If you tend to see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full, you may need to improve your thinking patterns. Research shows that people with positive thoughts have stronger resistance to illness, better coping skills during tough times, reduced risk of coronary artery disease, and less stress. Positive thinking isn’t always a natural ability, but you can build it over time. Learn how to develop the strength of thinking positively and open up a whole new outlook on life.
Write down what you are grateful for.
Gratitude boosts positive emotion and leads to better health, happiness, and relationships. To build a grateful spirit, regularly take time to write down at least three good things each day.
Practice this exercise each night as you look back over your day. Note, on a piece of paper, three things that went well or that you are grateful for about the day.
Consider why you are grateful for these things. Write that down, too.
At the end of each week, look back on what you wrote down. Notice how you feel when reading over these things.
Keep this practice up week after week to foster gratitude.
Helping others through volunteerism increases self-confidence, gives you a sense of purpose, reduces depression, and improves physical health. Think about what skills or talents you have to offer and how that can translate into helping others.
For example, if you enjoy reading, you can offer to read stories to children or elderly people. If you are creative, you can extend your services to helping with a community arts council.
Know that you’re not perfect – you’re human, and everyone else around you is, too. Oftentimes, being self-compassionate is compared to being weak or overly self-indulgent. In truth, practicing self-compassion relates to showing yourself kindness rather than judgment, recognizing your common humanity rather than aloneness, and focusing on mindfulness rather than over-identifying with personal troubles.
One particularly useful way to practice self-compassion is to recite a comforting phrase during times of suffering or pain. For example, if you are down on yourself because you went through a terrible break-up, recite the following compassionate phrase “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment? May I give myself the compassion I need?
Research shows that being self-compassionate can result in greater energy, resilience, courage, and creativity.
There’s much truth to the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. A good dose of humor improves cardiovascular functioning, relaxes the body, increases immunity, and releases feel-good endorphins.
Get your laugh on by watching a funny movie, hanging out with your hilarious roommate for the day, or sharing a joke or funny story with others.
As it turns out, compliments have the ability to boost the self-esteem of the person of the messenger and the receiver. Telling someone else what you like or admire about him simply makes you feel good. But, paying a compliment also knocks down walls in social situations and brings people closer together.
Ideas on how to pay compliments include:
Keeping it simple – compliments don’t have to be over-the-top
Be specific – tell the person exactly what it is about them that is so great
Be genuine – give compliments that you truly believe
Gather a positive support system.
Just as negativity can spread, so can positivity. Being around others who have a positive outlook on life can impact your own outlook as well. Develop the relationships in your life that make you feel good about yourself, that challenge you to grow and improve, and that push you towards positive lifestyle choices.
There is an abundance of evidence that shows the impact of daily meditation on positive thinking. In fact, one study showed that mindfulness meditation coupled with yoga in a group of breast cancer patients led to positive changes in the patients’ DNA structure. So, thinking mindfully can heal you from the inside out.
Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed for several minutes. Sit in a comfortable position. Take several cleansing deep breaths. You can simply focus on your breath or you can listen to a guided audio mediation specifically designed to foster positive thinking.
Becoming more physically active generates brain chemical called endorphins that leave you feeling relaxed and more content. What’s more, regular physical activity builds self-confidence, builds resistance to illness and disease, and controls weight – all factors that can have significant impact on your outlook.
Research even shows that optimists are more likely to work out than pessimists. So, grab a pair of sneakers and walk your dog, go for a run or a hike, or turn on the radio and dance with your best friend.
Getting an appropriate amount of shut-eye can also drastically influence your optimism. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Improve your ability to relax by creating a winding-down ritual that includes soothing activities such as listening to soft music, reading, or taking a hot bath. Plus, rising and retiring at the same time each morning and night can improve your sleep habits.
When people are sleep-deprived they experience a deficit in optimism, tending to be less hopeful and positive. Even children who get good quality and quantity sleep are more optimistic.
Avoid alcohol or drugs.
When we experience negative thoughts and feelings, we often turn to alcohol or drugs to numb them. However, alcohol and many drugs are depressants, which may increase negative feeling and increase the likelihood of self-harm.
If your tendency to think negatively causes you to turn to alcohol and drugs, call a friend instead. Or, even better, reach out to a mental health professional who can help you overcome these thought patterns.
Become aware of your negative thoughts.
Having a negative thinking style has various detrimental effects on health. The first step towards overcoming negative thinking is making yourself aware of when you’re doing it. Negative thoughts tend to fall in the following categories: being fearful of the future, criticizing yourself, doubting your abilities, putting yourself down, and expecting failure. People who think negatively usually have a certain style of negative self-talk. Do any of these sound familiar?
Polarizing. Seeing things in only one of two categories with no middle ground. (i.e. If it is not good, it must be bad.)
Filtering. Exaggerating the negatives while minimizing the positives. (i.e. You got a good evaluation at work, but you spend your time dwelling on the areas your boss said need improving.)
Catastrophizing. Always expecting the worst to happen. (i.e. One tiny fight with your partner means she hates you and wants to break up.)
Personalizing. Blaming yourself for everything bad that happens. (i.e. Everyone leaves the party early. You assume it’s because you were there.)
Challenge your self-talk.
Once you become aware of your tendency to think negatively, you must work to attack these thoughts. Use four methods to challenge negative thinking.
Test the reality – Is there evidence for or against my claim (negative self-talk)? Am I jumping to a negative conclusion without assessing the facts?
Look for alternate explanations – If I was in a positive mindset, how would I view this situation differently? Is there any other way of looking at this?
Put your thoughts into perspective – Will this matter in 6 months (or 1 year)? What’s the worst that can really happen?
Be goal-oriented – Are these thoughts moving me closer to accomplishing my goals? How can I problem-solve this?
Engage in positive self-talk daily.
Becoming a more positive thinker won’t happen overnight. But, if you actively practice positive self-talk each day, you can develop a healthier, more positive mindset over time. Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively, put your thoughts to the test. Then, find more realistic and positive ways to transform your self-talk.
For example, “My girlfriend thinks I’m a loser” is a negative thought that can be challenged and transformed to “My girlfriend clearly sees something likable and worthwhile about me because she chose to date me”.
Measuring yourself up against others is a sure route to always feeling negative and doubting your own abilities. As there will always be someone in the world who is better at any given skill than you, by comparing, you set yourself up for failure every time.
Instead focus on your successes and celebrate them. Pay less attention to other people’s business and put more energy into your own self-improvement. Look to others who symbolize where or who you want to be without comparing. And, constantly take out time to appreciate your personal growth and the wonderful things happening in your life.