Reaping benefits from the power of positive thinking
By Kristine Keller
The other day I was walking in Washington Square Park, taking the time to savor the newly bloomed crimson-red tulips, unfettered from worry, when I felt a snap. I looked down and noticed the strap on my new leather sandals torn neatly in half. Normally, I would have cursed the sky and fallen prey to a platitude along the lines of “this would happen to me, I have the worst luck.” But instead, I collected myself and hobbled to a nearby bench to plan my next course of action, namely how I would continue my walk home without having to place my bare feet on NYC pavement. I decided I’d sit at the bench and call friends who lived near and could deliver spare shoes. I remained positive and uncharacteristically calm, and then, something happened. A boy sat next to me with a vaguely familiar grin; it turned out he was an old friend from my childhood. We ended up talking for hours and have a date lined up for the following week. I didn’t even know he lived in New York City and wabam! Just like that, something happened.
There are those that don’t believe in coincidences or fortuitous findings — and sometimes I’m one of those naysayers. But, while I don’t always believe that things happen for a reason on their own, I do believe that things happen for a reason, because you allow them to do so. People vastly underestimate the power of their own cognitions. Instead of planting my wounded sandals in a graveyard next to a renegade guitar player near the fountain, I made the best of my situation. Had I not been looking up on that bench, both metaphorically and literally, I may never have noticed the boy from my wonder years. Sometimes, especially in New York City, what you release into the universe really does come back to you.
The power of positive thinking and the ability to re-frame negative thinking into optimism is a skill that takes methodical honing. It’s not easy to make mimosas from oranges at any given moment — sometimes you just want to call the orange what it is, a ball of layered mass that’s found on Florida driveways. But, I’ve found it’s easy to turn any day around with a few quick cognitive switches. The most egregious player in the negative armed forces just might be the aforementioned, “this would happen to me.” Replace “would” with “did.” This scenario did happen to you — but what can you do now? See what you can learn from this situation and what tools you can bring to future scenarios.
You can readily re-frame any given moment. Do you have to work late and miss happy hour? Think of all the productive work you’ll be generating. Do you have to get your wisdom teeth out and stay in all weekend? That’s fantastic because you’ve been wanting to watch the last season of Friday Night Lights. By reconstructing negative thinking into positive, we are also enhancing our self-efficacy, a pillar for mental well-being. The greater role that we actively play in our own lives and destiny, the happier and more productive we are. So, the next time you’re running at the Hudson River and embarrassingly trip over your shoe laces right as you pass a group of guys shooting hoops, you can rest assured there is positivity in the moment. Hopefully in the form of Carmelo Anthony asking you if you’re alright.
Kristine received her Master’s in Psychology from NYU. E-mail her at StreetshrinkNYC@gmail.com for questions.
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