Last Wednesday evening at 1871 in the Merchandise Mart a group of women gathered to begin their year with a masterclass in positivity. About 40 people were in attendance, and the panelists were Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Dr. Gertrude Lyons, and (our very own!) Jodi Wellman. The evening was the first of many masterclasses to come hosted by Chicago-Woman Magazine and 1871.
Dr. Anne Brennan started us off by citing the research and her experience with patients noting, “There are a number of physical and psychological benefits of being positive.” She made the point that our positive or negative state of being is a combination of both nature and nurture, and people who have a more negative frame of mind usually take longer to find a solution in her office because they must be convinced that there is another possibility (to be positive). It’s about changing the way your brain works, which can take a lot of work.
Our Happy Spectacular Instagram poll from the night showed us that 56% of people would consider themselves positive and 46% said, “Not really.” But what does it mean to be positive? Are you always looking for the silver lining? Forcing yourself to smile even when you don’t feel like it? Not necessarily.
Dr. Lyons and Jodi Wellman both cited Positive Psychology as a resource. They brought up that being happy is not the same thing has having a positive outlook or disposition. They both agreed that a positive person — and a way to maintain positivity in your life — is someone who’s consistently looking for and finding fulfillment and meaning.
Jodi said, “Staying positive means that even when it’s murky you keep doing the work to find fulfillment in your career. It’s about action.” She also talked about what it’s like when our careers and the circumstances around our careers make it exceedingly difficult to remain positive. She said, “Layoffs can rock us to our core. Allow yourself to wallow. Binge on the couch, and then ultimately, ask yourself, ‘What do I have to learn?’ followed by, ‘What do I have to do to be proud of how I handled the situation when I look back on it a year from now?’ And turning off the TV binge can be a thing to be proud of for that day.”
After listening to the experts, it’s true that positivity is a mindset determined by our experiences, but it is, perhaps more importantly, about forward action. It’s about continuing to search for fulfillment, meaning and having the courage to make changes when something gets in the way of that.
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Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).