America runs on negativity. From news headlines to social media posts to your family’s daily complaint-fest, we’re constantly pointing out what’s wrong instead of what’s right. This negativity bias made sense when our ancestors had to be on guard for deadly threats the next cave over—but all it does now is perpetuate an epidemic of division and conflict that poisons every level of government and citizen life.
Elaine Parke says we’ve surely evolved past the constant kvetching—which is why she wants Americans to spend November becoming more positive.
“On a personal level, cultivating a positive attitude is great for your mental and physical health and for your relationships,” says Parke, author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time (www.12habits4allofus.
As her book title suggests, Parke is deeply invested in bringing together our fractured nation. She says in the tense aftermath of the past few years, we’re all hungry for kind words, laughter, and moments of connection. When we get intentional about sharing them, others are more likely to respond in kind.
November, with its cultural emphasis on thankfulness, is a natural time to practice positivity—but Parke urges you not to stop there. The Habits of Unity is structured around her scalable outcome-proven, color-coded, 12-month model for instilling “good citizenship” habits in readers (and improving their mental health in the process). Note November’s theme:
January: Help Others
February: You Count
March: Resolve Conflicts
April: Take Care of Our Environment
May: Be Grateful
June: Reach Higher
July: Become Involved
August: Know Who You Are
September: Do Your Best
October: Be Patient and Listen
November: Show a Positive Attitude (Color of the Month: Sunny Yellow)
December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends
“The idea is to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month,” says Parke. “The plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so people want to keep doing it.”
As you focus on cultivating a positive attitude in November, keep in mind the following tips excerpted from the book’s 365 days of “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals:
Focus on blessings, which are the antithesis of worries. As we approach Thanksgiving, celebrate things, events, and people you are grateful for. Bask in these moments of beauty. Talk and even write about them. There’s a reason everyone suggests keeping a gratitude journal—it’s an amazingly powerful tool.
If necessary, fake it ’til you make it. A “true” positive attitude develops more quickly when we put on an optimistic act. For example, smiling when you may not necessarily feel like it stimulates the nervous system to produce a hormone that gives us a pleasant feeling and even has an anesthetic effect. Plus, it puts others at ease.
If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. Positivity is about what you “don’t” as well as what you “do.” (A good practice to keep in mind at Thanksgiving dinner, especially if hot-button issues come up in conversation!)
Work on accepting others’ weaknesses and annoying habits. Remembering that we are all human can bring peace and foster a positive attitude (another Thanksgiving “must”!).
Use the “spoonful of sugar” approach when encouraging others to change. Anger and criticism rarely spark inspired positive change. (Plus, they worsen your own mood.)
Remember that we do “get through” most setbacks. Adversity usually isn’t “the end,” and it often leads to opportunity (like getting a better job after being laid off). Reminding ourselves that good things can grow out of “bad” circumstances can help us stay more positive during personal challenges.
“None of these positivity practices are earth-shattering revelations,” notes Elaine. “We know this stuff already. We just need to do it. And yes, it takes work to counteract the negativity bias that comes with being human, but it makes life better for everyone.”
About the Author:
Elaine Parke, MBA, CS, CM, NSA, is the author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time. For 30 years, under the umbrella of the non-profit All of Us, Inc., her scalable and evidence-driven 12 habits of social unity model has transformed several million community citizens and youth across the USA’s Midwest and in Rwanda, helping them feel more caring and connected to one another. In 1993, her monthly branded and colorful habit-forming model was deemed a “Social Invention” by the London Institute for Social Inventions.
To learn more, please visit www.12habits4allofus.org