The solution I stumbled upon that turned things around.
A few nights ago, my sister reached out to me. She was watching some of my video poems on YouTube and concerned they were too dark. She reminded me I wasn’t focusing on the positive.
To turn things around, she asked me to write a poem for her. She wanted a positive poem about a hope for the future. Over the next several days, Dreams of Paradise was born.
Writing this poem reminded me of something. Our mindset usually revolves around the things we are focusing on. When we focus on the negative, our whole life produces negative. However, if we focus on the positive, then good will follow.
My experience taught me this lesson even though it wasn’t what I set out to do. Here’s what happened.
Negative Fights Harder
Negative emotions often feel stronger. They seem to grip tighter and hold on longer. It takes little effort to stay in their darkness.
My poetry springs from my deepest parts, and there’s a fair amount of pain there. However, not all the poetry I write is a clear reflection of who I am. In fact, most of the time I’m a positive person who loves to laugh and smile.
I have bipolar disorder and the chronic illness Familial Mediterranean Fever. The combination of the two gives me many opportunities to be negative. Most of the time, I choose not to be.
Yet, for a time, I was negative.
The Simple Change
For years, my response whenever someone asked me how I was doing was to tell them, “I’m fine.” My mother gained a strange joy from following behind me and telling others that ‘fine’ never really meant fine. In fact, she told my friends that most of the time ‘fine’ meant terrible.
It’s true. I was terrible. I was in constant pain and living with my worst enemy inside my head. It would be several years before the correct diagnosis of Familial Mediterranean Fever would reveal the physical pain I felt was real.
Even so, I didn’t want people to know I was terrible. I dislike pity, so I wanted my pain to be my secret.
To change things, I started a new habit. At first, it was an attempt to be deceptive, to hide the truth from others. I decided I would smile no matter what and tell everyone, “I’m good.”
Who would think you’re lying if you say you’re good? It was a flawless plan.
Positive Takes Over
My new plan in place, I banished the word ‘fine’ from my vocabulary.
After a few weeks, there was an unexpected change. The more I told people I was good, and the more often I smiled and laughed, the more frequently I felt it was true.
Life was more positive. My smiles and proclaimed goodness were making a difference.
No, my mental illness and physical pain didn’t vanish. If only it were that simple. Rather, having a positive mindset changed the way it was affecting me. That simple change, just saying, “I’m good,” made me notice more good in the world around me.
My sister’s reminder to write a positive poem highlighted the importance of focusing on the good, and there is always good around.
There Is Always Good
There are many reasons to be in a negative place. All you have to do is turn on the news for five minutes, and you sink to a darkness where surviving this life feels impossible. Yet, there is still a lot of positive in the world.
It’s spring here in the northern hemisphere, and in Southeast Tennessee the leaves on the trees are fully open and flowers are in vibrant bloom. The stay-at-home order has given me more time to work in my yard. As a result, things look better than ever before. That goodness brings me pride and joy.
Sure, I miss being with my friends and going to Bible study. I don’t eat out often, but I feel cheated not having the freedom to go to a restaurant for dinner. I’m also not blind to all the sadness in the world.
Even with all the things we don’t have, there’s still so many reasons for gratitude. The green that fills my yard, my cat’s calming visits, and older parents who are in relatively good health are reasons for me to be grateful.
I know my family loves me, and my faith is real. All the positives are what’s keeping me going in this difficult time.
We have to try to be positive now and look to the future and think positive things: then positive things will happen. — Patrick Bamford
My challenge to you is to do the same. Name three positive things in your life right now. It’s easy to do. If you woke up this morning, that could be one. If you’re still breathing, that’s two. That leaves you to come up with just one more.
I believe you’ll quickly have many more than three things come to mind. Once you start your mind down the positive path, other valuable things will come into view.
We may not have the power to change what’s happening in the world, but we can change where we choose to focus. Make it your choice to focus on the positive and see how life changes.
This story originally appeared on Medium.