Having a positive outlook is a choice. You can choose to think thoughts that elevate your mood, throw a more constructive light on difficult situations, and generally color your day with brighter, more hopeful approaches to the things you do. By choosing to take a positive outlook on life, you can begin to shift out of a negative frame of mind and see life as filled with possibilities and solutions instead of worries and obstacles. If you want to know how to think more positively, just follow these tips.
Assessing Your Thinking
- Take responsibility for your attitude. You are solely responsible for your thoughts, and your outlook on life is a choice. If you tend to think negatively, you are choosing to think that way. With practice, you can choose to have a more positive outlook.
- Understand the benefits of being a positive thinker. Choosing to think more positively will not only help you take control of your life and make your everyday experiences more pleasant, but it can also benefit your mental and physical health as well as your ability to deal with change. Being aware of these benefits can help you be even more motivated to think positively on a regular basis.
Here are some benefits of positive thinking:
- An increased life span
- Lower rates of depression and distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better mental and physical well-being
- Better coping skills during times of stress
- A more natural ability to form relationships and cement bonds
- Keep a diary to reflect your thoughts. Recording your thoughts can enable you to step back and evaluate patterns in your thinking. Write down your thoughts and feelings and try to spot any triggers that lead to either positive or negative thoughts. Taking just twenty minutes to follow your pattern of thinking at the end of every day can be a valuable way to identify your negative thoughts and make a plan to change them to positive thoughts.
- Your journal can take on any form that you like. If you don’t care to write long-winded reflective paragraphs, you can just make a list of the five most prevalent negative thoughts and positive thoughts you had that day.
- Be sure to give yourself the time and opportunity to evaluate and reflect on the information in the journal. If you write every day, you may want to reflect at the end of every week.
Combating Negative Thoughts
- Identify your automatic negative thoughts. In order to shift away from the negative thinking that is holding you back from having a positive outlook, you'll need to become more aware of your "automatic negative thoughts". When you recognize them, you're in a position to challenge them and give them their marching orders to move right out of your head.
- An example of an automatic negative thought is, upon hearing that you have an upcoming test, you think, “I’ll probably fail it.” The thought is automatic because it’s your initial reaction to hearing about the test.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. Even if you have spent most of your life thinking negatively, you don’t have to continue being negative. Whenever you have a negative thought, particularly an automatic negative thought, stop and evaluate
whether the thought is true or accurate.
- One way to challenge negative thoughts is to be objective. Write down the negative thought and think about how you would respond if someone else said the thought to you. It’s likely that you could offer an objective rebuttal to someone else’s negativity, even if you find it difficult to do for yourself.
- For example, you may have the negative thought, “I always fail tests.” It is unlikely that you would still be in school if you always fail tests. Go back through your files or grades and find tests that you received a passing grade on; these challenge the negative thought. You may even find that you have tests that you passed with As and Bs, which would further confirm that your negativity is exaggerated.
- Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Once you're feeling confident that you can spot and challenge negative thoughts, you're ready to make active choices about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
This doesn't mean that everything in your life will always be positive; it’s normal to have a variety of emotions. However, you can work to replacing the daily unhelpful thinking patterns with thoughts that help you to flourish.
- For example, if you have the thought, “I will probably fail the test,” stop yourself. You’ve already identified the thought as negative and evaluated its accuracy. Now try replacing it with a positive thought. A positive thought doesn’t have to be blindly optimistic, such as “I will definitely get a 100 on the test, even if I don’t study.” It can be something as simple as, “I am going to take time to study and prepare so I do as well on the test as I can.”
- Use the power of questions. When you ask your brain a question, it tends to find the answer for you. If you ask yourself, "Why is life so terrible?" your brain will try to answer your question. The same is true if you ask yourself, "How did I get to be so lucky?". Ask yourself questions which draw your focus onto positive thoughts.
- Minimize external influences that stimulate your negativity. You may find that certain kinds of music or violent video games or movies influence your overall attitude. Try minimizing your exposure to stressful or violent stimuli and spend more time listening to calming music or reading. Music benefits your mind really well and books on positive thinking can provide good tips for being a happier person.
