Why Positive Thinking is Important

The idea of being positive is not always an easy one.

For people who are clinically depressed, for example, it can seem damn near impossible. Depression is a disease, quite literally – it creeps into your brain and infects it with negative thoughts, stealing away your motivation. Telling a person with depression to ‘just think positive’, and that will make their depression go away, is not as simple as all that. Depression doesn’t just go away because you tell it to.

And more than that, even if you aren’t clinically depressed, negative thoughts can become a pattern, a rut that you fall into, and the only way out of it is a steep, laborious climb. Every time something happens, you assume the worst, over, and over, and over, until it just becomes automatic. Of course the worst is going to happen. That’s what it does. That’s what you assume, every time.

But that being said, just because positive thoughts are difficult to think, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. In fact, quite the opposite: we need to try.

Many of us have heard of the experiment involving two plants: both of which are kept in the same environment, watered the same, treated the same, except that one plant is spoken to with negative words, and the other plant is spoken to with positive words. The plant that is praised grows tall and strong and beautiful, while the plant that is insulted grows stunted and ugly. There is no doubt that words have an immense amount of power; the words that people speak to us, the words that we use toward ourselves. Words have the power to shape our own self-image, the way that others see us. If we say that we are stupid and ugly, then it doesn’t matter if it is true or not; we believe it’s true, and that makes it true. So doesn’t it make sense to say that our thoughts hold the same power? Our thoughts hold the power to shape the world as we know it?

The world is neither good nor bad; it exists with aspects of both, and to each individual person, it becomes characterized by the way that we see it. If we see war, death, division, famine, hatred, then of course the world is a negative place – how could it be anything but? If we see love, joy, peace, innocence, hope, then the world is a positive place. It all depends on what we choose to focus on. And as much as it can be dangerous to accept naiveté and ignore the negative aspects of life, it is also very dangerous to dwell solely on that negative. If we dwell solely on the negative, we become like that plant – twisted and ugly, not necessarily externally but internally. We make ourselves depressed. We strip ourselves of our will to fight, our motivation. We take from ourselves things that we need to live our lives in a full and fulfilling way.

So as much as thinking positively is not always easy, it is something that we need to do. It is not something that is dependant on our situation, not something that time will eventually give to us. We will not stumble upon it when all the planets align and our life becomes perfect, because that will never happen. Your life will never be perfect, but all of our troubles, whether they be great or small, will seem easier to deal with when we teach ourselves to think positively, because that is what we need to do. Positive thinking is something that we need to train ourselves to do, even if we do it gradually. Even if it takes us years to get into the habit. Start by recognizing when your thoughts are unnecessarily negative and telling yourself something positive instead, even if you don’t believe it at first. Because eventually, if you do it enough, you might start to believe it. And eventually, the positive thoughts might even become automatic. Maybe not immediately, maybe not for a long while and with some difficulty, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we try.

Why I Cut My Hair

Women tend to have a strange relationship with their hair.

We’ve all heard the jokes about women going into the hairdresser’s and asking for a trim, and then being horrified when a bit more is cut off than they intended. And as much as it is a joke, it is also a sign of the strong attachment that women have to their long locks.

And trust me, I’ve been there – I get the fear that comes with having long hair. The conviction that your long hair is somehow tied in with your beauty. The belief that cutting it just a little too much will change everything about your appearance because hair can effect everything about your face. I remember feeling that way, back before I cut my hair short.

Perhaps the reason that so many women experience this attachment to their hair is because society itself tends to have a strange relationship with their hair. The majority of beautiful women that you see in the media, from fictional characters to actresses to singers, have long, beautiful locks. There are many men who are rather vocal about their opinion that they “like women with long hair” or think that “women with long hair are more beautiful.” Even from an early age, any girl growing up watching Disney princess movies will see that not only do ten out of eleven official princesses have long hair, but their hair is a focal point, something that symbolizes their personality and what they are going through. Pocahontas is seen with her beautiful, long black hair flowing gracefully around her face. Ariel’s vibrant red hair makes her different and more eye-catching than any other women in her movie; it sets her apart from her seven sisters. And when Mulan cuts her hair, it is only so that she can pass as a man.

