Would you say that your thinking is more negative or positive? Well, if you said negative, you’re not alone. Not that there aren’t any positive people out there. Because there are, but for the most part, our brains have a negativity bias. They naturally tend to zero in on the negative more than the positive.
For example, You might have positive experiences like your boss praising you frequently for your work. Still, if he expresses concern over a particular area of your job performance, you can’t stop thinking about it. Or, you might have insults stuck in your brain somebody slung your way decades ago.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” Wow, isn’t that the truth! I believe that you could also apply that quote to mean that if you are always looking for the bad in every situation, you will find it. So why not flip the phrase into “If you look for the good in people or life situations, you will surely find it.”
TURNING NEGATIVE THINKING INTO POSITIVE THINKING
Positive thinking boils down to being able to acknowledge both negative and positive events but choosing to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. It is not avoiding or ignoring an adverse event but dealing with it by allowing the appropriate amount of time for the negative emotions to surface and then moving on from it by focusing on the positive.
Even though the process is simple, it does take time and practice to create new habits. So let’s look at some ways to think and behave more positively and optimistically:
▪ Acknowledge what areas need to change. What areas of your life do you typically have negative thoughts about? Maybe it’s family, a relationship, a work environment, or even your daily commute to work. Whatever it is, start small and focus on one area of your life that you can start approaching more positively.
▪ Check in with yourself. Throughout the day, take a moment and evaluate how you have been thinking and acting. If you find that your behavior has been primarily negative, change course and put a positive spin on it.
▪ Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who inspire you to be a better person. Look for people who will be supportive and make you feel good. Negative people can sap the energy right out of you and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
▪ Practice positive self-talk. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t talk to someone else. When a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind, be reasonable with yourself and respond with affirmations about what is good about you.
▪ Look for the humor. It’s okay to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look for the funny in everyday situations. When you can laugh at life, you will feel less stressed.
▪ Live a healthy lifestyle. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Find time to exercise at least three times a week. Exercise is proven to affect your mood and reduce stress positively. It is also helpful to learn techniques that manage stress.
PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING EVERY DAY
I like to say just a few essential words about practicing positive self-talk as it relates to positive thinking. And that is, positive thinking often starts with positive self-talk. Self-talk is that constant chatter in your head that never stops. It is automatic thoughts that can be positive or negative coming from logic and reason or misconceptions stemming from a lack of or wrong information.
If the majority of your thoughts running through your head are mostly positive, you are probably an optimist (someone who practices positive thinking). That’s great! You can be an example and inspiration to others who aren’t, so keep it up!
On the other hand, if the thoughts running through your head are mostly negative, you more than likely are a pessimist and would benefit from the suggestions listed above to become more positive.
By practicing positive self-talk daily your inner voice will eventually contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance, which will probably help you become less critical of the world around you.
In June, I wrote a blog titled 5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism”. It provided information about self-criticism that you might find helpful. Or, if you have read it and are still struggling with critical self-talk, maybe rereading it would benefit you as a refresher course. We all need reminders at times.
Filling your head with more positive thoughts can make a big difference in how you see AND react to things in life. You can better handle everyday stress more constructively when your state of mind is generally optimistic. And we all know how stress can play havoc with our health. So, it is not surprising why researchers believe that having the ability to think more positively may contribute to the widely observed health benefits.
“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.” — Dalai Lama
In closing, I would like to give you an exercise that can help you on the way to becoming more positive. At the end of your day, share with someone close to you one great moment that you experienced that day. If you can make this a habit, it will encourage you to be on the lookout for positive moments throughout the day. This exercise is also a great way to increase feelings of gratitude for even the simple things in your life. Things that you might not even realize that you’ve been overlooking.
Also, while writing this blog, a specific song kept coming to my mind. It’s an oldy but still a classic. It’s called “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive.” Give it a listen and let the words get into your brain. And when your thoughts want to turn in a negative direction, hopefully, the words will return to you, and you can turn the negative into positive.
If you want to develop a more positive view, working with a coach can be very helpful. A coach can help you explore and walk through various techniques to help you see the bright side of things more easily.
I’m looking forward to your call.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.