- Avoid "black-and-white thinking." In this type of thinking, also known as “polarizing,” everything you encounter either is or it isn't; there are no shades of gray. This can lead people to feel as though they have to do something perfectly or not at all.
- To avoid this type of thinking, embrace the shades of gray in life. Instead of thinking in terms of two outcomes (one positive and one negative), make a list of all of the outcomes in between to see that things aren't as dire as they seem.
- For example, if you have a test coming up and don’t feel comfortable with the subject matter, you may be tempted to not take the test or to not study for it at all, so if you fail, it’s because you didn’t even try. However, this is ignoring the fact that you’re likely to do better if you spend more time preparing for the test.
- You should also avoid thinking that the only outcomes of your test-taking are an A or an F. There is a lot of “gray area” between the A and the F.
- Avoid "personalizing". Personalizing is making the assumption that you are personally to blame for anything that goes wrong. If you take this type of thinking too far, you can get paranoid and think that no one likes you or wants to hang out with you, and that every little move you make is going to disappoint someone.
- Someone who is personalizing may think, "Betty didn't smile at me this morning. I must have done something to upset her." However, it's more likely that Betty was just having a bad day, and her mood had nothing to do with you.
- Avoid "filter thinking." This is when you choose to only hear the negative side of a situation. Most situations have elements that are both good and bad, and it helps to recognize both. If you think this way, then you'll never see the positive in any situation.
- For example, you may take a test and receive a C, along with feedback from your teacher saying that your performance improved greatly from the last test. Filtering can cause you to only think negatively about the C and ignore the fact that you have shown improvement and growth.
- Avoid "catastrophizing." This is when you assume that the worst possible outcome is going to happen.
Catastrophizing is usually related to anxiety about performing poorly. You can combat catastrophizing with being realistic about possible outcomes of a situation.
- For example, you might think that you’re going to fail an exam you’ve been studying for. A catastrophizer will then extend that insecurity to assume that you’ll then fail the class and have to drop out of college, then end up unemployed and on welfare. If you’re realistic about negative outcomes, you’ll realize that even if you were to fail a test, it’s unlikely that you would necessarily fail the course, and you would not have to drop out of college.
- Visit a peaceful place. It can help to have a personal escape when you need to turn your attitude around. Many people find that spending a little time outdoors improves their mood.
- If your workplace has an outdoor area with benches or picnic tables, schedule yourself a little down time to be outside and refresh yourself.
- If you are unable to physically visit an outdoor peaceful place, try meditating and visiting a pleasant outdoor area with perfect weather in your mind.
Living an Optimistic Life
- Give yourself time to change. Developing a positive outlook is actually the development of a skill. As with any skill, it takes time to master, and it requires dedicated practice and gentle reminders about not falling back into negative thinking.
- Be physically positive. If you change your physical or bodily habits, your mind will follow suit. In order to feel happier in general, approach your physicality in a positive way. Practice good posture, standing up straight and keeping your shoulders down and back. A slump will make you feel more negative. Smile more often. Not only will others smile back at you, but the act of smiling may convince your body that it is happier.
- Practice mindfulness. Being more aware of your actions and your life will make you feel happier. When you simply go through the motions of your life like a robot, you will likely forget to find the joy in everyday things. By being mindful about your surroundings, your choices, and your daily activities, you can gain greater control of your life and your happiness.
- Consider taking up meditation as a way to center yourself and learn excellent focus. By meditating every day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time that's convenient for you, you can increase your awareness of self and the present, helping you to corral the stinking thinking with greater consciousness.
- Try taking a yoga class. Yoga can also help you become more aware of the world as you get in touch with your breathing.
- Even just stopping to take deep breaths and rest your mind for a few moments can make you feel happier.
- Explore your creative side. If you haven't had a chance to explore your creative side, now's the time. Taking the time to be artistic and to work with your hands or explore your most original thoughts can do wonders for your power to think outside the box and to therefore think positively.
Even if you don't think you're naturally inclined toward creativity, there are a number of ways you can express yourself to become more positive.
