Interview with Stuart Parkin

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  1. In short, what is the fundamental message of your book, Getting Positive?

We all need to work at getting and keeping a positive frame of mind – it doesn’t come easily especially during challenging times – and we do this through taking small daily actions, some physical, some social, some to do with how we manage the way we live and others to do with getting and keeping inspired, more a mental focus.


  1. What initially inspired you to write the book

My work involves daily communication with many individuals who particularly in the last year, working from home, but even in ‘normal’ times with very busy lives, struggle to have a positive outlook. This book was designed to help combat the struggle we all have, some more than others.


  1. What are some simple ways to integrate a more positive outlook into our daily lives?

Three immediate approaches can make life feel better:


– Gratitude – Start focusing on what you have versus all that you want. Even thinking about what you have, keeps all negative at bay and makes you feel good. So, think good health, lovely family, fresh air, tasty meal, beautiful sunny day (if/when it happens).


– Giving – Start making a point beyond what you feel you have to do, (such as put food on the table for your kids) of giving. Acknowledging someone as you walk down the street, holding a door for someone, smiling at someone, calling up a friend just to see how they are, when someone looks like they are in pain or distress, offer to help them. When you are giving, you are in a zone of empowerment and positivity.


– Wander – Adopt an outlook of wander! Look more deeply at the colours in nature, at how a massive plane stays in the sky. Being in awe and in wander is a great place to be and again, makes for positive emotion.


  1. How can we learn to accept things that are out of control?

With such things, when we are powerless, we should draw on experience and know that the past has taught us that things tend to work out, hopefully for the best and if not even then, you can resolve how you react to the outcomes of these things. Most important, if not acceptance, a degree of tolerance for things that are out of control will come about if you prepare as best you can for the worst, knowing that you have done all you can.


  1. After an unprecedented and challenging year, what’s your number one tip to stay optimistic and hopeful?

Communicating with others. When we listen and talk with others, we feel better as we share are feelings/often see we are far from alone, but we make others feel better too.


  1. Is this your first book? If not, how does it compare to your previous books?

I’ve written a number of books, fiction and non-fiction, including travelogues and poetry. ‘Getting Positive’ is an extension of the same theme of my previous book, ‘Discovering Hope,’ published in 2020,


  1. Do you plan to write more books in the future? If so, would they be on a similar topic or would you explore something entirely different?

I’m currently researching a book I’ll begin writing late 2021, on the importance of empathetic ability and how we can develop it. In the last several years I have established scholarships at various schools, colleges and hospitals.


  1. How can we deal with uncertainty?

Mindset and Preparation – When you are disposed to see things positively, you are much better at dealing with what might be, as you it’s easier for you to believe the what might be, is something good! If we have prepared as much as we can be for all eventuality, we don’t eliminate potential negative thought but we better manage it.


  1. How do you define positivity?

Choosing to imagine and see the best in people and circumstance.


  1. Is it important to have goals, both small and big?

Some people are very goal driven, and this gives them a sense of control and progression with their lives. They feel more positive as a result of overcoming preset hurdles and clearly identified progression. For others, setting explicit goals is not so key, they are much more focused on the moment and optimising that. There is no right or wrong, whatever brings a sense of joy in our lives which for most people is both appreciation of the now whilst ensuring some degree of planning for tomorrow.


  1. How can we stay determined during difficult times?

The idea of taking small daily steps to develop and build a positive mental outlook is not dissimilar through diet and exercise to building physical health. If one develops regular habits away from times of great stress, we are better able to cope with the challenges we face. When confronted by major challenges, it is a level of positivity built up like any other muscle which will make us more resilient.


  1. Are there physical steps as well as mental that we can take to become more positive?

Absolutely. ‘Getting Positive’ has many examples and the idea that what is good for the mind is good for the body applies equally in that what is good for the body is good for the mind. For instance, walking in nature or any exercise will release endorphins. Massage is great as is yoga but much simpler, simply stretching your body feels so good, as does a big hug from someone you love.


  1. With many of us working from home, what are some good ways to maintain a sense of wellbeing?


Boundaries – So you can focus, where possible, have a space for work and a space for home life. As important, setting boundaries with work colleagues and clients (difficult if not established from the beginning of a relationship) on (crises aside) the hours when you will be available to talk.


Rewards – Working from home has been extra stressful for many so, make a point of rewarding yourself to counter-balance the extra stress. Whether that’s a walk in the nearby park, or playing with your pet or ten minute’s meditation.


Comm’s – The most effective communication is in-person. Video is next best but requires huge input from you so, where possible, replace some of those video calls with phone calls and you will feel an improved sense of wellbeing.


  1. Is negativity ever useful for us?

Negativity serves its purpose in that without having experienced the range of emotions, how can we even know what being positive or a state of positivity is? That said, seeing the positive in others and in all situations doesn’t mean absence of pragmatism, not knowing things might not go as planned or going badly, it’s just that even when things don’t go well, they will improve faster when you accept them for what they are and chose to make them better.


  1. What are some ways we can deal with excessive worrying?

Two ways:


Take small daily steps to boost your positive outlook and so you will cease to be the excessive worrier, you will become the person that worries about less. But this might take time so, if you are worrying nonstop-about something, either distract yourself (help someone else also facing challenges), be kind to yourself (perhaps a massage or listen to some music or transport yourself into someone else’s life via novel or movie) or talk with someone who listens really well – You might not feel any easier about the potential outcome of the worry, but you will feel easier.


  1. Could you tell us more about the ‘Three Rule’ that you speak about in the book?

Our lives which are all about people/relationships, are lived primarily in the theatres of home and work. The ‘Three rule’ addresses the vulnerability which anyone might feel when lacking positivity or worse, experiencing real negativity. The rule directs that when we see loved ones or anyone we know, struggling with two of these three areas, we should make special efforts to be there for them, if only to let them express themselves, which will help them.


  1. How important is motivation in the journey to becoming positive?

To consciously do anything we need to be motivated, and no doubt about it, if you are motivated, it will be much easier to take regular action necessary to achieving a more positive mindset, whatever our biology or previous life experience. That said, without a positive mindset, it may be hard to get motivated about much of anything.


  1. Is it important to have role models/people to look up to? If so, why, and how can this help us to become more positive?

Within reason, anything that helps you have and maintain a positive outlook, will help you have a better-quality life experience. People are core to all our lives so absolutely, to see others or aspects of others as templates for our own experience is helpful. We can use role models as a guide of what happiness is and as means to direct our own lives.


  1. How can we be more rational when we worry and fear takes over?

The best way to be more rational in the midst of crisis or when fear takes over, is to fortify ourselves away from fear and crises. And in doing this, remind ourselves that when fear seeks to torment us, the best way forward is to have clarity of mind and a positive disposition. The difference between merely saying the words and believing them is the action of taking small daily steps to bolster the positivity muscle.


  1. Finally, what would you ultimately like readers to take away from the book?

That whatever their background, life experience or circumstance, whatever their perceived degree of positivity or negativity, both to become and remain positive, as with any physical muscle to perform well, we need to regularly work on the positive psychology of how we show up each day and in so doing, enhance the quality of our lives.