Negative markings

Jaime Barich wasn’t always so nice.

The 36-year-old wife and mother of five would tell you she used to be a nasty person.

“I had a horrible mouth, and I was mean to myself and others,” she said.

That was about a decade ago, and it’s hard to believe if you know Barich today. She’s positive, encouraging and looking for ways to lift up people.

“I was unfiltered,” she said of her past. “I’m still unfiltered, but not in an ugly way.”

Her past bad attitude is one of the reasons the WPDE News Channel 15 programming director eagerly jumped at an opportunity to reinforce her positivity with a challenge to not be negative for an entire day.

That challenge was thrown out on Facebook this past summer when Barich’s cousin, Anastasia Boswell, vowed to spend the next 24 hours without complaining, gossiping, whining or criticizing herself or others. She also invited others to join her.

“I saw the post and I immediately knew I wanted to do it,” Barich said.

At first, it was easy.

“Right at the beginning, it seemed like no big deal,” Barich remembers. “Then all of a sudden, it began an avalanche of stuff.”

Soon into the challenge, Barich noticed she was speaking to people in a negative tone.

“I caught myself talking down to people,” she said.

Barich wasn’t outright rude in any of her statements, but instead, it was more of an attitude problem. For example, if a co-worker asked for her help, she’d respond with, “Fine (with a sigh)...I’ll do it.”

“I caught myself being like that,” she said, “ and I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that person to anyone else. It made me pay attention.”

It was then she got determined.

“When I realized that my reactions were controlling me instead of the other way around,” she bunkered down and made it through.

To provide some reinforcement to the challenge, Barich and a fellow non-complainer held each other accountable. When either of them acted or said something negative, they would contact each other through Facebook or texting. Barich recalls sending out about five messages that day.

Snapping yourself back

Her cousin, who first threw down the gauntlet to be optimistic, did more than send digital messages to hold herself accountable. Boswell wore a rubber band around her wrist. Each time she caught herself being negative in any way, she gave herself a little snap.

“I had a whelp on my wrist,” she admits.

Like her cousin, Boswell is normally upbeat and optimistic. After all, she’s a yoga instructor and runs an art studio out of her Gastonia home. It’s when the two consciously took notice of their words that they realized how easy it is to fall into the negativity trap, especially when it comes to complaining.

“I popped myself every time,” Boswell said. “The act of doing something reinforces it.”

And like Barich, Boswell also found it difficult to begin with.

“Holy moly, it was hard,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m this negative all the time,” she remembers telling herself.

But practice makes perfect.

“The first day is hard,” she said. “It gets easier.”

Others also joined in the challenge, including eight friends who officially took on the pledge, with varying methods of reinforcements.

“It got a little bigger than I thought it would,” Boswell said.

One of Boswell’s friends decided to wear a bracelet on one arm and then each time she caught herself breaking the vow, she’d switch arms. Although Boswell wasn’t aware of it when she decided to go 24 hours with no negativity, the idea has been popular in other areas.

In her book, “Jump Off the Hormone Swing,” Lorraine Pintus, tells of a Kansas City pastor who challenged his congregation to not to complain, gossip, criticize or even be sarcastic for 21 days. For this, he issued “no complaints” bracelets for issuers to wear on their right wrists. Each time a congregant complained, they were supposed to switch the bracelet over to the left wrist and restart their 21-day commitment.

Pintus, along with fellow writer, Linda Dillow, created their own “Gripes Be Gone” silicon bracelets to be used in women’s groups to help participants become more aware of the words they speak. These can be ordered for $1 at the online store of www.lindadillow.org. Packs of 10 “A Complaint Free World” bracelets can also be ordered, along with a book of the same name by speaker and author Will Bowen, at www.willbowen.com.

Making new habits

Despite the nationwide popularity of setting aside complaints for a certain time, it was all new to those in the local Facebook challenge. It was also was beneficial.

“I tell you, it’s made me a happier person,” Boswell said. “It has done wonders for my energy levels and my happiness levels.”

The challenge helped the 38-year-old become more aware of her words and the thoughts that were behind them.

“I was a lot more focused on the words that came out of my mouth,” she said.

Boswell believes women are especially prone to being pessimistic, particularly when it comes to being negative toward themselves.

“We shame ourselves on so many levels,” she said. “That self-deprecation is not beneficial at all.”

The key is to tell yourself to be positive and then just do it.

“It’s kind of like fake it ‘til you make it,” Boswell said. “Everything is habit. Everything becomes your own little tradition in your head.”

Leaning toward the light

Barich is working on creating new traditions. The people around her are noticing.

Recently, a transmitter went down at WPDE for a few minutes, creating a slew of confused and upset viewers. Barich decided to put her positivity into practice and volunteered to handle the irate calls herself.

“It gives me an opportunity to talk to our viewers,” she explained.

Others in the office wondered why Barich wasn’t more irritated. Barich believes it is simply a choice to be positive. While that may not always be easy or even the end result, it’s always best to look past the problem.

She uses a baking analogy to help her kids better understand the importance of looking on the bright side.

“I’m making chocolate cupcakes, and you’re putting lemon juice in my cupcakes,” she tells them. “You’ve got to stop.”

But Barich credits her better life attitude to more than positive thinking. Her coming around to be a happier and nicer person takes root in a life-altering event nearly a decade ago. That was when she said she was seriously negative as well as unsafe. She was just coming out of the throws of a traumatic and dangerous first marriage that included domestic violence. It was during that dark situation that she was shown the light.

“It led me to a place where I was on my knees on a dirty kitchen floor confessing all my sins to God,” she remembers. “I was thinking about how I got from where I started to where I was at that moment.”

That began a pivotal turning point.

“I started recognizing the people in my life who were Christians because they loved me even when I was a jerk,” Barich said. “They extended grace. I think that’s the first time I understood what that meant.”

From that moment on, Barich has been a changed person. The Facebook challenge helped her realize, though, that she sometimes complains more than she should. Still, she pushes forward to be positive and encouraging.

“Sometimes you can’t change the outcome, but you can change how you respond and that’s important,” she said.