Looking on the bright side doesn’t come naturally to writer Lucy Partington – so how would she get on when she was challenged to be positive for seven whole days? Here’s what happened…
If you know me personally and are reading this: I KNOW, RIGHT?
But if you’re reading this and you don’t know me, here’s a bit of background: my name is Lucy and I am notoriously not a positive person.
My friends constantly mock me for my severe lack of enthusiasm, and my first reaction to most things is negative.
It’s not something I do on purpose, and just because my negativity comes first doesn’t mean that I’m not occasionally happy or excited – it’s just my default setting.
Being positive about everything for a whole seven days – 168 hours – is not a natural approach for me, but I am excited to see how it impacts on my thought processes.
After all, there are various scientific studies that demonstrate the power of positive thinking, with The Nun Study (great name) even going as far as to prove that positive thoughts can lead to a longer lifespan.
Boldly, I decide to start my week of positivity on a Monday.
Monday mornings are notoriously bad, and January Mondays are the worst of all, so I decide to get an early night on Sunday, putting my trust in the power of a good night’s sleep.
Sure enough, with a full eight hours in the tank, I wake up feeling refreshed.
Crucially, I leave my phone on my bedside without doing any doom-scrolling, a key step towards preserving my positive mood.
The last 12 months will have been a challenge to even the most upbeat person, and while I like to stay informed, I’ve started to think that a bit of distance from the constant news cycle might be a good thing.
I decide not to invite any external anxiety into my brain and instead crack on with the day at hand. Onwards and upwards.
Monday is actually a fairly quiet day, and as I catch up on chasing some invoices (not exactly a thrilling task) I make a point to feel grateful for my freelance lifestyle.
I remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to work at times that are best for me, and instead of getting hung up on the tedium of the task at hand, I end up feeling optimistic about the path my career is on. An early win for positivity.
I have a couple of meetings on Tuesday, and I put some make-up on for them. Thanks to lockdown and working from home, I’ve tended to prioritise an extra half an hour in bed, but as I’m painting on eyeshadow I realise how much I’ve missed doing it.
It’s around this point that I realise that being proactive is quite closely linked to positivity for me. Left to my own devices, I tend to opt for an easy life, but I know that passive approach sometimes leaves me feeling a bit listless and negative.
Making a bit more of an effort to do my make-up is exactly the kind of thing I might skip if I were feeling negative, but after my call, I realise that I’ve spent less time staring at my bare face and more time engaging with the people I was chatting to. Win.
In that same spirit of being proactive, I decide to make a loaf of sourdough.
I perfected my technique last year (another souvenir of lockdown) but I haven’t made any since I’ve been back in London after Christmas. I can tend to get hung up on turning out the perfect loaf, and when this one starts to look a bit wonky, I can feel my brain straining against my new outlook. I press on regardless, telling myself that it will taste nice either way.
While the bread is proving, I look around the kitchen, and realise it’s a bit of a bomb site. Deep cleaning the sink and draining board and polishing the hob are jobs I typically loathe, and I usually do them in an almighty sulk, but this time, I’m determined to approach things in a sunnier frame of mind.
I ordered a bright pink bottle of Method’s Wild Rhubarb Anti-Bac All Purpose Cleaner ahead of time, because I’d heard people raving about it (it’s vegan and super effective) and the smell instantly reminds me of summer – a definite win on the positivity front. I stick on a podcast I’ve been meaning to listen to, and as I scrub, I find myself beginning to relax. Which I never thought could happen.
Kitchen newly sparkling, I check on the bread, which has actually turned out fine. I make myself some toast and congratulate my brain on its newfound refusal to self-sabotage.
Wednesday and Thursday are the days I work on staff as a beauty editor, and as I’m super-busy, they go by in a bit of a blur. I’ve begun to notice something strange, though. After only a couple of days of relentlessly looking on the bright side, I find that I don’t need to remind myself to be positive. It’s just started to happen.
Instead of stressing about my to-do list, I go into both days feeling upbeat about seeing my team and having a catch-up with them.
I don’t have many plans for the weekend, but instead of dwelling or moping around doing nothing, I decide to organise a catch-up call with one of my friends who moved back to Australia last summer and I also call my sister and my almost-three-year-old niece.
On both calls I catch myself sounding brighter and breezier than usual, despite not having very much news to share. I comment to my sister that the weeks are going by so quickly, but even that doesn’t feel like a negative.
Instead, it strikes me that it means we’re a tiny bit closer to normality, and it also means longer, brighter days are coming. In the past, I’d definitely just have moaned about it.
I do feel grateful as I lie in bed that night; while my usual instinctive negative reactions never mean anything bad, I think switching my frame of mind and putting the positives first has had a knock-on effect on everything else that happens in my day.
It impacts my general approach to things, too. My mind feels a bit lighter, I feel more energised and more productive.
Obviously, it’s all about striking a balance - I’m not about to start tap-dancing my way out of bed on a Monday morning, and some days, I know I’ll have to accept that positivity will be harder to come by than it is on others.
Let’s just say I’m going to be more open to it when it arrives.
And if the nuns are right, I could be on for a few more months of old age if I keep it up…
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