Have you ever been in a great mood, smiling, laughing, and enjoying life when someone with a sour attitude huffs into the room? They can send the mood of everyone in the room into a vortex of yuk. Researchers have discovered that a person with a negative frame of mind can affect others just by walking by. They don’t even have to say anything… not even sigh, gesture, or snarl. Their body language and facial expression alone can communicate their pessimistic point of view, and others in the room will join in without even knowing it.
There are lots of good reasons to avoid the Typhoid Marys of Negativity in your life. The consequences of negativity can be quite destructive. Studies have found that if a person's mood is negative and they are taking a test, they perform more poorly. Parts of our brain actually shut down in the most negative situations. Negativity affects not just the negative person, but it oozes the toxic pollutants into those around them.
The good news is the opposite is also true. One positive person can enter a room and change the whole point of view. She can take the negative to a positive simply by looking for and pointing out the positive aspects of the situation. There is always an upside; we can train our minds to see it and show others.
If you want to perform well, test well, have a good meeting… find a way to get happy and positive. Not surprisingly, researchers have studied the effects of a positive attitude on performance. Shawn Achor, author of the Happiness Advantage indicates that time after time, studies indicate that a happy, positive outlook improves performance on exams, on productivity, on creativity, even on intelligence. That’s right we are actually smarter when we are positive. Companies like Google have keyed on this truth with their employees and they have come up with lots of innovative ways to keep their workers happy and positive knowing it will ultimately affect their bottom line. Their recruiting literature spells out that they “nurture an invigorating positive environment” and that they want quality employees who have a “great time” doing what they do.
After Jesus taught His disciples how to be happy with the be(happy)attitudes in the beginning of the sermon on mount he told them they were to be light, to go and do positive, good things that would encourage those around them. Like a lamp, they would brighten up the perspective of all those around them and they would in turn bring glory to their Creator. Then those people could shine the light too.
If we are sons and daughters of God, if we have been created in the image of our heavenly Father, then we are children of light and we bring light and positive encouragement to those around us. If, on the other hand, we bring a negative, destructive attitude we act more like the one who is a destroyer.
As I write this, I can hear the preschoolers from the Child Development Center on the playground outside my window. Just one child began crying for some reason, within about 5 seconds there was a chorus of children crying in unison. I am certain many of them didn’t even know why they were all crying, but they joined in the mournful drone of half-hearted lamentations anyway. The wise teacher redirected them toward something more fun and exciting and soon after the playful squeals and laughter returned to normal. I had to snicker out loud a little. I was not laughing at the kid who must have had a legitimate booboo, or even the kids who turned to the teacher and joined in the dirge, but at myself, knowing that my nature is just the same. I am prone to joining in the whining and complaints of those around me instead of being like the wise teacher redirecting thoughts back to the positive.