I've just started reading The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, and something had already caught my eye. In a chapter called ‘Does Harvard make you smarter?’ it mentions happy people, and how, when they’re asked for their secret to contentment, they say you just have to see the glass half-full.
What these people don’t realise, Dobelli says, is that they were born happy. Their ability to see the bright side of things is largely a personality trait that stays consistent throughout life. This is why self-help books on positivity don’t help those like me who are inherently more negative.
"The unhappy don't write self help books”, Dobelli says. I think it's about time there was some positive advice for those of us who weren't born happy. Realistic positivity, if you will.
- Short-term positivity: asking a born-positive friend for positivity at the moment you need it and not a minute before.
- Keep a stash of ready-to-watch romcoms for when you need a positivity boost. Afterwards, you'll think everything ends happily for around half an hour. Avoid: Marley and Me, Titanic and The Notebook.
- Never mull things over in the dark, on an empty stomach or during any other less-than-optimum conditions.
- Like a psychopath, you need to mimic your peers in their natural habitat. Try to copy the behaviour of positive people. On a Friday afternoon. The one before Christmas. My idea here is that if you keep pretending to be positive, maybe it’ll happen. And if not, at least it’s Christmas time.
- We pessimists find pleasure in things going wrong and ending badly (because it reinforces our own belief system that everything is shit, not because we like seeing people miserable). Watch something with a sad ending (Marley and Me, Titanic, The Notebook) and your faith will be reaffirmed and you might actually feel more positive.
- A lot of negativity comes from our own inner critic: a niggling voice that tells us we can't do something, that we're not good enough and we'll never be happy. Instead of trying to tackle this voice and telling yourself positive things instead - just give a face to the voice. David Brent's face.
- Pour yourself a drink just above midway for an instant half-full glass.