You have probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of positive thinking. Positive thinkers have better stress coping skills, stronger immunity, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. While it is not a health panacea, taking an optimistic view rather than ruminating on negative thoughts can benefit your overall mental well-being.
So what can you do to become a more positive thinker? A few common strategies involve learning how to identify negative thoughts and replacing these thoughts with more positive ones. While it might take some time, eventually you may find that thinking positively starts to come more naturally. Consider putting some of the following tips into practice.
Avoid Negative Self-Talk
Self-talk involves the things you mentally tell yourself. Think of this as the inner voice inside your mind that analyzes how you perform and interact in the world around you. If your self-talk centers on negative thoughts, your self-esteem can suffer. When you start thinking critical thoughts about yourself, take a moment to pause and assess.
Elizabeth Scott, About.com's Guide to Stress Management, has some great tips for how to turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk. She advises readers to start by noticing their thought patterns and then focus on changing these into more positive ones. When you catch yourself engaging in a negative thought, mentally telling yourself to "Stop" can help break the pattern.
It can be really difficult to stay positive when there is little humor or lightness in your life. Even when you are facing challenges, it is important to stay open to laughter and humor. Sometimes, simply recognizing the potential humor in a situation can lessen your stress and brighten your outlook. Seeking out sources of humor such as watching a funny sitcom or reading jokes online can help you think more positive thoughts.
Learning to think positive is like strengthening a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it will become. Researchers believe that your explanatory style, or how you explain events, is linked to whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Optimists tend to have a positive explanatory style. If you attribute good things that happen to your own skill and effort, then you are probably an optimist. Pessimists, on the other hand, usually have a negative attributional style. If you credit these good events to outside forces, then you likely have a more pessimistic way of thinking.
The same principles hold true for how you explain negative events. Optimists tend to view bad or unfortunate events as isolated incidences that are outside of their control, while pessimists view such things as more common and often blame themselves. By taking a moment to analyze the event and ensure that you are giving yourself the credit you are due for the good things and not blaming yourself for things outside of your control, you can start to become more optimistic.
Keeping Working On It
There is not on-off switch for positive thinking. Even if you are a natural-born optimist, positive thinking can take effort in the face of challenging situations. Like any goal, the key is to stick with it for the long-term. Even if you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, you can look for ways to minimize negative self-talk and cultivate a more optimistic outlook.
Finally, do not be afraid to enlist the help of friends and family. When you start engaging in negative thinking, call a friend or family member who you can count on to offer positive encouragement and feedback. Remember that in order to think positively, you need to nurture yourself. Investing energy into things you enjoy and surrounding yourself with optimistic people are just two ways that you can encourage positive thinking in your life.