Lately, my conversations with men in their midlife have been mostly about how they would best describe an optimal life. The running theme that I have seen is this desire to maintain a positive mind during life’s thick and thin moments. One could call this the silver lining mindset, your ability to absorb the punches and get back up.
Have you ever watched the people in your life who are naturally very positive and compared them to the people in your life who are very negative? When something difficult happens to the friend with a negative mindset, he or she often sees the world as being against them and often is unable to recognize when there is room for internal growth or change as a result of the difficulty that life has thrown them.
When you compare this person to your positively minded friend, you will likely see an innate ability to receive the challenges from life in a very open way. Meaning, first of course there are felt experiences of anger, annoyance, and hurt. But it is what happens afterward that sets the positive-minded individual apart from the negatively minded individual.
One’s ability to absorb the challenge, have the space to recognize how they can change the situation for the better, and then dust themselves off, is paramount. The good news however is that optimism can be learned because the only thing that sets the negative person apart from the positive one is the type of neural pathways he or she has built up in the brain. What do I mean by this?
The human brain is wired to scan for danger. However, if you are a negative minded person you will feed this “negativity bias” and begin to wire pathways in the brain to support your view on life. This view mostly consists of the belief that the world and others are out to get you, always waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. That person is constantly looking for things to go wrong. As you feed the negative thoughts and beliefs about the world and your circumstances, they strengthen over time and become your autopilot state of mind. Yes, it takes work to build new pathways in the brain to support positive thinking and to support the belief that you are in fact safe.
Because the negativity stems from the fear of not surviving, we need to supply the mind with the understanding that you are safe. You can do this by first interrupting the negative thought or belief. Then supplying your mind with the feeling of being safe.
You can go back to an experience when you felt extremely safe and at peace. As you continuously interrupt these negative patterns and reroute them over and over again, soon you will begin to notice your mind doing this all on its own.