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Something we all could use more of in our lives these days is positivity.
On this week's Motivational Mondays, Meaghan Murphy, Editor-in-Chief at Woman's Day magazine, encourages us to stay hopeful and focus less on the negative. As host of the 'Off the Gram Podcast' and the author of “Your Fully Charged Life," Meaghan's cheerful outlook is infectious, giving insight into the small, simple changes we can all do to get the most of every day.
THE POWER OF SELF REFLECTION
It's not always easy in an uncertain world to keep a positive outlook, but one thing is sure, no matter how dark the day, the sun, of course, will shine again.
Meaghan Murphy embodies that sentiment as a self-proclaimed optimist, and she exudes that in her persona every day. We wanted to know, quite simply, how she got that way and how she's able to be so consistent in maintaining her glowingly positive outlook. Jokingly, Meaghan describes herself as "somebody who seemingly farts rainbows," full of energy, optimism, and joy—but she makes it clear that living that way is a choice, and she clarifies she has trained herself to live that way.
Meaghan explains that being grateful and present are significant parts of her formula for happiness. She did not always have such a cheerful disposition, though. Along her journey to get there, she was even given the nickname "Grumpy" when she was younger and even proudly sported a gold necklace with a grumpy charm.
As is often experienced, discontent in our lives stems from past emotional trauma. Meaghan is no exception as her teenage years were turbulent, inclusive of what she describes as a "raging eating disorder" that led to hospitalization. Adding to Meaghan's distress at the time, her best friend died after jumping out of a car while en route to being also hospitalized for an eating disorder. That was the moment everything changed.
Facing such adversity and grief at a young age can be a lot to overcome. Meaghan reflects on that time, "So I'm 16, I'm hospitalized and have this raging eating disorder. I have just lost my best friend — the first real loss I experienced in my young life. And it was tough, it was tough."
Meaghan credits doing a lot of therapy to learn how to function and get through her difficult times. And as is familiar to many people, writing down her thoughts and feelings became an integral part of her emotional healing.
TURNING TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH
Have you ever written your innermost thoughts in a journal or diary? It can be very therapeutic, and it allows you to self-reflect and be honest with yourself without judgment. It's for your eyes only — unless you decide to share what you've written openly. In Meaghan's case, one of her writings was in the form of an essay that would change the trajectory of her life.
She explains “I began to function again in life. And at that point, I wrote an essay about it — and writing has always been healing for me, a very powerful therapeutic force. And so I wrote this essay about my experience that wound up earning me a $10,000 college scholarship — I was named a Horatio Alger National Scholar."
Winning her scholarship came with national exposure, including being congratulated on NBC by Don Johnson, Bob Costas, and country great Trisha Yearwood, who even sang in the program.
That was a turning point for Meaghan, and that part of her journey is a metaphor from which we can all learn. Speaking out and sharing your truth can yield amazing results, helping you and potentially helping others in similar situations.
Meaghan looks back at that first big moment of recognition for her powerful essay and remembers thinking, "...woah, this is kind of a big deal… when you make your message, wow, pretty cool things can happen."
Meaghan Murphy's story shows us that through tragedy, there can be optimism. However, getting there has to be a conscious choice. When you have a terrible experience, you can either let it destroy your life or make the more difficult — but constructive decision to face it and learn from it.
This is the basis for what Meaghan calls Positive Psychology. While early psychology looked at "what was wrong with people and how you could fix them," positive psychology differs in that its entire approach is flipped first to examine what's right with people and how to emulate those positive attributes.
This "flourishing" approach looks for the common identifiers of happy people and asks how to duplicate them in the lives of people having difficulties. Meaghan cites psychologist Martin Seligman's PERMA theory of wellness as a game-changer in helping people live more happy lives.
Breaking down the PERMA acronym, Meaghan explains, "The P is for positive emotion. The E is for engagement. The R is for relationships. The M is for meaning. And the A is for accomplishments. And really what that kind of boils down to is that happy people have these things in common; they have really strong relationships; we need other people. Other people are always the answer."
LESSONS LEARNED FROM DAILY GRATITUDE
One of the key takeaways from Meaghan Murphy on how to remain positive in our daily lives is gratitude. She refers to gratitude as the "secret sauce" that has the power to cure almost everything that ails us as a society. In its most straightforward definition, gratitude means thankfulness, but Meaghan stresses the importance of understanding that it's about action instead of thinking of gratitude as just an idea.
For example, some people keep a 'gratitude diary' listing all the things for which they are grateful. But does this thankfulness influence the actions they take in the world each day, or how they interact with others?
Meaghan accepts the notion of keeping a daily journal as a good thing, especially considering that writing down her feelings in an essay during her youth was the catalyst that changed her life. However, she encourages a different approach... one of simply asking daily, "What made you say yay today?" It's a question she asks of herself and her family, and it yields a range of answers.
"Maybe that it’s "the daffodils on Daffodil Hill are blooming… yay!" That just made me smile. Maybe it's "whoah, the sun rises now at 5:53, which means I can go for an outdoor run before everyone is up. Yay!"
Stop and ask yourself, "What made you say yay today?" Then pause to appreciate your answers. That is Meaghan's not-so-little secret to practicing gratitude, and it's something we can all do every day, starting now.
Listen to the bonus episode to learn how to build connections with strangers and how to be present throughout the day.