When I was in junior high, every year we had achievement tests.
The one that stands out was one my eighth grade English teacher discussed with us. He told us he thought it was one of the worst tests he had ever read, and explained the questions were poorly written.
One question puzzled me. Looking back on it, I suspect the question was added to see what the response was, and not included in the grading.
The question was a picture of a glass with liquid halfway in the glass. The answers that could be easily eliminated were ones that had the wrong amount of fluid. For example, the glass was full or empty.
One answer said the glass was half-full and another said it was half-empty. How do you choose which one to answer?
In my mind, both were correct. I think I finally decided I preferred the answer half-full, although I had no logical reason for choosing that one. And both answers were right, although one was more positive or optimistic while the other was more negative or pessimistic.
Since then I’ve also wondered how many times one person will look at a situation and see the negative, while another the positive. And, this led to the discovery that seeing things as negative or positive is very much a personal choice.
Dr. Rick Hanson has taken it one step further. He has studied this, and found that not only is it a choice, choosing to dwell on the negative leads your brain to become accustomed to the negative. Maybe even expecting it?
“The more you dwell on the negative, the more accustomed your brain becomes to the negative.”
Rick Hanson PhD
That’s one of the saddest things I learned in caregiving. Not only was my mother often looking at the negative, she expected it. And worse, she would say something negative about herself so she wouldn’t hear it from someone else.
How sad is that to expect to hear only negative comments about yourself? My heart wept, and I shed tears for her. Imagine living over ninety years that way! That’s when I made the conscious decision to be positive with her, and to live my life looking for the positive in a situation.
And that is my new year’s resolution. When I look at something, I stop and see if I am looking at it as a negative or a positive. And if a negative, choose to look at it as a positive when possible.
One example is my dogs. This morning when feeding them, I realized that it would be very difficult for me to arrange care for them if I wanted to take a trip. That would be the negative thought.
So, how to turn that into a positive thought?
- Remembering how many times since they came in my life would—if left alone—I would have retreated from life and stayed in bed rather than getting up to feed them.
- How often they offered me unconditional love when I felt unlovable.
- They helped me to rediscover the child within, and take life less seriously—and make it more fun! And often they’ve reminded me that I’m needed, which is often just what I needed.
And suddenly, caring for them was no longer a burden but a blessing.
Will you also turn 2017 into Your Year of Positive Thoughts?
- First, make the choice to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones before you verbalize them or act on them. Changing thoughts into words and actions gives them life. Give life to positive thoughts, not negative ones.
- If you need help to turn your thoughts positive, then find someone who will be your buddy. It can be someone who is more optimistic than you. Or maybe it’s someone who also needs reminding to change negative thoughts to positive.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal to help you find the positive things in your life… even if it’s as simple as being thankful for a smile. Or perhaps it’s the ability to smile.
Share your suggestions in the comments below.
And make 2017 a
good great year!
To your Happy & Healthy Caregiving,
Ina Gilmore MD
Founder, Caregiving With Purpose
Purple Angel Dementia Ambassador
P.S. For additional tips and your free copy of A HEART PLAN, sign up for our newsletter!