- Affirmations for Positive Thinking
- How Positive Thinking Works
- The Power of Positive Thinking: How Thoughts Can Change Your Life
- How to Think Positive
- Happy People Find Good in the World
- The Power of Positive Thinking
- How Do You Train Your Mind to Think Positive?
- Decide To Be Happy
- Your Positive Attitude in Action
- How Positive Thinking Can Help You
- What Negative Thoughts Do to Your Brain
- What Positive Thoughts Do to Your Brain
- How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skill Set
- How to Increase Positive Thinking in Your Life
- Happiness vs. Success (Which Comes First?)
- Where to Go From Here
- Does Positive Thinking Really Work?
- When Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work, This Does
How Positive Thinking Works
Positive thinking is about having the right mental attitude that focuses the mind on having thoughts, beliefs, images, and words that support you and allow you to grow, be better, and push you to succeed or do better in life.
It’s a mental attitude that concentrates on expecting good things to happen, positive situations to unfold and positive results. When you have a positive mindset, you always expect more joy, happiness, better health, greater success and all this also helps you reduce your stress levels.
Basically, what ever your mind thinks and believes is what you expect. Expect positive situations and you’ll get positive outcomes.
A lot of people don’t believe in positive thinking and don’t feel that positive thinking actually works. Some will even call it nonsense or laugh at those who follow it.
Usually these are people who have never really applied positive thinking, don’t have a positive thinking mindset can be considered negative thinkers.
Those who are successful with positive thinking know how to work with it and apply it properly so that they get results.
More and more people are turning to positive thinking including Doctors and Scientists. This is mainly because more research is being done on the subject and there are more and more books and courses to help develop positive thinking patterns.
At some point you’ve probably heard somebody say “Think positive” (maybe you’ve said it yourself) when things don’t work out or when they’re feeling down. But most don’t know what that really means, don’t take it seriously and don’t know how to think positive. People will often say “Think positive” but they don’t really know how the power of positive thinking works.
Here’s an example of how positive thinking works.
Dave wants to make more money: he feels he has to make more money. He’s been at a job that pays a little more than minimum wage for the last 3 years. He doesn’t have a lot of self confidence, doesn’t really think he can accomplish much in life and has a pretty negative outlook. If you ask him how he’s doing – he’ll say: “Not bad”
He often shows up for work late, tired, thinks and believes that others are lucky or just better than him and that’s why they make more money. He regularly displays his negative attitude by often talking about how bad things are, how terrible the world is, how everybody is out to make his life difficult, complains about his wife and anything he can find.
He’s applied for other jobs in the past but has never been able to get something better. He tried to move up in the company but he hasn’t been able to. His performance reviews are usually negative so Dave feels he has nothing to be positive or optimistic about.
Glenn, works at the same company as Dave. They started on the same day at the same job. Dave is a pretty optimistic guy and displays a lot of confidence. When he started working at the same company he was sure he was going to move up and be Manager. He had no doubt and was ready to do everything he could to move up. He always helped and encouraged others, never complained, he’s full of energy and is always at work on time.
If you ask Glenn how he’s doing he’ll say: “Fantastic, another great day.” Glenn always thinks about how lucky he is to be working and earning a living and is always thankful. Within a year of working, Glenn moved up to Assistant Manager and today is the Manager of his division and is about to become Vice President.
What’s the difference between these 2 people?
It’s all in their attitude and thought process. When you have a positive attitude you focus on the positive aspects of your life. This creates positive energy, you start to have positive and optimistic feelings, you see yourself in a positive light, you have more confidence, you believe in yourself and you believe that you can and will succeed. Your overall health improves because you take positive steps to stay healthy; you create and send out this positive energy that others pick up on. They’re drawn to you and begin to help you succeed even more.
Positive thinking and negative thinking spread. Thoughts are energy, they vibrate. And you pick up on thoughts of the people around you. It all happens on the subconscious – you just get a feel about others. You’re picking up on their thought energy and patterns. Negative thinkers will attract negative people and they will continue to have more negative thoughts, negative energy and build a negative life.
