Building Your Positive Muscles

Many people are quick to see what is wrong, rather than what is right. I’ve come to think of people who are quick to see the negative as having strong negative muscles. This is not to say they do not have positive muscles, they are just under-developed. So, the exercises to follow are designed to pump up your positive muscles. Before you begin your positive workout, let’s clarify what a positive is: a positive is anything for which you can be thankful for or just appreciate. It does not have to be big and it need not be a personal accomplishment.
Here are some tips and different spins on how to get the most out of your positive workout:
Be specific. Instead of just thinking, “I am grateful for my friends” name each friend and think of something about each person that you appreciate. Always include WHY you are thankful.
Savor. Your gratitude list can feel like your grocery list without this important ingredient. Think about what it is you are appreciating and stretch yourself to think of the many reasons you might be grateful for that thing.
Today. Think of anything and everything that you could be grateful for that happened today. Each day is unique. Trust me, as you start to think over your day, the positives will pop into your mind. The more you look the more you find.
Reverse appreciation. Think of anything that you would be mad, sad or otherwise upset if you lost it tomorrow. If you woke up tomorrow and your radio was gone, you’d probably be upset! So, why can’t you appreciate your radio today? This works for many, many things that you may be taking for granted, such as your kidneys or that little screw that holds up your towel rack. If they were suddenly gone tomorrow, you would likely grouse. So appreciate your healthy kidney today and that your towel rack still does it job rather than adding another thing to your to-do list.
Random gratitude. Pick random items and challenge yourself as to how you can appreciate it or be thankful for it. For instance, one time I randomly chose “lint” and ended up with some delightful surprises.
Challenge yourself. For a real challenge, try looking for the positive in things usually thought of as negative. For instance: what good came of 9-11? What are some positives that resulted from World War II?
Milk it. Choose one thing and think of ALL the things that had to happen for that thing to be in your possession. For instance, I once looked at the milk in the bottom of my cereal bowl and thought of everything that was connected to bringing me that milk. Sure, the cow, the farmer and the store that sold it to you are easy, but what about the grass that fed the cow? The milking machine. The INVENTOR of the milking machine. The driver of the truck that brought it to the store. How about every inventor and manufacturer that brought the existence of that truck into being – for without all those pieces that make up the truck, or if those pieces broke down, maybe no milk for us. How about the highway he drove on and everyone that brought that into existence. I’m just hitting the highlights on this one to give you an idea. You could spend hours contemplating just one of today’s modern conveniences.
Ultimate challenge. Think of someone for which you harbor resentment, anger or even (gasp!) hatred. Now, start listing things you appreciate about that person, positive characteristics or how you in any way you grew because they were in your life.

Do not get frustrated if you have trouble performing some of the more difficult exercises the first time. Like your experience at the gym, you might need to strengthen your muscles before tackling the heaviest of weights.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor

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