An excerpt from The Positive Shift: Mastering Mindset to Improve Happiness, Health, and Longevity (BenBella Books).
During the second trimester of my third pregnancy, my husband and I went to our local hospital for a routine ultrasound to check on the health of the baby. As the parents of two sons, we were both ecstatic to learn that this new baby was a girl.
But then the doctor shared some not so good news; the ultrasound revealed spots on a part of the brain that indicated the baby was at increased risk of having a serious genetic disorder, trisomy 18. If she indeed had this disorder, she would have trouble gaining weight and would very likely die before her first birthday.
As soon as we got into the car, I burst into tears. All I could see in my mind was carrying this baby throughout the remainder of my pregnancy while knowing that she was going to die. I couldn’t imagine a happy outcome and at this point couldn’t talk about my pregnancy without crying.
My husband responded to this potentially devastating news in a completely different way. He dropped me off at home, returned a few hours later with several pink gifts—a blanket, a sleeper, a small bear—and told me, “This baby is going to be fine.” His optimistic nature led him to imagine only good outcomes. (For the record, this baby weighed more than 8 pounds at birth and is now a very healthy, although somewhat stubborn, 14-year-old girl.)
I’m telling you this story to illustrate the tremendous role personality plays in the mindset we adopt. Yes, bad things happen to us all—a failed romantic relationship, a disappointing work outcome, a fight with a friend, scary medical news. But we respond to unhappy events in really different ways.
Some people, like my husband, seem magically able to find the silver lining in any situation. Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the very optimistic boy who, upon receiving a room full of horse poop for Christmas, exclaims, “There must be a horse in here somewhere!”
Other people, and I include myself in this group, don’t naturally find the silver lining. Instead, we obsess about and ruminate over bad events in our past, replaying them over and over again in our minds, and imagine the worst possible outcomes for events in our future. This approach is certainly not the recipe for feeling better.
Those who approach life with a more positive mindset are happier regardless of their life circumstances. And if a positive mindset doesn’t come naturally to you, there are several strategies you can use to adopt a rosier outlook and live a happier life.