Personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of our health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. As a result, effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.”
However pessimism usually isn’t a conscious choice. Some people are genetically predisposed to be more negative than others. The next question is whether we can change our pessimism. The answer is yes. In fact, it turns out that many pessimists spend time thinking how things could go wrong, but devote little time to thinking about how they can go right. Although you can change that as positive thinking can be achieved through a few different techniques that have been proven effective. In fact, you can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice.
Positive thinking often starts with self-talk
As Mayo Clinic explains, self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. 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. If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist, someone who practices positive thinking. Research shows that even a small shift in the way you talk to yourself can influence your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts, and behavior under stress.
#1 Focus on the good things
Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you’re faced with one, focus on the good things no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem. If you look for it, you can always find the proverbial silver lining in every cloud, even if it’s not immediately obvious. In other words, in order to stop being negative, you’ll need to be mindful of the voice in your head and respond with positive messages.
#2 Identify areas to change
If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
#3 Surround yourself with positive people
Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways. What is more, when you surround yourself with positive people, you’re more likely to adopt empowering beliefs and see life as happening for you instead of to you. Just as you benefit when you surround yourself with people who make you happy, you suffer when those in your business or social circles are negative or narrow-minded.
#4 Do something nice for someone
Don’t wait for someone to inject positivity into your day. Instead, take charge and create a positive moment for someone else. You will likely find that doing nice things for others can lift your spirits and be just as fulfilling as having someone do something for you. It doesn’t have to be grand, either, just giving a friendly gesture to someone else as you pass by can make you feel positive.
#5 Practice positive thinking every day
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking. Even if you can’t put all of these tips into practice immediately, try one or two. Positivity tends to compound over time. Think of each little step you make towards changing your mindset as being a drop of fuel in your tank. Even if it’s not full, it has the ability to get you to where you need to go.
Overall, start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.
- Positive thinking benefits:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
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