Dani DiPirro researches and writes about finding happiness in The Now. “Positively Present” is a commitment to that inspiring journey. She was not always been positive, nor happy. At age 25, she left the unfulfilling corporate world to start exploring her own happiness, a detour for which she now feels grateful for. Attending retreats, connecting with others with a similar attitude, putting herself in other people’s positions, and guiding an audience through difficult life moments is not something she originally envisioned herself doing
Dani DiPirro has been featured on influential sites around the web, including Glamour, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and The Happiness Project. She is the founder of PositivelyPresent.com and the author of The Positively Present Guide to Life, Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present, as well as a variety of well-received e-books. She also works as a designer and illustrator for her design studio, Twenty3.
Sarah Browne: How does focusing on the past and worrying about the future deplete our positivity in the present?
Dani DiPirro: When we’re focused on what could happen or what has already happened, we’re not enjoying what’s actually happening right now. It’s important to reflect on the past and to plan for the future, but when reflecting and planning turns to ruminating and worrying, we’re missing out on the most important moment there is: the present moment. It’s important to keep in mind that the past is over and cannot be changed and the future is uncertain and cannot always be controlled. Once we realize that, we can allow ourselves to stay more in the present.
SB: When you were 25, you founded Positively Present. How did you get the idea for Positively Present?
DD: When I was 25, I was at a low point in my life. I didn’t love my job, my relationship status wasn’t ideal, and I was struggling a lot to feel happy. I started doing research online and in books about how to be happier and, as I researched, I began to see that happiness was more like a result of experiencing something, not a state of being. To me, happiness is an emotion we experience from time to time, while positivity is something that can be cultivated on a daily basis. I started focusing on positivity and realized that, in order to really stay positive, I also needed to stay present, to stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. After reading countless websites about happiness and self-improvement, I thought it might be nice to start my own site, sharing my journey of trying to live a more positive, more present life. And that’s how, in February 2009, PositivelyPresent.com was born.
SB: We tend to look first to fixing the external to affect our experience of life. How were you at first doing this and what prompted you to change?
DD: Prior to focusing on living a positively present life, I spent a lot of time looking for external ways to boost my happiness — drinking, drugs, boys, shopping, etc. These would work temporarily, but never for long. I’m a lover of instant gratification so these things worked for a while. I’d get my happiness fix, go back to a lower state, and then find my next fix. At one particularly low point, I realized that this was no way to live in the long run. I needed something that would last, and I knew that had to come from an internal place. That’s when I started working on changing my internal mindset instead of focusing on external boosts of happiness.
SB: What research did you do in order to change your mentality? How did you come up with using positivity as a tool? Were you a naturally “positive person?”
DD: I’m definitely not a naturally positive person. In fact, one of my nicknames as a kid was Eeyore (a perpetually sad donkey from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books). When I was younger, I thought positivity and happiness were equivalent to naivety and stupidity so I actually shied away from these concepts. But, for whatever reason, when I was in my mid-twenties, I decided to open my mind to the idea of being positive. I did a lot of online research reading happiness and self-improvement blogs and websites, and the more I read, the more it seemed to me that I could benefit a great deal from positive thinking. It wouldn’t make me happy all the time (an impossible goal for anyone), but it would help me to improve whatever situation I found myself in. Positivity is a particularly appealing tool to me, as someone who isn’t naturally positive, because it’s something that I can work on and train for, unlike happiness, which is something that you cannot make yourself feel.
SB: How do you define happiness now versus then?
DD: Happiness is something you feel when something good happens to you. It’s an emotion, like sadness or anger or excitement. It’s wonderful to experience, but it’s not a lasting state of being. Positivity, on the other hand, is a mindset that you can cultivate and maintain at all times. It’s not always easy to stay positive, but it’s always possible.
SB: How did you use writing to cope and create Positively Present?
DD: Writing has always been an outlet for me. I’ve been keeping journals on and off since I was a child and I studied English in school. Writing about my experiences with trying to live a more positive, present life has been incredibly important because it’s not only helped me connect with others striving for more positively present lives, but it’s also provided me with a way to be accountable for my own mindset, encouraging me to focus on the positive more so than I might if I didn’t have a website devoted to positive living.