A woman’s long hair is connected to her femininity and her beauty, and it is through this message that women are dissuaded from cutting their hair, resulting in this aforementioned strange relationship that women have with their hair. Meanwhile, short hair is connected to masculinity and mental breakdowns – for example, the way in which the media responded to Britney Spears shaving off her long, blonde, beautiful hair.

But personally speaking, although I experienced this attachment to my hair, I also sort of coveted short hair from a young age. I remember reading a series of teen books when I was young that had on its cover a woman with a bright green pixie cut, and I decided that I wanted to look like her when I grew up. I loved Sinead O’Connor’s shaved head, P!nk’s blonde faux hawk. The only thing that kept me from pursuing this look was society’s claim that I needed long hair to be pretty and feminine.

And then, when I was eighteen years old, after I graduated high school and left town to begin university in the city, I decided to chop my locks.

It was a decision that I made to reflect the change in my life, but cutting my hair became sort of an addiction over time. I started with a bob, but I moved through pixie cuts, faux hawks, Mohawks, shaved sides. I discovered that I looked good with short hair and I wanted to try it all out, to see if what all I could get away with. For the most part, the responses that I got were all positive as well. Some people didn’t like my hair, telling me that it really changed my whole appearance and made me look less soft, less beautiful, but they were a vast minority. Now, it isn’t rare for people to even stop me in the street or at the mall to tell me that they love my hair – and I do too. I was never very good at styling my hair when it was long, but now I need to put in half the effort to make it look twice as good.

And it seems that, ever since I cut my hair, more and more women in the media have been doing it too. When I was growing up, my inspirations were reduced primarily to the ones I have already named, but since then, we have seen Katy Perry cut her hair, Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus, Ruby Rose, etc., etc. Long hair is no longer the only option for looking beautiful, and people are beginning to realize that.

But although I initially cut my hair because I thought it looked beautiful, there was something else about it that I didn’t quite expect but discovered fairly quickly; just how freeing it feels.

When you have short hair, it isn’t because you’re trying to conform to any beauty standard. You don’t even have it because you care if other people think you’re pretty. You have short hair because you want short hair, because you like it. Short hair is about you, not anyone else.

And to return to my discussion of Disney princesses and how they represent short hair, there is actually one princess who accurately represents what short hair is like: Rapunzel. Throughout the whole film, her hair is long because someone else covets it, because someone else wants her hair to be long. Near the end of the film, however, her hair is cut, and through the action, she is freed from the oppressive influence of that person in her life. She no longer needs to live for them; she can be free, make decisions for herself, do what she wishes. And maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that cutting your hair makes you any freer than a woman who keeps her long hair (and nor am I trying to say that any woman who has long hair is at all a prisoner), but it does represent how short hair can make you feel.

Short hair is fun. Short hair is free. And short hair does not at all make you any less beautiful or feminine.

Thoughts on Regret

Regret is a pervasive and terrifying thing.

The idea that you can look back on your life, on decisions that you made at the time, and come to the conclusion that you made the wrong decision. That the path you chose is thin and winding and leads nowhere, and there’s no way to get to the path that you wish you had taken now. Because now that you are on this path, now that you realize that it is impossible to turn around and walk back, now you know that that other path was a much better path to take.

I know many people who have felt this way. I know many people who have gotten lost to this feeling, have become bitter and depressed because of it. And for a brief time, even I found this feeling creeping up on me.

I regretted the fact that I allowed my depression to cripple me for a year.

I regretted the school that I had chosen upon going into post-secondary.

I regretted things that I couldn’t possibly have changed or even chosen, things that I was born into. Things that simply were. Things that I could only curse fate or the universe of God or whatever you believe in for, because only that could have been responsible for it.

And you know what I began to realize? There’s absolutely no good to be found in regret.