Positive thinking people attract positive people and positive situations. They will enjoy positive outcomes and live a positive life. Negative thinkers don’t want to be around positive thinking people. And positive thinkers don’t want to be around negative thinking people.
How can you develop Positive thinking?
To go from being negative to positive, you have to star with the mind and what you think about all the time. Track your thoughts can change the negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
Watch what you say – try to say positive things to people, avoid complaining and saying negative statements.
Read as much as you can about positive thinking.
Take courses that show you how to develop positive thinking.
Recite positive affirmations as often as you can.
At first your mind will resist new statements and put up a fight. But as you say your affirmations regularly and push your mind to be more positive changes will start to take place.
Change your internal dialogue from negative to positive. Focus on your positive qualities, give yourself positive encouragement.
Be persistent – you must make positive thinking a daily habit and don’t wait for things to go wrong to start thinking positive.
The more often you do the above the sooner you’ll develop positive thinking that will make life better.
I’ve put together a powerful Free email course that teaches you how to develop positive thinking so that you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t watn. You’ll learn how to attract abundance with positive thinking in 7-simple steps. Plus you’ll get my Positive thinking mp3 download.
Plus when you sign up today, I’ll also give you my introductory E-mail course, which gives you new tips and exercises everyday for 7-straight days.
Simply enter your name and email address and you’ll receive my free introductory Success Mp3 program, and you’ll also get my powerful e-mail course with new tips and exercises that you can work with at your leisure.
You can achieve your goals.
You can live the life you want.
You can get exactly what you want.
You just have to believe in yourself and get your Subconscious Mind and Inner Powers working for you. You just have to give them the right instructions and they’ll bring you what you want and more.
And you give them the right instructions by changing your thoughts and beliefs so that they match with what you want. This means getting rid of the negative thoughts and beliefs that hold you back. I show you how in my 7-day email course and free Mp3 download. Just fill out the form below to get started.
Two things. First, how do optimism and pessimism develop? We know from studies with twins that dispositional optimism is heritable, although the specific genes that underlie the differences in personality have yet to be identified. It’s also likely that parenting styles and early childhood environment play a role. For example, research has shown that children who grow up in impoverished families have a tendency toward pessimism in adulthood. Still, the specifics have not been delineated.
The other missing link has to do with how to construe optimism and pessimism. I’ve been describing them as though they are opposite ends of a continuum, and this may not be the case. Optimism and pessimism may represent related, but somewhat distinct dimensions. This possibility is suggested by the fact that not expecting bad things to happen, doesn’t necessarily imply that the person expects good things to happen. The fact that they’re somewhat separable leads to the question of what is important for the beneficial health outcomes we see: the absence of pessimism or the presence of optimism?
What have been some surprising reactions to your research?
Three reactions are noteworthy. One comes from the research community, the second from the media, and the third from patients.
For whatever reason, there has been a group of researchers who have been very skeptical of the findings. The work has been criticized because it’s not really optimism and pessimism that drive results, but rather characteristics that are related to optimism, such as the depressed mood that comes along with a pessimistic orientation. Others have found fault with individual studies or large scale reviews that have been done. Much of this criticism is part of the healthy process of science, being dubious and wanting further verification, but some of the skepticism seems to go beyond that. It’s never been clear to me why this has been the case.
As for the media, they seem to love the work. Whenever a major study gets published showing the benefits of optimism on health, the findings are picked up quickly and get widely distributed. Part of this is prompted, I think, by folklore that surrounds the concepts of optimism and pessimism. I think that people are intrigued that these caricatures have some basis in fact. Whatever the reason, our findings are quick to make their way to the public.
But perhaps what’s most salient to me is the reaction that some patients have expressed about their recovery. They have told me that they feel guilty. They read that optimism is associated with better health among patients recovering from illness, and they think, “If only I would be more optimistic, I’d do better.” Yet, they can’t put themselves in that frame of mind. Family members may chastise them too for not promoting their recovery by simply expecting good things to happen. Perhaps it was naïve not to have imagined these reactions. Regardless, it is troubling that they have occurred.
