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It’s a Good Day For a Good Day: Chicago Woman Shares The 'Power of Positivity' at 1871

1871 is proud to partner with and host Chicago Woman -- an influential magazine and media brand that empowers women and inspires them to live their best lives at the office and at home -- for its first masterclass of the year, The Power of Positivity. Here are a few must-read takeaways on why positive thinking can help achieve positive results.

20180117_Rothstein_ChiMag-28.jpgPictured from left to right: Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Dr. Gertrude Lyons, and Jodi Wellman


‘Inhale positivity, exhale negativity.’

‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’

‘Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever flipped through a cat calendar or a self-improvement book, you’ve probably seen these phrases at least once or twice. There’s no doubt that the concept of positivity has been commercialized -- but does it really have any tangible benefits?

It’s a question best left to the experts, and few women know more about the subject than the three panelists who joined the inaugural masterclass: Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Founder of Symmetry Counseling and licensed clinical psychologist; Dr. Gertrude Lyons, the Lead Faculty member and Life Coach at Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential; and Jodi Wellman, Co-Founder and Career Coach at Happy Work Spectacular Life.

According to Dr. Malec, positive thinking by itself won’t change your circumstances -- but it can change the way that you view them.

“The positive clients that I work with are very problem-focused, very action-oriented, and believe that they have the skills to overcome whatever ails them,” said Dr. Malec. “The negative clients don’t really want to solve their problems and often just want a safe space to talk about them instead. Negative clients tend to view their problems as pervasive and global -- they have a hard time finding the silver lining.”

20180117_Rothstein_ChiMag-24.jpgAnd while positive thinking can be powerful in its own right -- thoughts, by themselves, are just that. Wellman, who helps her clients find fulfilling careers, says her experiences as a career coach have taught her that positivity comes from doing just as much as it comes from thinking.

“There’s an underpinning of thinking positive but a big chunk of it is taking action and thinking about what kind of action you want to take,” said Wellman. “That means you have to do the work to find out, and you have to take action.”

Wellman’s sentiments, along with those of Dr. Malec, aren’t just fluffy, feel-good ‘McHappiness’-style advice. In fact, having a positive attitude has been scientifically proven to save lives. According to a Harvard study, women who had a positive outlook on life also had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke -- compared to women who were less optimistic.

But even though it’s beneficial to see the glass as half-full, is there such a thing as being too positive?

20180117_Rothstein_ChiMag-23.jpg“Well, anything overdone can turn into toxic insincerity and can numb us from reality,” Dr. Lyons said. “To say, ‘just think positive about everything’ can actually put us in dangerous situations. While you do want to stay positive, you don’t want to ignore the negative because there’s some very valuable feedback in that as well.”

Despite the fact that an overabundance of positivity can be deceptive, Dr. Lyons believes that positive thinking is the best tool in your inventory when dealing with a difficult or trying situation.

“I have a personal hero in Viktor Frankl (author of the critically-acclaimed memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning), who suffered in the concentration camps,” said Dr. Lyons. “Frankl believed that the one thing others couldn’t take away from you was your attitude, and when times are especially hard, a positive attitude can be very, very valuable.”

So with that said, how does one cultivate -- and maintain -- a positive attitude? Here are some practical takeaways from our panelists that will help you feel good in any situation.

  • Delight in your deeds. It’s easy to brush off a compliment or dismiss the things that make you feel positive, but next time someone says something nice about you or you’re feeling good about something you’ve accomplished, take the time to stop and savor it. You’ll get more meaning out of the moment and, as a result, receive an instant boost of positivity.
  • Get your mind right. Meditation and mindfulness has many proven benefits on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. Our panelists recommend Headspace, a guided meditation app, for newcomers.
  • Listen to yourself. If you have a habit of negative self-talk, make sure you’re paying attention to your words and phrases. Most likely, you’ll realize that there’s no truth behind the negative things that you’re telling yourself. An easy way to catch yourself talking bad about -- well, yourself, is to use a voice recorder when you think it’s there and then play it back later.
  • Write it down. It’s easy to forget about the things that we’re thankful for when our everyday lives are so busy. That’s why each of our panelists sets aside time every single day to write about the things that they are grateful for -- what’s more, studies have shown that gratitude journals lead to improved health, sleep, and self-esteem.

These are just a few ways that you can stay positive in tough times. But regardless of whether you’re struggling in the moment or you’re simply looking for a boost of motivation, one thing is clear -- the view looks a whole lot better on the bright side.


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