October 4, 2018
For the past week, I have done my best to not complain. I’ve been using a bracelet with an emblem of a tree on it to remind myself to stay rooted in positivity.
I do this by turning the bracelet around so the roots shoot away from me every time I complain about something. I got this idea from a friend who is taking The Science of Happiness (COMM 100), taught by professor Sunwolf, where they do a similar thought project over the course of the quarter.
I have found that by paying more attention to when I am tempted to complain, I force myself to make the conscious decision about whether or not to put bad energy out into the world.
I challenge myself to take a deep breath in and let that negativity ride out on my exhale.
This experiment showed me I resort to complaining far too often. There were certain things I was doing every day that were adding negative energy to my life, which I did not realize before.
I admit that some of my closest relationships are built on negativity, where we complain to one another about our lives, often in the seemingly harmless form of a rant. However, I’ve learned this week that rants are not so harmless.
We are focusing on all of our pessimism, dumping it on those closest to us. I do not mean to say that if you have friendships that are based on sharing negative experiences that the relationship is forever toxic and doomed to fail.
Don’t give up friendships based on cynicism but instead, try to initiate leading with positivity and hope it is contagious enough that the relationship can transition from one of shared misery to one of common happiness.
Academically, I realized that when I made myself go to the library to do homework, I really dreaded sitting in a big quiet space and forcing myself to focus.
I complained about it before, during and after the experience. Since discovering this, I have been doing work in the comfort of my room or at outdoor tables and have found that I concentrate better because I am not filled with pessimistic thoughts.
When the weather is nice and I can do homework outside, the feeling of being in nature and breathing fresh air adds an element of positivity that puts me in an overall better mood, making homework more agreeable.
Activities like studying, grocery runs, laundry and attending class are often cause for complaint. They have to get done regardless of whether you want to or not.
To transition these activities into more positive experiences, I have been finding ways to reorchestrate them so that there are elements that make me happy.
As a society we focus on the negative, the complaints, the imperfections.
We bond with others by complaining about the same things. But is this the type of connection we really want to make with people? Do we want to base our relationships off of adding negativity to each other’s lives?
No, we don’t.
But getting rid of that instinct is difficult because it is so deeply rooted in our personalities and culture. Not only is negativity an instinct you have to fight in yourself, but you also have to fight the instinct to dwell on the complaints of others.
The reason that I chose a tree to be the talisman for my positivity project is because I find nature to be pure and balanced, which is a goal I am striving toward.
Nature at its core is not about complaining, dreading or whining; it is about harmony, finding balance and unity.
Nature may not be the model that everyone looks to for positivity and balance. Some people may find inspiration from their religion, community or meditations. Whatever symbol you choose to draw your positivity from it is important to remember it, think about it, maybe even wear it on yourself physically like I am doing to serve as a constant reminder of your goal.
Be conscious of the negative thoughts, breathe them out and allow the positivity to rush in and fill the void left behind. This practice has not only put me in a better mood, but given me a more optimistic outlook on my past, present and future circumstances.
Sahale Greenwood is a sophomore political science and communication double major.