The Power of Positive Thinking: How Thoughts Can Change Your Life
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
The power of positive thinking is remarkable.
In fact, the idea that your mind can change your world almost seems too good to be true.
I can assure you, however, that I have experienced AND witnessed the good that focusing on the positive can bring.
But before I get into that, let me ask you a question.
Can you guess what the most successful and happy people think about all day long?
The answer is quite simple…
Healthy, happy people think about what they want, and how to get it, most of the time. In this way developing a positive attitude can truly change your entire life.
Positive Thinking and Self-Confidence Start With Goal-Setting
Free 14-Step Goal-Setting Guide
When you think and talk about what you want and how to get it, you feel happier and in greater control of your life. When you think about something that makes you happy, your brain actually releases endorphins, which give you a generalized feeling of well-being.
As a result, you develop a positive attitude.
How to Think Positive
Based on many psychological tests, happy people seem to have a special quality that enables them to live a better life than the average.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s the quality of optimism!
The best news about optimism is that it is a learnable quality. That means you can learn how to think positive by taking adopting an optimistic mindset.
By the law of cause and effect, if you do and say what other healthy, happy people with positive attitudes do and say, you will soon feel the same way, get the same results, and enjoy the same experiences that they do.
Happy People Find Good in the World
Optimists seem to have different ways of dealing with the world that set them apart from the average.
- First, they keep their minds on what they want, and keep looking for ways to get it. They are clear about goals and they are confident that they will accomplish them, sooner or later.
- Second, optimists look for the good in every problem or difficulty. When things go wrong, as they often do, they say, “That’s good!” And then set about finding something positive about the situation.
What we know is that, if you are looking for something good or beneficial in a person or situation, you will always find it. And while you are looking, you will be a more positive and cheerful person.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Optimists seek the valuable lesson in every setback or reversal. Rather than getting upset and blaming someone else for what has happened, they take control over their emotions by saying, “What can I learn from this experience?”
Resolve today to learn how to develop positive thinking and a positive attitude toward yourself, the people around you and your life.
How Do You Train Your Mind to Think Positive?
Training your mind to think positive can be achieved by leveraging a simple concept. Your mind has enough bandwidth to only focus on one thought at a time. All you have to do is keep it focused on uplifting thoughts until you form the same types of neural pathways that are created when you establish a new habit.
When a negative event occurs, remember that it’s your response that truly determines the outcome. Always look for the positive response or optimistic lesson when such events take place.
Positive affirmations are positive phrases that can be repeated over and over to teach you how to get rid of negative thoughts and encourage a positive attitude.
I also find motivation from inspirational quotes and messages to be very useful when trying to induce positive thoughts.
Decide To Be Happy
Resolve from now to see your glass of life as half full rather than half empty. Happy people give thanks for the many blessings in life rather than worrying or complaining about the things they do not have.
Assume the best of intentions on the part of everyone around you. Most people are pretty decent, honest and are trying to do the very best they know how to. When you look for something good in their words and actions, you will almost always find something.
Finally, resolve to be cheerful, no matter what happens.
Looking on the bright side is most important when things go wrong.
Your Positive Attitude in Action
It is easy to to be cheerful when everything is going according to plan. But, it is when you encounter unexpected setbacks and difficulties that you demonstrate to yourself, and the world around you, what kind of an attitude you really have.
Make sure that it is a positive one!
How Positive Thinking Can Help You
Developing a positive attitude can help you in more ways than you might realize. When you think positive thoughts, you don’t allow your mind (conscious or subconscious) to entertain any negative thoughts or doubts.
After you learn how to think positive, you will notice amazing changes all around you. Your brain will actually begin to operate in a state of free-flowing feel-good hormones called endorphins, which will make you feel lighter and happier. You’ll also notice a major boost in confidence and will feel more capable of taking on new assignments and challenges that might have previously been outside your comfort zone.
