision of things that need improvement, or not being able to rest (feeling like I did not earn it) are reflection of that childhood “trauma”. I strive to be frugal and have hard time spending money for luxury items (guilt feeling all the time) and it amazes me that I work so hard on that last squeeze of toothpaste despite the fact that I have 7 more unopened tubes thanks to couponing. Disclosure:this is my personal diagnosis, not one of trained professional.
Thanks for everything that you do. You are amazing person, and I love your blog because of honest pieces such as this one.
Jessie Lowe says
Thanks!! I needed this today. I’m in on the no negativity challenge. After a restless night I have been struggling with negative thoughts competing with my desire to focus on God for a few minutes before going to work. (Don’t ask me why I am on FB!). But God has used your thoughts today to challenge and encourage me. “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”. Palm 104:3&4
Kelly @ New Leaf Wellness says
Thanks for being so honest, Crystal! You’re awesome.
Brian Lund says
I try to catch myself before saying anything negative about others, especially when my kids are around. It doesn’t give good feelings. You know if someone is saying negative things about someone else to you, they’re probably saying negative things about you to others. Awesome reminder Crystal. Thanks!
This is great and something I definitely can improve upon. I’m in!
I’m not trying to be a jerk, but won’t all the holding in of all negativity eventually cause you to lose it? Think Unikitty in the Lego movie…always about to go postal. Or Seinfeld’s famous “serenity NOW!” episode.
To me, even the Bible has a place for so-called negative observations – the Psalms are filled with laments and woe. And even our Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t “positive” in His speech 24/7 – he was often far from it. I guess I wouldn’t hold myself to a higher standard than Him. Maybe I’m misunderstanding your definition of positive vs. negative.
Ha! Yes. Recently I was very pleasant and positive to everyone for 2 days straight and then lost it when my lovely and gracious dance teacher missed a step. And I was wearing my reminder bracelet at the time! That just shows what I pill I am usually, and that I have a lot of work to do. It was eye-opening. 😉
I don’t think the idea is to hold it in but to let it go. The kinds of things Crystal described being negative about are the kinds of minor offenses the Bible says we can cover with love and forgive. Proverbs 19:11 says “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to overlook an offense.” And if someone commits an offense serious enough that it truly can’t be overlooked and needs to be addressed, we’re supposed to go to the person who offended us (or who we think WE may have offended) and try to repair the relationship in a spirit of love. Complaining about the situation to others serves no purpose other than spreading the negativity around. I’m not saying it’s easy to do at first, but when you just generally start cutting people slack, and assume they’re doing the same for you, you find that there’s a lot less that bothers you in the first place.
Marsha Wells says
Beautiful explanation of how to live realistically but still positively! I am going to paste this up somewhere I can see it. When something negative happens, I will consider which bucket it needs to go into: the bucket of things that I will choose to overlook and let go of, or the bucket of things that I need to address with the person(s) involved 🙂
Thanks, JoDi! I also appreciate your comment. 🙂 I thought Crystal’s post was really good for many situations, but this was helpful to think about for other situations.
I’m guilty. I had a friend tell me once that I was a pessimist and I was stunned. I think it is partly a defense mechanism, but that doesn’t make it okay. I have so much to be thankful for. I love your honesty. I’m going to join you in finding the good.
Louise A. says
Thanks for your article Crystal, it made me realize I have a lot of negative thoughts also. I’m committed to take your challenge, I’ve committed to start with a week and go from there. Thanks again, have a blessed day! ?
Oh, this resonated deeply. I will commit to one day of no negativity. It hit me, because a lot of times instead of showing charitable judgment, I make up stories that I’m sure are right. Because I was right before. ? My memory verse is going to be Philippians 4:8 again! Thank you for being you and sharing your heart!
Our family has really been concentrating on Philippians 4:8 recently. What a great verse, and perfect for this blog post.
Thank you again, Crystal, for being so transparent and sharing with your audience. I’m loving these honest posts, because I can relate, and it helps knowing that I may not be the only one going through these struggles.
I needed this! My husband is about to start a new, more demanding job and the schedule change has me so anxious as I’m one who likes our routine, especially with 3 little kids. I really needed this at exactly this moment! Tomorrow I will not be negative. I will take time out of my busy day to laugh with my kids and bring joy into our family!
Kathy McPhillips says
Thank you. I really needed this article. We are trying to sell our home and I have been focusing on the negative comments potential buyers have made. It really steals your joy when you focus on the negative. This was perfect timing. Thanks again
When I originally saw the title of your post, I thought it would be related to this past week’s events. It’s felt exhausting processing the news and feeling like there’s a general spirit of negativity going on that we as a culture can’t shake (and I include myself in this). I literally chose to bake this afternoon because I felt like that was the best thing I could do – something positive that reminded me that life was still good and beautiful.
I appreciate your honesty with your struggles – I think they are ones that many of us share. I found it very interesting in particular that you found “more head space” when you chose to not be negative. We work so hard to have more organized, spacious homes, and yet most of us probably have quite a bit of head and heart clutter that affects us much more than material things do (or lack of them).