Motley Tries: A Practical Approach to Positivity

New staff writer, Elizabeth Hession, stumbles across an old journal of ‘positivity lists’, which leads her to grapple with the best method of facing each day with a positive attitude.

There is something so satisfactory in deciding to be advantageously logical in your pursuits of peaceful thinking. It’s a way of taking the emotional edge away from predicaments. We so often force ourselves to find solutions, but we’re always struggling against self-inflicted threat of over-complication.

It’s a double-edged sword. I always grapple with the practical needs for simple mechanisms to emerge safely from an anxious day – but am I ignoring the deeper cause just for the cushion of short-term aids?

But the interim approach is always needed; why wallow in downward disillusion when you can find a way to get yourself up and out, ready to tackle your fears, if even only for a few days, even hours, at a time. You need to. Life doesn’t stop when you do.

I recently recovered last year’s academic diary. Leafing through exhausted and crinkled pages of due-dates, reading lists, appointments, and birthdays, I found my old positivity lists. Perhaps for the first time, I forced myself to contract a way of realising that perseverance would not come unless I could find the grin before bearing. But which is the chicken, which is the egg; does perseverance come after you can find the smile through your anxieties, or rather the other way around?

Logically, my anxieties can’t readily be cured in rearranging the schedules I had trivially laid out on diary pages, and only so much could be done in attempting to organise it all. Instead, I wrote positivity lists. Even if only to get through the day with a brighter gaze, it helped. I used to pen quotes from writers I studied, lighting up a path to get through pressure.

February 16th 2016 – Bad Day. Bumped into someone I didn’t want to be reminded of. Didn’t give myself enough time for breakfast. Forgot my earphones. Missed one of my lectures. Cold. Raining. Felt sick. Had to run out of my lecture, again.

March 2nd 2016 – Good Day. Record said pleasantries for future consideration. Woke up earlier. Had time for breakfast. Wore my favourite comfy jumper. Listened to that song (why?) Made it to all my lectures. Stopped to chat to an old friend. Refrained from obsessively checking social media.

It’s a way of realising that your day is only ever built up of lots of small tasks. But I do wish that my own avenue towards positivity felt like I was doing more than reducing anxieties to a list of simplistic functions to be overcome.

Flick through my current diary. Not one positivity self-reminder in sight. I hadn’t managed to forget the instrument I developed to ensure I stayed aware of any gravitating states. Maybe I’d just neglected to keep them in check.

Instead, every week, I’ve endeavoured to indulge in a series of Minor Problems lists. They have piled up, adorning my fridge with scribbles, drunkenly-emphasised underlines and last-minute highlighter-penned additions. Reminders that each week’s list of problems would be nearly entirely defunct by the time I wrote the next, and that each week’s challenges were often, thankfully, only minor in their effect: over-consumption of kidney beans, over-reliance on playlist procrastinations, current Tinder Bae hasn’t texted back, barely know the concept of the golden-week, Liz’s Black Monday, Beck’s Black Tuesday (wine-induced).

Yet not all find a practical approach to positivity to be a justified practice – if we are to actively attempt to decide to be ‘happy’ (for want of a better term) are we rather just ignoring the truth behind the need to pen a recipe for mundane practicalities? The practical approach to positivity. After all, in the short term at least, it could be easier to sweep our anxieties out of the way than to confront them at the helm, especially if your diary is demanding you do so.

This is a question I forced myself to consider. There’s no easy answer – the practical approach isn’t always the best. I find it does the job, but only until the Bad Day-lists resurface, and next week’s minor problems list is drawn up, if only to deride the contents of its predecessor.

Good Day – 14th January 2017. Y’know, realising stuff. There are grins to be found in every day. There is no positivity in anxiety. My anxieties are most often quenched in productivity. To-Do: Get up, shower, take your time. Avoid those people that make you feel insecure. Be brave. Be kind. Never ignore the deeper routes, but get through it. Turn the page in your diary. Tomorrow is going to come. Get through today first. Smile.