By reducing your self-limiting beliefs, you will effectively release your brakes and experience growth like you never imagined. Essentially, you can change your entire life simply by harnessing the power of positive thinking.
Thank you for reading my blog about the power of positive thinking and developing a positive attitude. I hope it will inspire you to see the good in others and help you to improve your life.
Did you know that self-confidence and positive thinking can be achieved through goal-setting? It all starts with my 14-Step Goal-Setting Guide.
- Use the power of positive thinking to learn how to write a book.
- Discover how to crush writer’s block with a positive attitude.
- Learn how to be a millionaire by thinking like one.
SummaryArticle Name Transform Your Life With The Power of Positive Thinking Description The power of positive thinking can transform your life. In this quick post, Brian Tracy shows you how to transform your life and become a more confident person by changing your thoughts. Author Brian Tracy Publisher Name Brian Tracy International Publisher Logo
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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.
Positive thinking sounds useful on the surface. (Most of us would prefer to be positive rather than negative.) But, “positive thinking” is also a soft and fluffy term that is easy to dismiss. In the real world, it rarely carries the same weight as words like “work ethic” or “persistence.”
But those views may be changing.
Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.
The impact of positive thinking on your work, your health, and your life is being studied by people who are much smarter than me. One of these people is Barbara Fredrickson.
Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina and she published a landmark paper that provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Her work is among the most referenced and cited in her field and it is surprisingly useful in everyday life.
Let’s talk about Fredrickson’s discovery and what it means for you…
What Negative Thoughts Do to Your Brain
Play along with me for a moment.
Let’s say that you’re walking through the forest and suddenly a tiger steps onto the path ahead of you. When this happens, your brain registers a negative emotion — in this case, fear.
Researchers have long known that negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action. When that tiger crosses your path, for example, you run. The rest of the world doesn’t matter. You are focused entirely on the tiger, the fear it creates, and how you can get away from it.
In other words, negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts. At that same moment, you might have the option to climb a tree, pick up a leaf, or grab a stick — but your brain ignores all of those options because they seem irrelevant when a tiger is standing in front of you.
This is a useful instinct if you’re trying to save life and limb, but in our modern society we don’t have to worry about stumbling across tigers in the wilderness. The problem is that your brain is still programmed to respond to negative emotions in the same way — by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you see around you.
For example, when you’re in a fight with someone, your anger and emotion might consume you to the point where you can’t think about anything else. Or, when you are stressed out about everything you have to get done today, you may find it hard to actually start anything because you’re paralyzed by how long your to–do list has become. Or, if you feel bad about not exercising or not eating healthy, all you think about is how little willpower you have, how you’re lazy, and how you don’t have any motivation.
In each case, your brain closes off from the outside world and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress — just like it did with the tiger. Negative emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you. It’s your survival instinct.
Now, let’s compare this to what positive emotions do to your brain. This is where Barbara Fredrickson returns to the story.
What Positive Thoughts Do to Your Brain
Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain by setting up a little experiment. During this experiment, she divided her research subjects into 5 groups and showed each group different film clips.
The first two groups were shown clips that created positive emotions. Group 1 saw images that created feelings of joy. Group 2 saw images that created feelings of contentment.
Group 3 was the control group. They saw images that were neutral and produced no significant emotion.
The last two groups were shown clips that created negative emotions. Group 4 saw images that created feelings of fear. Group 5 saw images that created feelings of anger.
Afterward, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do. Each participant was handed a piece of paper with 20 blank lines that started with the phrase, “I would like to…”
Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment, wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.
In other words, when you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that proved that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.
But that was just the beginning. The really interesting impact of positive thinking happens later…
How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skill Set
The benefits of positive thoughts don’t stop after a few minutes of good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit that positive thoughts provide is an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.
Let’s consider a real-world example.