- Take a class to learn about something you've never done before: consider pottery, painting, mixed-media collage, poetry, or wood working.
- Try learning a new craft such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, or needlepoint. Craft stores and online tutorials are great resources for beginners who do not want to take a class.
- Doodle or draw in a sketchbook every day. Try revisiting older drawings and turning them into something new.
- Be a creative writer. Try penning a poem, short story, or even try your hand at a novel. You can even perform your poetry at an open mic night.
- Try role-playing, dressing as your favorite TV or comic book character, or trying out for a part at a community theatre.
- Surround yourself with positive people. We are often influenced by the people around us. If you find that people around you tend to be negative, look to surround yourself with more positive people.
This will feed your own positivity. If you have a close family member or a significant other who is constantly negative, encourage her to go on a journey towards positivity with you.
- Avoid people who sap your energy and motivation. If you can't avoid them, or don't want to, learn how not to let them get you down and keep your connection with them brief.
- Avoid dating anyone with a negative outlook. If you're already prone to negative thinking, you'll be falling into a trap. If you do wind up in a relationship with someone who struggles to think positively, though, seeking counseling together might be your best option.
- Set meaningful goals. Whatever your goal may be, you should keep yourself busy working on it and believe in the cause you've set for yourself. Once you reach the first goal, you will be inspired to continue with the remaining goals, as well as adding new ones to your life. With each goal you achieve, no matter how small, you will gain confidence and your self-esteem will increase, feeding more positivity in your life.
- Working towards achieving your goals—even if you’re just taking small steps—can make you feel happier.
- Don't forget to have fun. People who allow themselves regular fun in their lives tend to be happier and more positive because it isn't all drudgery and never-ending monotony. Fun breaks up the hard work and challenges. Remember that fun does not look the same for everyone, so you may need to spend time finding an activity that is fun for you.
- Always make time for laughter. Hang out with friends who make you laugh, go to a comedy club, or watch a funny movie. It'll be hard to think negatively when your funny bone is being tickled.
- "Positivity attracts positivity" in the same way that "negativity attracts negativity". If you are kind, nice and helpful to people, you can expect the same treatment back. On the other hand, if you are rude, lacking in manners and unkind to people, then people will not respect you and will avoid you because of your unattractive or belittling attitude.
- You can't always control events in your life but you can control what you choose to think and feel about them. You can choose to look at things positively or otherwise. You decide.
- Stay physically fit and eat healthily. These are important foundations for a positive outlook––it's a lot harder to feel positive when you're unwell and/or unfit.
- Laugh often. Laughter and positive emotions through comedy, amusement, fun and happy activities are an important part of keeping your spirits up. And yes, it's okay to laugh when the chips are down––sometimes the tinkle of humor is just what you need to start fixing things.
- If you feel like your day has not been good, think about the good things that happened in that day, think of how much worse the bad stuff in your day could have been. You'll be surprised how good your day can seem when you look at it like that.
- Having a sense of control over your life is an important part of positive outlook thinking.
- Being positive affects your physical self too. Try being more positive - it might help you have better thoughts, reduce any stress, and your physical self might improve too.
- Sometimes worrying about the past or the future hinders positive thinking. If you're stuck in the past, letting sad or bad experiences from the past direct your present experiences, learn to acknowledge what happened without letting it impact today's thinking and outlook. If you're totally focused on the future to the detriment of now, try to be a little less worried about what's coming ahead and start living more in the present.
- If you feel suicidal thoughts, get help immediately. Not only is life worth living, you deserve to live it fully. There are plenty of people ready to help you through despair and hardship.
- Anxiety and depression are real conditions in need of caring treatment. They are not to be equated with the generic negative thinking, although such thinking can be a part of what precipitates/prolongs anxiety or depression. Seek immediate medical help for such mental illnesses––the sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can get your life back on track and feel whole again.
- Stay Positive when You Know Your Life Sucks
- Use Autosuggestion
- Be Positive
- Be Optimistic
- Become Positive, Happy and Optimistic
- Find Love, Peace and Happiness
- Bloom Where You're Planted
- Think Positively About Yourself
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