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Young Philosophers

Positively Powerful

Anushka Bhaskar (18) & Anchal Bhaskar (16) are positive about positive thinking.

Anushka: Hey everyone! Anchal and I have some exciting ideas for the delightfully rejuvenating warmer months on the topic of positive thinking.

Anchal: It’s important to sometimes evaluate our personal philosophies and ensure that we’re not falling into patterns of thinking which prevent us from living our best and most prosperous lives. So we’d like to encourage this now.

Anushka: Often it seems that our circumstances determine our mood. Feelings of negativity can sweep us away and leave us feeling helpless. But there’s great power in remembering that we are not our thoughts, and can even change the patterns of thinking that keep us feeling down or out of control. Positivity is a powerful tool, and might even help us to understand our failures or setbacks. The agonies of defeat, as we might name our setbacks, are often outweighed by the thrills of victory we experience each day. In the case that we find that the agonies of defeat outweigh the thrills of victory, we might also identify ways to create small thrills of victory, whether through acts of kindness or through self-care.

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Anchal: Søren Kierkegaard was of the mind that “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” If we look at our circumstances in this Kierkegaardian spirit, perhaps we can shift the frame in which we view them and take control of the one thing we can change: our thinking. As my great teacher Mrs Wilder once said, if we looked at many so-called negative circumstances and declared to ourselves: “What an opportunity!” we might feel very differently about them. Even if the negativity isn’t immediately converted, perhaps we could laugh at the absurdity of the situation, or reframe the situation in the context of the shared human experience and the miracle of our existence.

Anushka: But it’s important to keep in mind that ‘being positive’ isn’t supposed to be a panacea for negative emotions. Positivity should not repress our emotional confrontations; but it could be used to supplement our moods once we are feeling more stable. The Buddha taught that in order to overcome our emotional pain, we need to accept the experience, allowing ourselves to acknowledge the emotions we’re experiencing. Only then can we replace negative emotions with gratitude and positivity.

Anchal: Let me give some examples of reframes I use to try and jump-start my perspective. Sometimes, acknowledging the miracle of the mundane is the most important step towards a more positive worldview. If we truly take the time to contemplate the unlikeliness of our own existence, we might start to view each day as a gift. If we look out at the rain, and instead of being miserable are amazed that our most precious resource falls from the sky in abundance, then we might forget to be sad about the sunny day we don’t have! If we’re bored by our surroundings but consider the amazing fact that buildings, governments, and movements are structures built by human beings, and came from ideas that were once completely intangible, then we might also believe that the power of our own minds is just waiting to be manifested and harvested.

Anushka: Something that might improve our positivity could be simply identifying or reflecting on the experiences of the day and categorizing them. Practicing appreciation of the little things is not an easy task, but to be able to understand the beauty of the mundane and of simple things is truly effective.

Anchal: We hope that readers will take this as an encouragement to use the ancient wisdom of positivity to start to replace negative thought-patterns with positive ones. Training the brain to think positively might be hard at first, but that’s only because we so often normalize our negative thought-patterns. It takes just as much energy to think “What’s wrong with that person?” as it does to think “I hope whatever that person’s going through changes for the better.” Arguably, the latter thought also returns positive energy and channels your inner force for good. Change starts with a single thought.

© Anushka Bhaskar & Anchal Bhaskar 2019

Anushka is a freshman at Harvard and Anchal is a high school sophomore in Orange County, California.

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