15 Apr 2020

How do you think positively? | Stay happy

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7 mins

Keep thinking positive Following feedback on my previous blog post I am writing this post today. Thinking positive is not the easiest as I already wrote. However, there are a few tricks and tips I can give to stay positive, even if it’s all wrong.

How do you stay positive when things don’t go the way you want them to?

Life often turns out differently than you planned. This happens to all of us and can be very annoying at times. Plans are broken and appointments don’t go through. Especially in this day and age with all the measures around COVID-19. Especially if you have a great need for clarity and structure, it can be difficult to keep thinking positively.

In my opinion, it is very important to continue to look realistically at the situation in which you find yourself. This isn’t easy for everyone to do, but I’m someone who has more to do with logical thinking than with emotional thinking. That also makes it sometimes difficult for me to deal with emotions, but I am finding my way through this better and better.

I myself have a kind of step-by-step plan that I follow to deal with things that don’t work out the way I would like to;

  1. My starting point for a lot of what I do is that I want to be happy. Worrying, getting angry or having sadness doesn’t make me happy. These feelings are a sign for me that I have to do something to feel happy again. I always try to hold on to this thought (with varying success).
  2. Try to realize that the emotions this evokes are allowed to be there and to be expressed. I do this for example by writing it off.
  3. When I feel strong emotions that influence my judgement, I try to distance myself from the situation. For example by literally walking away for a moment. Take a break, or play a game, or listen to music that calms me.
  4. When I am calm(er), I try to see what my options are for the situation. This step is sometimes difficult to take on your own. I myself discuss situations with my guidance or with trusted friends and/or family. I explain what the situation is, what I expected from the situation, what actually happened and what options I see for myself.
  5. If there are no options for me to take action myself, for example that an appointment has been cancelled that I would have liked to continue, I try to let it go. This is something you, in my eyes, can learn. It’s okay if an appointment doesn’t go through, but it shouldn’t make you unhappy (see point 0).
  6. If there is anything I can do, for example make a new appointment right away, I will try to do it as soon as possible. It makes me feel good that I have done something to turn the setback into a positive side (I made a new appointment myself!).

In short, always try to turn a setback into a positive action for yourself. And be so nice to yourself to see it as a good thing how you deal with setbacks.

How can you stay positive when you keep finding out that the gap between being able and being able is so big?

This question is a bit more difficult. The gap between being able and being able is something I struggle with myself. For example, I would like to help people. In the past I used to figure myself away for that. I put my own needs aside and helped someone else. Then I did this until it didn’t work out anymore and I chose for myself “in one go” and did this in an awkward way.

Not the best way to deal with your problems. What I’ve learned for myself is to figure out where your limits lie. And to respect them during this learning process. It’s not easy to find out that you can’t handle some things that other people (seem to) do without problems. For me these are social interactions in general, for example. These cost me (much) more energy than other people. And how much extra energy varies from day to day. But since I discovered this, I have also been looking for ways to deal with it better.

But to stay positive when you discover this gap for the first time is often quite a challenge. I myself have learned that it is better for you to accept what your limits are and try to shift them if you want to make an effort to do so. After all, pushing back the boundaries is a task that can be worthwhile. But then you have to see the need for it for yourself. If you don’t support pushing the boundaries, it probably won’t happen.

But to stay positive when you notice that you want to be able to do certain things, but can’t handle them, you’d better look at the things you can do. For example, making a phone call is too difficult or annoying for you, but you can express yourself against that in a letter or email. Don’t look at the fact that phone calls are not your thing, but focus on the fact that your emails are very good!

By focusing on your strengths and not your weaknesses, you also start to think more positive about yourself.

Staying positive

How can you stay positive if, accepting still doesn’t work?

Acceptance is an important issue. Although I realise that it is difficult for people to look at themselves openly and honestly, it is something I recommend everyone to do. Be nice to yourself and look at yourself as through the eyes of your best friend or (future) partner. Try not only to see the things you can’t do, but also the things you can do. As I wrote in my previous message, it is in the human being to look at the things that don’t go well. Then we forget the things that do go well.

If you can’t accept yourself, you have to ask yourself how someone else can accept you as you are. This may sound harsh, but it really starts with yourself. Autism is part of you, as much as your heart, your lungs and your conscience. It will never disappear. But you can learn what autism means to you. And then don’t look at other people, only at yourself. What does autism mean to you now? What are your weaknesses? And what are the strengths?

These are all questions that can be confrontational at times. But they help you to form an image of yourself through your own eyes. The intention behind these questions is to see where you can still grow (your weak sides) and what you might be able to do with (your strong sides).

Once I heard the saying: “Growing hurts”. And I have learned from experience that that is true. Growing is difficult and painful sometimes. But once you’ve had the growing pains, it gets a little easier.

Uncertain trap

There are plenty of people in this world who are insecure about themselves. Not so strange that this is also common among autistic people. It may be that, like me, you haven’t known for years that you’re autistic. That brings with it a lot of insecurity. Because of this I thought for years that I was a normal person, who was bad at a lot of things. As a result, my self-image was almost non-existent.

Now that I know I’m autistic, that takes away a lot of the uncertainty for me. I am who I am. I am father, husband, friend, autistic person, family member and blogger. Autism makes me who I am. Autism is part of my being. Now that I know what my weaker points are, I can work on them (on the parts I think are worth it) or explain them better to my environment (because they are not going to change).

This has made my view of the world a lot more positive than it was.

Thanks for reading
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Tags: autisme positief sociaal-gedrag gedachtes crisis dit-is-autisme 
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David Westerink
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I am David, born in 1984 and I'm autistic. I write blog posts and advocate for autism acceptance. I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything.

I have my own podcast (in Dutch) about autism and neurodiversity! Checkout the AutCast!

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