A child who runs around outside, swinging on branches and playing with friends, develops the ability to move athletically (physical skills), the ability to play with others and communicate with a team (social skills), and the ability to explore and examine the world around them (creative skills). In this way, the positive emotions of play and joy prompt the child to build skills that are useful and valuable in everyday life.
These skills last much longer than the emotions that initiated them. Years later, that foundation of athletic movement might develop into a scholarship as a college athlete or the communication skills may blossom into a job offer as a business manager. The happiness that promoted the exploration and creation of new skills has long since ended, but the skills themselves live on.
Fredrickson refers to this as the “broaden and build” theory because positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.
As we discussed earlier, negative emotions do the opposite. Why? Because building skills for future use is irrelevant when there is immediate threat or danger (like the tiger on the path).
All of this research begs the most important question of all: if positive thinking is so useful for developing valuable skills and appreciating the Big Picture of life, how do you actually get yourself to be positive?
How to Increase Positive Thinking in Your Life
What can you do to increase positive thoughts and take advantage of the “broaden and build” theory in your life?
Well, anything that sparks feelings of joy, contentment, and love will do the trick. You probably know what things work well for you. Maybe it’s playing the guitar. Maybe it’s spending time with a certain person. Maybe it’s carving tiny wooden lawn gnomes.
That said, here are three ideas for you to consider…
1. Meditation — Recent research by Fredrickson and her colleagues has revealed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not. As expected, people who meditated also built valuable long–term skills. For example, three months after the experiment was over, the people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms.
Note: If you’re looking for an easy way to start meditation, here is a 10–minute guided meditation that was recently sent to me. Just close your eyes, breathe, and follow along.
2. Writing — this study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, examined a group of 90 undergraduate students who were split into two groups. The first group wrote about an intensely positive experience each day for three consecutive days. The second group wrote about a control topic.
Three months later, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses. (This blew me away. Better health after just three days of writing about positive things!)
Note: I used to be very erratic with my writing, but now I publish a new article every Monday and Thursday. I’ve written about my writing process and how you can stick to any goal in a more consistent manner in the articles here, here and here.
3. Play — schedule time to play into your life. We schedule meetings, conference calls, weekly events, and other responsibilities into our daily calendars … why not schedule time to play?
When was the last time you blocked out an hour on your calendar just to explore and experiment? When was the last time you intentionally carved out time to have fun? You can’t tell me that being happy is less important than your Wednesday meeting, and yet, we act like it is because we never give it a time and space to live on our calendars.
Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the benefits of positive emotion. Schedule time for play and adventure so that you can experience contentment and joy, and explore and build new skills.
Note: for more ideas on the importance of play, read this article on how one man cured his anxiety.
Happiness vs. Success (Which Comes First?)
There’s no doubt that happiness is the result of achievement. Winning a championship, landing a better job, finding someone you love — these things will bring joy and contentment to your life. But so often, we wrongly assume that this means happiness always follows success.
How often have you thought, “If I just get ___, then I’ll be set.”
Or, “Once I achieve ___, I’ll be satisfied.”
I know I’m guilty of putting off happiness until I achieve some arbitrary goal. But as Fredrickson’s “broaden and build” theory proves, happiness is essential to building the skills that allow for success.
In other words, happiness is both the precursor to success and the result of it.
In fact, researchers have often noticed a compounding effect or an “upward spiral” that occurs with happy people. They are happy, so they develop new skills, those skills lead to new success, which results in more happiness, and the process repeats itself.
Where to Go From Here
Positive thinking isn’t just a soft and fluffy feel–good term. Yes, it’s great to simply “be happy,” but those moments of happiness are also critical for opening your mind to explore and build the skills that become so valuable in other areas of your life.
Finding ways to build happiness and positive emotions into your life — whether it is through meditation, writing, playing a pickup basketball game, or anything else — provides more than just a momentary decrease in stress and a few smiles.
Periods of positive emotion and unhindered exploration are when you see the possibilities for how your past experiences fit into your future life, when you begin to develop skills that blossom into useful talents later on, and when you spark the urge for further exploration and adventure.
