There is a lot of information out there on the power of positivity and how it affects your overall health. I am a witness to this every day at our center. Those who have a positive outlook are generally more confident, happier, and healthier. But how do we change our outlook if we have been so accustomed to focusing on the negative in life? And how far are we supposed to take this ridiculous notion?! I mean will this even work? Probably not…
As you can see, I could use a little practice too.
Well let’s start with this. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the negativities in your life, like an ostrich with its head in the sand. The healthier way to deal with negative events, people and feelings is to acknowledge them and your reaction to them. Then try to actively work towards using them for learning and growth. Instead of thinking, “Why is this happening to me?” think “What lesson can I learn from this situation?” or “This person is horrible, I hate dealing with them!” think “What is the best way I can handle this person and what can I learn from them?”
A good exercise to practice is to write down a few small regular occurrences that you have a negative reaction to and commit to changing your thoughts towards one of the things on the list. Then practice positive thinking during that situation. Once you feel you have a grasp on positive thinking in one area of your life, expand it into the other areas that you’ve identified. Some examples (not from me personally, I love these special times) could be grocery shopping, house cleaning or working out. Let’s take cleaning the house as the activity one could use to turn their negative thinking around. Some ways to stay positive would be to:
- Set aside a block of time to get everything done and make a list of what you want to accomplish during this time to set yourself up for success.
- Listen to your favorite music while you clean.
- Appreciate your beautiful home filled with your favorite things and realize how lucky you are to have that home. Take some time to appreciate pictures and items that hold special memories for you.
- Buy a few new cleaning products with great scents to make your home smell amazing.
- Focus on the good feeling you get when you finish and knowing that you were responsible for the final results.
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done with a small treat.
Once you can master positive thinking for smaller events, it will be easier to practice this when larger life changing events occur. A recent life event that I was feeling particularly negative about was my son’s move to Boston for a new job opportunity. He had been living at home and working in our hometown but decided that he wanted to try life in the big city. I was initially very sad because I enjoyed having him home for dinner every night and hearing about his day and knowing he was safe under our roof. In the few months since has been gone I have come to realize that:
- We now have a really fun city to visit when we go to see him.
- I now have a beautiful new office/guest room that stays clean.
- When we do get together it is a special occasion that we all look forward to.
- I have raised a child who is now a fully independent and responsible adult.
- My son is very happy in his new life and isn’t this the goal of all parents?
A few more ways to change your mindset and focus on the positive:
- List 30 things each month that make you happy, or one each day. At the end of the month look back at all the events, things and people you have that you are grateful for.
- Surround yourself with positive people – if you are socializing with Debbie Downers it’s going to be much harder to break the cycle of negative thinking. When you are with negative people, try to change the tone of the conversation by focusing on some positive shared experiences that you have enjoyed together.
- Say a few affirmations each morning to start your day on the right note. If you are not comfortable saying the affirmations out loud, write them in your journal.
- Practice self-care – exercise eat right and get good sleep. When you feel your best you make your best efforts and set yourself up for success.
According to John Hopkins Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking has significant and measurable results such as improved cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system and increased lifespan. Once you start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones you will start having positive results. It’s time to try seeing that glass as half full, or maybe start with being thankful you have a glass and know that it can be refilled.