SB: What feedback or testimonials have you gotten for Positively Present? What recognition for work?
DD: I’m fortunate to have received wonderful feedback from Positively Present readers. You can read some of the testimonials here (http://danidipirro.com/about/kind-words). I’ve also been fortunate to have been featured in some wonderful print and online publications such as Forbes, The Happiness Project, Glamour, and The Huffington Post.
SB: How did creating your own path help you in the pursuit to positivity?
DD: Creating my own path was important because I wasn’t making a lot of progress when I was focused solely on the notion of achieving happiness. When I was on the hunt for happiness, I was looking for instant mood boosters, not a lasting lifestyle change. Once I started exploring different avenues of self-improvement — such as positivity and staying present — I was able to shift my mindset. In doing so, I was actually able to discover more about what I really wanted in my life and was able to make big life changes in my career and relationships in order to put myself in a more positive environment.
SB: You seek out retreats and resources for your site. Forgiveness was a recent research. Tell us about your insights.
DD: I recently attended an all-day meditation retreat hosted by Tara Brach. It was a wonderful experience, and particularly enlightening on the topic of forgiveness. I learned a lot about how forgiveness can be a tool for us to achieve our own personal freedom. You can read more about what I learned at the retreat here (http://www.positivelypresent.com/2015/01/forgiveness.html).
SB: How do you stay present?
DD: Staying present can be difficult, particularly if a situation is unpleasant, but I do my best to stay in the moment as much as I can. I do this primarily by being aware of my thoughts. When I’m paying attention to what I’m thinking, I’m able to direct my thoughts back to the present moment. When I’m really struggling to stay in the moment, I turn my attention to my five senses and pay attention to what I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Doing this helps to bring me back into the moment and helps my mind focus on what’s happening in front of me instead of what’s happening in my mind.
SB: Tell me about the phrase “accepting what is” and how you apply this?
DD: Acceptance is an essential aspect of living a positive, present life. One of the biggest causes of discomfort is wanting things to be different from the way they are. Sometimes this discomfort can be a good thing; if we want something in our lives to be different, we can make changes to achieve what we want. But, more often than not, when we long for things to be different from what they are right now, we cause ourselves pain and stress. You don’t have to like what’s happening in the current moment, but it’s important to accept that it’s happening and allow it to be what it is.
SB: What coping tools do you suggest for people going through difficulties?
DD: One of the greatest tools for coping with difficulty is to focus on gratitude. No matter how difficult a situation, there is always something to be grateful for. It’s very difficult to be unhappy or upset when you’re focusing on all of the things you have to be thankful for. In addition, it’s important to focus on acceptance when going through a tough time. As I mentioned previously, you don’t have to like what’s happening, but if you accept it for what it is — if you try to take a step back and see it from a neutral point of view — you’ll remove a lot of the pain and stress from the situation.
SB: How have you learned to be grateful in difficult moments such as a breakup? Or loss?
DD: When I’ve faced difficult situations, like a break-up, I use gratitude to make the most of the situation. Yes, there is a feeling of loss and sadness, but instead of dwelling on those emotions, I try to focus on the things I still have in my life: friends, career, hobbies, etc. This isn’t always easy to do, but the more you practice having an attitude of gratitude, the more it becomes a default mindset for you when things aren’t going well.
SB: How does connecting with others help you?
DD: Connecting with others is a vital aspect of living a positive, present life. I wouldn’t consider myself a people person by any means, but I strive to surround myself with positive, inspiring people who encourage and support me. It’s important to assess the relationships you have and make sure they are bringing you up, not down. Surrounding yourself with positive people makes it so much easier to stay positive.
SB: What resources and services do you offer? How can we learn more!
DD: On PositivelyPresent.com, you can find weekly articles on how to stay positive and present. You’ll also find information about my books, e-books, and workbooks (http://www.positivelypresent.com/shop.html). And if you’re looking for more information about me, my books, or my design work, you can check out DaniDiPirro.com.