In this time of such uncertainty, I feel a bit of positive thinking is needed, don’t you? So what is positive thinking really? Positive thinking is the idea that you can change your life by thinking positively about things. This idea can sound a bit soft and fluffy, which is something of a problem for many people who recognise that just thinking good thoughts won’t change the world and therefore discard the whole idea.
However, research shows that positive thinking really does have a scientific basis. You can’t change the world, but you can change how you perceive it and how you react to it. And that can change the way that you feel about yourself and others, which can in turn have a huge effect on your well-being.
Quick Tips to Enable Positive Thinking
Gain Control of Yourself: Do not be critical of yourself to others. Whilst it can be useful to confide your concerns to someone you trust, telling the world is something else. Be kind to yourself. Make a list of your good qualities and believe them, believe in yourself.
Don’t Be A Complainer: By being negative you can isolate yourself from others and cut yourself off from positive solutions to problems.
Learn to Relax: Allow time for yourself each day, if only for a few minutes it is important to find time to relax and unwind.
Boost Your Own Morale: Treat yourself every now and again. Especially if you have overcome a problem or made a personal achievement.
Congratulate Yourself on a job/task well done and perhaps tell a friend. Justified praise is a good boost to morale.
Learn to Channel Nerves and Tension Positively: when you are nervous, adrenalin is pumped through the body and you feel more keyed up and alert. This extra energy can be used to good effect; enabling you to communicate with greater enthusiasm and intensity, for example.
Learn to be Assertive: Stand up for what you believe in and do not be pressured by others. See our section on Assertiveness for more.
WARNING! Don’t force it
Positive thinking is good. But you should not try to use it to block out everything negative that happens in your life. Sometimes bad stuff happens, and you will feel down about it. It’s no good pretending that you don’t because forced positive thinking can be counterproductive.
What you need to avoid is the ‘developing disaster’ scenario (the ‘my life is a total disaster’ tape that plays in your head). The best way to do that is NOT to tell yourself that your life is perfect. Instead, you need to recognise what has gone wrong but set it in context. For example: “Yes, I’m having a bad day, but tomorrow will be better. I will go home now and I will be able to think of a solution to the problem in the morning when I am less tired.”
Developing Habits of Positive Thinking
If you think about positive thinking as ‘being happy’, it is much easier to work out what you should do to develop habits based on it. For example, what do you like doing? And with whom do you like spending time?
People who meditate every day show more positive thinking than those who do not. Is that the meditation causing the positive thinking, or just having time to think? It’s hard to tell, but it’s also hard to argue with the science. People who meditate tend to show more mindfulness, or ability to live in the present, which is also associated with positive thinking.
A group of undergraduates were asked to write about an intensely positive experience every day for three days. Amazingly, they had better moods and better physical health afterwards, and the effect lasted for quite a long time. This is a pretty easy thing to do: you could, for example, write a blog focusing on positive experiences, or keep a diary.
It’s important to make time for yourself to have fun. Sometimes you might need to actually put it into your diary to force yourself to make that time, whether it’s to meet a friend for coffee, or go out for a walk or a bike ride.
The Power of Questions
Our minds actively look for answers to questions. So if you ask yourself ‘Why do I feel so bad?’, your mind will find lots of answers and you will feel worse. With NLP the key is to ask the right questions, for example:
Why do I want to change?
What will life be like when I have changed?
What do I need to do more/less of in order to change?
Questions like these naturally lead to a more positive outlook.
How to think positive thoughts
Positive thinking can be achieved through a few different techniques that have been proven effective, such as positive self-talk and positive imagery.
Here are some tips that to get you started that can help you train your brain how to think positively.
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 the proverbial silver lining in every cloud — even if it’s not immediately obvious. For example, if someone cancels plans, focus on how it frees up time for you to catch up on a TV show or other activity you enjoy.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and foster resilience even in very difficult times. 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. This can be thanking a co-worker for helping with a project, a loved one for washing the dishes, or your dog for the unconditional love they give you.
Keep a gratitude journal
Writing down the things you’re grateful for can improve your optimism and sense of well-being. You can do this by writing in a gratitude journal every day, or jotting down a list of things you’re grateful for on days you’re having a hard time.
Open yourself up to humor
Studies have found that laughter lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves coping skills, mood, and self-esteem. buy my book 100 days in isolation
Be open to humor in all situations, especially the difficult ones, and give yourself permission to laugh. It instantly lightens the mood and makes things seem a little less difficult. Even if you’re not feeling it; pretending or forcing yourself to laugh can improve your mood and lower stress.
Spend time with positive people
Negativity and positivity have been shown to be contagious. 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.
Being around positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase your chances of reaching goals. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.
Practice 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. 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.
Here’s an example of positive self-talk: Instead of thinking “I really messed that up,” try “I’ll try it again a different way.”
Identify your areas of negativity
Take a good look at the different areas of your life and identify the ones in which you tend to be the most negative. Not sure? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Chances are, they’ll be able to offer some insight. A co-worker might notice that you tend to be negative at work. Your spouse may notice that you get especially negative while driving. Tackle one area at a time.
Start every day on a positive note
Create a ritual in which you start off each day with something uplifting and positive. Here are a few ideas:
Tell yourself that it’s going to be a great day or any other positive affirmation.
Listen to a happy and positive song or playlist.
Share some positivity by giving a compliment or doing something nice for someone.
The Effect of Negative Thinking
To understand the effect of positive thinking, it’s helpful to think about negative thinking first. Most negative emotions, such as fear or anger, are designed to help with survival. They cause us to take swift and effective action to save ourselves from whatever is threatening us. This means that they also prevent us from being distracted by other things around us. So far, so good, in survival terms. If there’s a bear standing in front of you, you don’t want to stop to pick flowers.
But negative thinking is not so great in more modern settings. If you’ve got a lot to do, and you’re worried that you won’t get it all done, the last thing you need is for your brain to shut down and focus only on how long your ‘To Do’ list has got. Negative thinking is a habit, something you can train your brain to avoid. Constant negative thinking can make you much more likely to be stressed and can lead to more serious problems, like depression.
Until Next week.
Take care and stay safe.
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