To put it simply: seek joy, play often, and pursue adventure. Your brain will do the rest.
Does Positive Thinking Really Work?
We’ve all heard the powerful stories of positive thinking: The people who say a glass half-full attitude helped them do everything from power through the last few minutes of spin class to overcome debilitating diseases like cancer.
Some research supports the idea too. People who experienced heart failure were far more successful in recovery if they were considered optimistic, according to a recent study from Massachusetts General Hospital in BostonOther science has found that optimists have a better biological response to the stress hormone cortisol than pessimists. And one study from 2000 that analyzed nuns’ journals found that a cheery attitude, as seen through the sisters’ writing, to be strongly linked to longevity. (Check out The Health Benefits of Being an Optimist vs. a Pessimist.)
But could it really be that simply having happy thoughts can help you overcome the negatives in life?
Better Understanding Optimism
Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. While, in general, research confirms that optimistic thinkers live longer, see more work and relationship success, and enjoy better health, such a mindset also makes us more likely to take appropriate action: to follow doctors’ orders, eat well, and exercise.
“The word ‘optimism’ gets thrown around a lot as just thinking positively, but the definition is the belief that when faced with a negative, we expect a good outcome-and we believe that our behavior matters,” says Michelle Gielan, the founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and author of Broadcasting Happiness.
Say the challenge is a disease diagnosis. Optimists will be more likely to believe that there are actions you can take to better your odds-and those behaviors (keeping up with doctors appointments, eating right, adhering to medications) can lead to better outcomes, Gielan says. While the pessimist may do some of those behaviors, with a more fatal view of the world, they may also skip key steps that could lead to a better result, she explains.
Mental Contrasting and WOOP
In her book, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, Gabriele Oettingen, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg, explains this idea of happy daydreams not being sufficient: Simply dreaming of your desires, more current research suggests, doesn’t help you achieve them. To reap the benefits of happy thoughts, rather, you have to have a plan-and you have to act.
So she developed something called “mental contrasting”: a visualization technique that consists of envisioning your goal; picturing the good results associated with that goal; visualizing any challenges you may face; and thinking about if you’re presented with a challenge, how you’ll overcome the setback.
Say you want to work out more-you may picture your results as being more toned. Focus on that outcome and really imagine it. Then, start thinking about your number one obstacle in getting to the gym-maybe it’s that your way too busy. Think about that challenge. Then, set up your challenge with an “if-then” statement, such as: “If I get busy, then I’m going to do XYZ.” (And How Much Exercise You Need Totally Depends On Your Goals.)
This strategy, coined by Oettingen, is called WOOP-wish, outcome, obstacle, plan, she says. (You can try it for yourself here.) WOOP only takes five minutes per session and is a conscious strategy that works through non-conscious associations, Oettingen says. “It’s an imagery technique-and everyone can do imagery.”
Why does it work? Because it brings you back to reality. Thinking about possible setbacks and behaviors of your own that could inhibit you from reaching a goal provides real insight into your day-to-day-and hopefully enlightens you to tweaks you can make to bypass roadblocks.
WOOP is supported by a slew of data too. Oettingen says that people who do WOOP with respect to healthy eating consume more fruits and vegetables; those who work on exercise goals through the technique workout more; and recovering stroke patients who practice are more active and lose more weight than those who don’t. (We’ve got more Therapist-Approved Tricks for Perpetual Positivity too.)
You Can Learn to Become an Optimist
Pessimistic by nature? Beyond WOOP-and making sure to focus on good-for-you behaviors-it’s important to know that your outlook on life is malleable. Changing it is possible, says Gielan. Start with these three habits of highly-optimistic people.
- Be thankful. In a 2003 study, researchers broke people into three different groups: one that wrote down what they were thankful for, one that wrote down struggles of the week,and one that wrote down neutral happenings. The results: In just a couple of weeks, the people who jotted down the things they were grateful for were more optimistic and even exercised more than the other two groups.