Once you start down a path, you can’t turn around and change your mind, that’s true. You can only move forward, not back, and it’s important for you to keep that in mind – and one of the reasons why it is so important is because you can still move forward. You don’t have to stay on the path you are on. Just because you have started on it, it doesn’t mean you have to continue. You can change your mind, you can start on a new path, you can cut across and cheat your way onto a new road. Your past is set in stone, but your future is free. Your future is something that you still can change.

And often times, we make the decisions that we do for a reason, and it’s too easy to forget that reason when we have grown and learned new things. At one time, I regretted allowing myself to be crippled by depression, but I forget that I was crippled by it because I was deeply, intensely depressed, and I didn’t understand that at the time. I understand that now. I know how to cope with that now. But I didn’t at the time, and that’s why I made the choice that I did. It’s important for us to remember that, because it makes it easier to forgive ourselves for the decisions that we made in the past.

More than that, we should never regret the bad times because, often times, the bad times need to happen. Nobody’s life is constantly perfect – we all need to experience pain because we learn from pain. From pain, we are given the opportunity to find our strength. The bad times teach us lessons which we can then take with us into the good times, which we can then use to teach others. Maybe I did lose a year of my life to depression, but when I hear someone else voicing the same thoughts that tormented me during those years, I know what they are going through and I can try to help them. So why would I regret any of it?

Regret can be a very harmful thing. It can become something that overwhelms us, that depresses us, but it can also be a good sign. We regret things when we realize that we now know more than we did then, and that if we were to make the same decision now, we would have chosen differently. Regret is a sign of growth. So do not linger in your regret. Be proud of the fact that you have grown, and take that growth into the future with you. After all, the future is the only place where you can take it now.

The Choice In Eating Meat

Yesterday, I visited the homestead of an old family friend with my mother, and this particular friend happens to raise animals. I won’t pretend to understand everything that happens on her homestead, because I identify very firmly and proudly as a city girl who has never once had to kill my own meat, but I do know that she raises these animals, breeds them, and uses them for meat as well.

She took us for a tour of her homestead, and she showed us her pigs, her cows, her cute little bunny rabbits, and after the tour was over, when we were sitting on her porch and I had one of her dogs sleeping on my lap, she told us about the backlash that she and others like her have had to face for raising animals for meat.

She told us about a friend of hers who received death threats from people. She told us that she has been accused of raping her cows to get them pregnant, of being cruel and heartless for murdering innocent creatures.

“Don’t tell me I don’t love my animals,” she said. “I still love my animals, even though I eat some of them.”

This got me thinking about the attitudes that a lot of people have about hunting or farming for meat. A few months ago, I heard from one woman who was a yoga teacher and a vegan that hunting was worse than buying meat from the grocery store, because at least when you were buying meat, you weren’t actually killing an animal.

And here’s the thing – I don’t really know where I lie on this whole vegan-vegetarian-meat eater debate. I don’t eat a whole lot of meat, not by a rule but because I’m not the biggest fan of meat, I’d rather get my protein from other sources. And when I do eat meat, I try to get it from socially-conscious sources, like independent farms, similar to my family friend’s homestead. I believe that human beings are omnivores and that some of us have a harder time living without meat than others, but I also believe that we as a society have progressed enough that we can easily get protein from other sources, like beans. So I don’t disagree with anyone in this argument, I see all sides. But I don’t understand saying that hunting or independent farming is worse than buying meat from the grocery store.

Going back to the ways that we as a society have progressed, we no longer need to be honest with ourselves about where our meat comes from. Meat does not come from animals, it comes from the store. We can go for a jaunty walk to the supermarket, pick up some delicious bacon, and not once think about the pig that had to die to give us that meat. And more than that, we don’t even think about the sort of life that that pig lived. More often than not, meat from the grocery store comes from factory farming, and factory farming is much more focused on getting out as much meat as humanly possible as cheaply as humanly possible than it is on the wellbeing of its animals. Animals in factory farming are kept in tight spaces, crowded out by hundreds of their own kind, many of them rarely even seeing the sun. They are fed growth hormones so that they can be slaughtered as soon as possible, and there is increasing evidence that these growth hormones are harmful to the health of the humans who eat this meat. These animals are born in these farms and they die in these farms, leading a short and miserable life all so that you can have bacon for breakfast.

