This week, at the office, we had a gentleman from the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo come in to do a seminar on happiness in the workplace and the home. It was slightly dry, at times, but still motivational. The thing that struck me the most was that the answer to almost any question about happiness is positivity. If you want to be happy, act happy. If you want to be happy, don’t hold grudges. If you want to be happy, be nice to others. And my personal favourite, if you want to be happy, surround yourself with positive people.
This is all well and good, in theory, but once you sit down and really think about how to put this into action, that is where the fun begins. What if you have negative family members? What if you have friends that hold grudges longer than life itself? How do you extricate yourself from situations where you are surrounded by negativity?
My first thought was to just be a happier person, internally. Radiate positivity and others will be happy because of their proximity to you. At one of my old jobs, we used to make a joke about how all you really needed was a positive mental attitude (PMA) and you could get through anything. Unfortunately, that idea was born out of the fact that we had a boss that was so awful that she was making us all unwell with her tyranny. When a group is under stress, they often bond together over the stress, and try to rise above it. Now, all those that worked for her (except one remaining hanger on) have gone on to better things and rose above what she believed any of us could do in our lives. We have exceeded our own expectations by blowing her negativity out of the water and showing her that we had more capacity than she imagined. In this case, the PMA worked in our favour. PMA, along with the act of leaving the job and separating from the negative force that was the crazy boss, worked. What was the lesson learned? If you are working for someone that is negative, get out! Start looking for somewhere else to work immediately. Start pushing yourself toward that career where there are people that see you as a human and know you have worth. Bottom line: move on! This is easy to accomplish in the workplace, however, when you are thinking about family and friends, this gets a bit more murky.
Surrounding yourself with positive people ultimately implies that you must either make negative people into positive people (which is nearly impossible) or shut the negative people out. In these seminars, the facilitators always say the same things about surrounding yourself with positivity, but they never really get to the way to go about it. How does one simply walk away from a family member? How many years do you try to make someone close to you more positive before you simply give up the fight? When there is a toxic person in your life, sometimes you need to just detach from them. This sounds harsh, and especially so if that person is a family member, but it is true. There are times when you just have to let go of the family/blood connection and move on. Otherwise, it is impossible to be a healthy and happy person yourself.
Health and wellness are inextricably attached to happiness. Our brain chemistry effects the way we feel in very profound and sometimes hidden ways. If you hold on to negative thoughts, feelings, and relationships, they can ultimately make you sick in one way or another. This is why we must strive to first be positive in our day to day lives. If that rubs off on others and they become more positive in the process, great! If not, at some point, the ties must be severed. Sometimes, just sitting down and telling someone how you really feel about their negative attitude and that you will stop talking to them if they don’t try to be more positive can also do the trick. Sometimes it cannot. We can try our best to spread sunshine (no matter how hokey that sounds, and it does sound super hokey) everywhere we go and hope that a little bit of it rubs off on others.
One final note: when I talk about having a PMA and spreading happiness, this isn’t the kind of nice attitude that is fake. Having worked in the banking industry for almost 10 years, one of the main lessons I learned was that nice is not always what it seems to be. When you are in an industry that has a main goal of increasing sales over time, at all costs, you will run into many fake/nice people in your travels. Many sales people feel that being nice is something they have to portray in order to pull you in and, to a certain extent, they are correct. However, if after the customer (or ‘mark’, if you prefer) walks out the door, that same salesperson can often turn into a raging asshole. I’ve seen this happen more often than not and it isn’t real positivity. It is pure salesperson bullshit wrapped up in a fake PMA. This is unhealthy for the person pursuing this way of being, as well as those that work for her/him. Fake is not what you should go for if you want to improve your life. Genuine happiness comes from genuine positivity. It is as simple as that. Look on the bright side because there is a bright side, not because you think you have to see one. Look for the true positivity in your day to day life and you will be much happier and healthier for it.
Peace and happiness, always,