A friend forwarded a blog post to me, and it was about how most of us focus on the negative, dwelling on problems in our mind to try to find solutions. The writer said that research over the last twenty years has shown that overthinking about negative aspects of our lives causes depression, sadness and cynicism. The best way to achieve peace and joy is to stop stressing over the negative, and think about the good things.
I took this idea and tried it with William yesterday, and the results were astonishing. He had been complaining about so many things, and suddenly I noticed that his manners were dropping and I was still carrying out his lofty demands. He would whine and complain, and I would get frustrated, but I wasn't making any effort to change his behaviour.
After I read that blog, I recognized that I was turning into a "throw my hands in the air" parent with William, where I didn't like his behaviour but had no idea how to change it, so I just felt frustrated all of the time. I knew something had to change, so I started focusing on the positive and not the negative with him. When he complained, I took time to help him turn it into something positive.
Simply encouraging him to think in terms of speaking with a positive tone instead of a negative one really turned my own attitude around. At first it was hard work, but then we made it into a game, asking each other, "What's the positive way to say this?" and every time he would say please and thank you, I made a big deal out of graciously helping him with his request.
Slowly, over the course of the day, his attitude genuinely changed, and so did mine. It was like a sunflower turning to the sun. We turned to each other, and felt warm and fuzzy instead of cold and prickly. It was a wonderful relationship switch, and warmed the temperature in the house significantly. Suddenly I noticed all of his good qualities again and enjoyed being with him once more.
All because of focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Ruminating on what isn't working leads to despair, but when we intentionally focus our thoughts in more positive directions, we feel energized and happier. I noticed the effects of this experiment faster in my four year old than in myself, but his improved mood affected mine, which made things better for everyone I encountered in my day.
The only way I know to access the fruits of the spirit in my regular day to day life is to keep them front and center in my mind. If I want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control to flow from me, the easiest way I know to develop them is to think positively instead of negatively. Take action in a direction instead of waiting for something to happen to me. Control my thoughts just a little bit more instead of letting my emotions control me.
It requires intentional work, every day, to keep this positive attitude rolling along. It's easy to slip into negativity, because it surrounds each one of us everywhere we go. But we can be the change we want to see in the world. First it happens inside of us, and then over a lifetime, it spreads to those around us. We all influence each other, and I would prefer for my influence to be positive instead of negative. It's just putting it into practice on a daily basis that's the difficult part.