June 23, 2024
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The Power of Positivity

Every year when we get up to a specific portion of the Seder (B’chol dor va’dor), my husband will pause, as is the tradition of his family, to tell the story of his grandfather’s survival during the Holocaust. While there are many reasons why this is done, one important reason is that we should know—and remember—what he and the Jewish people went through, that he survived and that the Jewish people are stronger because of this.

There is a popular notion that positive thinking means avoiding all the negative aspects of life. However, positive thinking is not ignoring the unpleasant things; it is making the most of them. Finding the good in the situations you are dealt in life.

I often tell my patients that it’s OK to feel down, it’s OK to have negativity in your life. Quite frankly, it’s not possible to live life without negativity in it. However, one’s goal should be to make the positive so loud that the negatives become almost impossible to hear.

There has been much research done on the power of positive thinking and the health benefits associated with it. Positive thinking helps a person make better life decisions and choices. There is also a correlation between positive thinking and a longer life span, reduction in cardiovascular diseases, lower rates of depression, improved coping abilities, and the list goes on.

I look back to one year ago—I see pictures of supermarkets with lines out the doors, gloves, masks, and fear in people’s eyes. Washing the packages of foods that we brought into the house. Along with the lack of toilet paper, there were ominous feelings of the unknown and great uncertainty. The sounds of ambulance sirens constantly in the streets. Families separated by windows and doors. A time filled with so much negativity.

As we look back at this past year, we are forced to think about all that has changed in the world since last Pesach and all we continue to go through. We have a choice. We can choose to focus on the negatives or we can choose the often harder choice, which is to find the good in the situation we faced.

My husband’s grandfather, Zayde as we all called him, years after his horrific experiences in Auschwitz and slave labor camps, could have chosen to focus on the negative. I didn’t know him for very long, but from what I am told—and from what I was able to see—he was a positive man full of joy in living. He was put into a horrible, traumatic situation, and yet his response was to tell the story. Share the story of his survival and resilience. Because people should know—and my children, his great-grandchildren, should know.

I challenge you as you sit at your Seder this year—whether you are still alone or at a table with more people than last year—look for that positive. Think of where you have been in the past and where you have come to. I bet you will realize a lot about yourself that you may not have been aware of before.

I leave you with this quote by an unknown author: Somewhere there is a past “you” overflowing with so much pride, looking at how far you have come.


Rachel Salamon is a licensed clinical social worker in New York. She graduated from Columbia University with her MSW and went on to receive her clinical license. Rachel works as the lead renal social worker for a dialysis company in the Bronx. She also provides in-home mental health counseling to homebound older adults. Rachel currently resides in White Plains with her husband and three young children. To contact her, please email [email protected]

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