“Perhaps the biggest gift that humankind has been given is the choice to decide what thoughts and attitudes we put in our minds.” -quoted from the book Change Your Mind, Change Your Life by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., and Diane V. Cirincione. How often have you heard the words you are what you think? So many motivational quotes and words of wisdom are based upon the notion that in order to enjoy life you need only to simply change your thoughts.
Is it really that easy? Indeed it is! Positive thinking does more than just lift your mood, it can also affect your overall health and well being, as well as play a key role in stress management. Let’s get some questions answered about positive thinking and how it can benefit you, and then also provide you with some helpful suggestions to get you well on your way to being a radiant being of sunshine, no matter what.
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking is a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth, expansion and success. It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health, and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds. Positive thinking doesn’t necessarily mean that you fully ignore life’s less pleasant situations, it just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.
What is self-talk?
Self-talk is the endless stream of thoughts that run through your mind everyday. You know those thoughts very well! You probably experience them the most while you are in commute to somewhere (such as driving in your car or sitting on the bus/train), or you experience them while you are daydreaming at work. 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. Take a brief moment to reflect on your thoughts. Are they mostly negative or positive? How does this effect your outlook on life?
What are the health benefits of positive thinking?
Better psychological and physical well-being. Being a healthy person is more than what you eat. It’s mind, body and spirit. Positive thinking is a large component of that “mind” portion of this equation. Having a positive outlook shifts your personal experience of life and the world around you.
Lower rates of depression and distress. There is a quote by Lou Holtz that says “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” Through positive thinking you recognize that you are in control of your response and your view of each and every situation you are in. Then you can shape these situations and your response to be in your favor.
Achieved balance and awareness. As you dive deeper into holistic health and get more in touch with yourself, positive thinking will help to further align your mind, body and spirit with your purpose in life and role in the universe. Suddenly, a potentially stressful situation at work just rolls off your shoulder. You are not focused on one grain of sand, because you know there is an ocean in all its entirety and splendor that awaits you at the shore.
Significantly reduced stress. This benefit partners up with the two bullet points above. There is a quote by Anthony Robbins that says “you can’t always control the wind, but you can control the sails.” Having a different view of various circumstances and then recognizing your ability to choose the outcome is a direct benefit of positive thinking.
How do you identify negative thoughts?
Below are some common forms of negative self-talk. Take a moment to check yourself and see if any of your thoughts identify with the categories below. Do not fret if they do, awareness is the first step.
Filtering: You allow the seemingly negative aspects of a situation to outweigh the positive ones. For example, you gave an excellent presentation at work. Your boss and coworkers are very impressed and they let you know with compliments to your work. But later on that day a fellow colleague points out a flaw in a statement that you presented. Later that evening, instead of remembering all the great compliments you received, you focus on that one flaw in your statement.
Personalizing: This is when you make seemingly negative situations that occur about you, when really they are not. For example, you would love to get your friend’s together to go see a movie. But unfortunately, everyone you contacted has plans already or will be out of town. Instead of chalking it up to coincidence, you assume that no one wants to go out with you.
Catastrophizing: You automatically anticipate the worst. For example, you are driving in your car to a location you haven’t been to before. You are attempting to follow the directions but you make one wrong turn and you automatically assume that you will be horribly lost and won’t be able to find your way to your destination.
Polarizing: You see things as either good or bad; everything is either black or white. There is no middle ground. You feel you either have to be absolutely perfect or the only other option is that you have failed.
How do you shift into positive thinking?
It is a learning process. The process is quite simple, but you must be patient with yourself, as you are creating a new habit and that takes time. Below are some tips to help you improve your self-talk and aide you in your positive thinking.
Check yourself. Periodically throughout your day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you notice that your thoughts are negative, come up with a way to put a positive spin on them.
Laugh! Laughter is the best medicine, but you must be open to it. Give yourself permission to smile and laugh, especially in difficult times. Seek humor in your everyday.
Be healthy. Doing things like eating the right foods and exercising regularly will provide your body with the boost of energy it needs to help foster that positive outlook on life.
Surround yourself with positive people. We have a great article on this, The Dream Team, where we talk about the importance of having the right people in your life and seeking out these people. Having a lot of negative people in your life can increase your stress level, and may make you doubt yourself and your abilities. Take some time to evaluate the people in your life and your relationships. Are they helping to foster your positive outlook on life?
Practice makes perfect. Be patient with yourself as making this change will take time. If in any given situation a negative thought enters your head, acknowledge it, evaluate it, and then respond with affirmations about how amazing you are and what makes you so special.
How do you turn a negative into a positive picture?
Check out these examples of how to turn a negative thought into a positive one.
Instead of saying “I’ve never done this before,” say “this is an opportunity to learn something new.” Instead of saying “This is too complicated,” say “I’ll tackle this from a different angle.” Instead of saying “there is no way this will work,” say “I can totally find a way to make this happen.” Instead of saying “I’m not getting any better at this,” say “I think I will give this another try.”
Simple reinforcing positive thoughts like this can easily counter the negative thoughts you have in your mind. Keeping positive images and motivational quotes in your space as a quick visual reference can also be helpful in refocusing your mind on the good. Always remember, you are in control. Take this one step at a time, and watch how quickly your reality changes with just the thoughts you have in your mind.