Saturday, March 7, 2009

On Positivity

I turned 50 last year and a lot of interesting things happen to you when you turn 50. First of all, I'm going through that phase of life that can only be described as perimenopausal. I didn't understand this at first. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating profusely, and the lack of sleep combined with other things would make me extremely irritable.

Then on day I happened to be flipping channels and a PBS station caught my eye. Dr. Christianne Northrup was giving a talk on menopause and she was pretty good. So I went out and bought her book The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change, 2nd Edition. This was very enlightening for me. One particular section of the book stayed with me when described menopause as a sort of rewiring of the body for a better second half!!!! (I'm using my own words, but this was the idea). Since that time every time a symptom crops up I tell myself that my body is being rewired and an interesting thing has happened. For the most part over time the night sweats have stopped and I am sleeping much better. I'm less irritable and feel great.

This leads me to what I really want to write about, which is positivity. I read several articles on the Internet yesterday that were discussing research conducted by some British psychologists that would suggest there is a gene that some people carry that helps them pay less attention to negative things going on around them and focus instead on the happier aspects of life. By doing so, they end up being more sociable and are generally in better shape psychologically.

I felt like maybe if someone took a look at my genes I might have that one, but then I started wondering about the people who don't have the gene. The article suggested they were more prone to depression. And I started wondering what this might mean in terms of having a positive outlook on life. Should we conclude as one psychotherapist has, that having a positive outlook is overrated and just let everyone be themselves?

I thought back to a composition class I took once with a brilliant professor who played piano like a dream. We were discussing improvisation and he explained that it was something he had to work at sometimes as much as 6-8 hours a day. I was shocked that it didn't come naturally to him because he was such a brilliant pianist and I guess I assumed that all people who were that brilliant had a natural inclination for it. I knew that improvisation didn't come naturally to me and until that moment it really bothered me.

So would he have been better served to find an occupation that did come naturally to him instead of working so hard on improvisation every day? Hard for me to say because he had an extremely successful career and was a great influence on many students passing through his class.

I've concluded that while it might be true that some have a gene that makes them naturally predisposed to have a positive outlook, that doesn't mean the rest of the world wouldn't benefit from working at having a more positive stance on things. I believe that positivity brings about change for the better and is well worth the effort.


  1. I commented on this on FB. I believe in the half full glass, not the half empty glass!

  2. Me too. But then we probably have the same genes!!!