- Set small goals. Optimists may be more likely to reap the health boons of happy thinking, but they also take small steps that show them that their behavior matters, says Gielan. Running a mile, for example, may not be a huge goal for some people, but it’s something that’s manageable and that you can see results from-motivating you to continue training or hitting the gym.
- Journal. For two minutes a day, write down the most positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours-include everything you can remember like where you were, what you felt, and what exactly happened, suggests Gielan. “You’re getting your brain to relive that positive experience, fueling it with positive emotions, which can release dopamine,” says Gielan. Take advantage of this high by hitting the pavement post-journaling sesh: Dopamine is closely linked with motivation and rewarding behaviors. (P.S. This Method of Positive Thinking Can Make Sticking to Healthy Habits So Much Easier.)
- By Cassie Shortsleeve
When Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work, This Does
There’s no shortage of self-help gurus who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life. According to them, if you tell yourself, “I am strong and successful,” your fears will simply disappear.
If you’ve tried using positive affirmations, you know that it can be a difficult habit to maintain. You may spend five, 10 or even 20 minutes reciting your affirmation, but the other 23-plus hours of the day? Chances are that your mind drifts back to old, repetitive thoughts that have burned deep grooves in your brain.
The problem with positive affirmations is that they operate at the surface level of conscious thinking. They do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting beliefs really live.
It goes without saying that if you command yourself to think, “I am abundant and attract wealth,” yet your deeply held core belief is that you are never enough or unworthy of your success, your brain will be quick to incite an inner war.
If you trying tell yourself, “I am successful,” but you struggle with insecurity regarding your skills and accomplishments, your subconscious may likely remind you of the many times you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of your boss or made a mistake at work (trust me, we’ve all been there!).
The truth is that it’s natural and healthy to experience a range of feelings, including less pleasant ones such as disappointment, sadness or guilt. While there’s no question that dwelling on negative emotions can turn toxic, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is merely a temporary fix.
Unreasonably optimistic thinking can trigger a self-defeating spiral, particularly for those prone to anxiety and depression. Research shows that while repeating positive self-statements may benefit people with high self-regard, it can backfire for those lacking confidence.
If positive affirmations may be ineffective–even detrimental–how are we to take control and mentally empower ourselves to change?
While wishing ourselves into a success mindset won’t work for most, here are a few strategies to try to make your self-talk work for you instead of against you.
Dig Yourself Out from “Debbie Downer” Thoughts
Start with articulating and acknowledging thoughts weighing you down–ones that don’t serve any useful purpose beyond keeping you stuck. Making statements, such as, “I forgive myself for procrastinating” or “It’s okay for me to be angry” shortcut self-bashing and free up emotional resources.
If you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastinating, you can redirect that energy into breaking down a project into manageable tasks and actually tackling your to-do list instead.
Give Interrogative Self-Talk a Try
Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create change. It’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner-critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question? (see what I did there?). Asking questions opens up exploration and possibility.
Here’s some examples:
- Am I willing to do what it takes?
- When have I done this before?
- What if happens?
- How can I…?
This type of self-inquiry powers up problem-solving areas of the brain helping you tap into your innate creativity. You’re able to greet negative thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.
Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Using a positive affirmation such as, “I am wonderful and powerful” may backfire if you don’t truly, deeply believe it at both a cognitive and emotional level. To effectively reframe your thinking, consider who you are becoming, focusing on your progress–the current track or path you’re on.
You might rework your self-talk to sound more like, “I am a work in progress, and that’s OK.” Statements such as this are pointing you in the direction of positive growth and are both realistic and achievable. Another example: telling yourself, “Every moment I’m making an effort to be more conscious about how I spend my money” acknowledges the fact that you are evolving and that you have a choice in creating a better financial future for yourself.
If you’re prone to negative self-talk and are sick of positive affirmations that don’t work, try one of these reframing techniques. You may start to notice major changes in your mindset and an uptick in your productivity and success.
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When Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work, This Does