By Sarah Trass
Like most of the world, I watched the unfolding of the Thai Cave mission with baited breath. Two weeks in complete darkness, surrounded by cold murky water, with no real certainty around whether you are going to make it out or not, sounds like a terrifying experience – especially for a group of children!
Besides the immense courage of everyone involved, this experience made me aware of a powerful human trait that often gets dismissed in today's society… positivity. Regardless of the fear circulating the boys' survival, those involved chose to focus on the 5 per cent chance of getting them out of there, versus the 95 per cent chance of fatality. I feel this is not common in most people today. Pessimistic thinking, aka thoughts focused primarily on the negatives, is more prevalent and has serious side effects in regards to our sense of confidence, esteem, and overall health. In fact, studies spanning across the last 50 years show that those who express positivity, live up to 10 years longer than those who go through life believing their glass is half empty.
So, what's the misunderstanding around positivity? People often believe positivity is about turning a blind eye to what is going on in their life. Whereas what positivity really is, is curiosity and choice – choosing to find a way forward that moves you up and out of situations, rather than downward and in. Hardship is inevitable in life. However, if you constantly choose to respond with a pessimistic mindset, you will only ever feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and hopeless. Pessimism lets the negative emotions and thoughts narrow your ideas about possible action and outcomes, whereas positivity enables us to become more receptive and creative in finding alternative solutions, that better serve our overall health and happiness.
To encourage more positive thinking throughout your day, try these two techniques:
Dispute negative thoughts – break negative thought cycles by asking yourself what beliefs are being triggered, then challenge these by assessing the cold-hard facts. How do these thoughts compare to the reality of the situation?
Find the silver-lining – it is rare to find yourself in a situation that is completely terrible, therefore focus on what you have, or can grow from in these moments. How does the situation play to your strengths? How could you use these to move you forward?