Now, contrast that to the lives that animals lead when they are raised in independent farms or homesteads like my family friend’s, or killed by hunters. These animals spend their days outdoors, roaming free. They get to run, play, eat as much good food as they want. These animals lead a life and then, yes, they die. And again, they die so that we can have bacon for breakfast, and you can decide for yourself is that sacrifice is worthwhile or not. But if you are going to eat meat, isn’t it better to make sure that you are eating the meat of a creature that actually had a life? And isn’t it better to eat meat knowing where it came from, and what sort of sacrifice went into giving you that meat? Isn’t it better to be aware?

I feel awful for my family friend, receiving threats and insults the way that she has when, really, she is closer to the source of her food than many of us are. She has a relationship with her animals, she loves them and takes care of them – knowing her the way I do, I cannot doubt that. She knows where her meat comes from, and she makes sure that before they die, they lead a fulfilling life full of love and happiness. That is not an evil thing. That is not something that anyone should look down on. Rather, that is something that those of us who choose to eat meat should try to emulate.

And when I say that, I don’t mean that we all need to start our own homesteads or go hunting – personally speaking, I know I wouldn’t have the heart for it. All that I’m saying is that we need to be educated about where our meat comes from, and we need to make sure that when we do eat meat, it comes from socially-conscious sources. Seek out independent farms and buy your meat from there – you can find these farms represented frequently at your local farmer’s market. Not only will you be healthier and supporting your community, you will be much kinder to creatures who depend on our benevolence.

Why Bother Fighting?

I suppose I’ve always taken it for granted that everyone believed, whole-heartedly, that fighting was important.

I’m not talking about fighting in the sense of barroom brawls or schoolyard bullying. I’m not talking about unnecessary physical violence, or even physical violence at all. I’m talking about people who stand by their beliefs to the death. I’m talking about people who refuse to let injustice or cruelty go forgotten or unmentioned. I’m talking about people who will not allow themselves to be pushed around or bullied, they have to stand up and do something. I thought that that was something that everyone believed in, it was just something that was difficult to enforce when the time actually came to do it.

But the other day, I was proudly listening to the news as they talked about people who were trying to stand up to Donald Trump. People who believed in something and were not willing to just let it go. People who needed to fight. And while I was listening to this, someone raised the question, “why do they even bother? They can’t win, so what are they doing?”

I was taken aback by this question. I suppose I’ve heard it raised before, but it’s been a while since I’ve needed to give the answer to it. Because, the way I see it, when you believe in something whole-heartedly, whether that be equal rights for others or equal treatment for yourself, what else can you do but fight?

And why do we fight? Why do we bother? I mean, people have fought battles since the dawn of time, and they have continued to fight even when they knew they couldn’t win. So the way I see it, we do not necessarily fight because we know we’re going to win. We very well might not win. Good battles have been lost again and again, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth fighting.

We fight because we can’t do anything but. We fight because we cannot be silent, we cannot allow people to get away with things that are not fair or right. We fight because it is better than laying down and being walked over.

We fight because we need change, and that will not happen if we do not demand it. We fight because, if we don’t, then nothing will ever progress. We fight because life is not always easy or fair, so what other choice do we have?

And even in fighting, things are not always fair. Good people have been torn down, threatened, spat on, even murdered in an attempt to silence their fight, but that doesn’t mean that they should never have fought. That doesn’t mean that their efforts went to waste. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X both were assassinated, but they and the things they believed in and fought for are still remembered today. The Taliban tried to silence Malala Yousafzai permanently, but she still fights. And she fights because it is a worthy battle that she cannot back down from.

And hopefully we do win. Hopefully our voices are heard and changes are made, but even if they aren’t, that doesn’t mean we should back down. All it means is that we have to keep trying.