Think positive!

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Is your glass half-full or half-empty? What is your natural and go-to way of reacting? If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist – someone who practices positive thinking. Positive thinking, or an optimistic attitude, is the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation. That doesn’t mean you ignore reality or make light of problems. It simply means you approach the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well.

There are a lot of benefits that are associated with positive thinking. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. A number of studies show that the risk of heart disease can be lowered through positive thinking and that positive thinking can increase a person’s life span and lower depression as well. That all sounds great, right? But what if you’re naturally more pessimistic, meaning that you tend to expect the worst? This isn’t always bad, of course. It can mean that you are prepared for the worst and always pleasantly surprised. However, too much negativity can be bad for the soul. But no worries – you can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. There are a number of different techniques and approaches that you can use to try and be more of a positive thinker. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way.

Positive thinking often starts with positive self-talk
We tend to be the hardest on ourselves and be our own worst critic. Over time, this can cause you to form a negative opinion of yourself that can be hard to shake. To stop this, you’ll need to be mindful of the voice in your head and respond with positive messages, also known as positive self-talk.

Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information. Other common forms of negative self-talk may come from a “bad filter”. You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. Another form could be “personalizing”, also called as “taking the blame”. When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself or you take it personally. “Catastrophizing” or “predicting desaster” is also a very common form where you automatically anticipate the worst. The last form we want to mention here is “polarizing” also known as “black-and-white thinking” where you see things only as either good or bad.

Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive thinking twist to them:

  • I’ve never done it before. – It’s an opportunity to learn something new.
  • It’s too complicated. – I’ll tackle it from a different angle.
  • I’m too lazy to get this done. – I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule, but I can re-examine some priorities.
  • There’s no way it will work. – I can try to make it work.
  • It’s too radical a change. – Let’s take a chance.
  • I’m not going to get any better at this. – I’ll give it another try.

Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally. Research shows that even a small shift in the way you talk to yourself can influence your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts, and behavior under stress.

Reframe your situation
If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, identify areas of your life in which you tend to be the most negative. If you find yourself having a negative reaction to something, try to change your perspective. When something bad happens that’s out of your control, instead of getting upset, try to appreciate the good parts of the situation.  Recognize that you are thinking about something from a negative standpoint.

Be open to humor and surround yourself with positive people
Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look for humor and spend time with people or things that make you laugh. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed. It also improves coping skills, mood, and self-esteem. Consider the people with whom you’re spending time. Have you noticed how someone in a bad mood can bring down almost everyone in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.

Focus on the good things
Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you’re faced with one, focus on the good things no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem. If you look for it, you can always find a silver lining in every cloud — even if it’s not immediately obvious. It is also important to try and let go your fear. At the bottom of your negative thoughts, you will probably find fear. So you need to focus on letting these fears go.

Picture your best possible future and focus on your strength
Think in detail about a bright vision for your future like your career, relationships, health, hobbies, etc. and write it down. When you imagine your life going well, research suggests, you’ll be happier in the present. Each day for a week, think about one of your personal strengths, like kindness, discipline, or creativity. Write down how you plan to use that strength in new ways that day and act on it.

Start every day on a positive note and practice gratitude
Create a ritual in which you start off each day with something uplifting and positive. When you notice a negative thought, try to stop it and shift your focus to the positive. Think rationally about the situation. Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and foster resilience even in very difficult times. Writing down the things you’re grateful for can improve your optimism and sense of well-being. Think of people, moments, or things that bring you some kind of comfort or happiness and try to express your gratitude at least once a day.

Encourage yourself
You won’t be able to undo years of pessimism and negative thoughts overnight, but with some practice, you can learn how to approach things with a more positive outlook. Positive thinking isn’t just a soft and fluffy feel–good term. Yes, it’s great to simply “be happy,” but finding ways to build happiness and positive emotions into your life provides more than just a momentary decrease in stress and a few smiles. Those moments of happiness are also critical for opening your mind to explore and build the skills that become so valuable in other areas of your life. So, going forward each year on 13th September, and all other dates too, try to encourage yourself to think positively.