When we nurture and harness the power of positive thinking, it has a profoundly beneficial impact on our life. By thinking, feeling and acting positive, we’re less stressed and anxious and we come to realize that we have every reason to be happy. Fortunately, anyone can become a positive thinker.
Positivity is an amazing feeling and while it’s not a cure-all, it does give us a zest for life — we become more grateful, feel happier and have a more general sense of contentment in our life.
So how do you train your brain to think positive so you can begin to experience all the benefits of positivity?
1. Self-assess: ask yourself “do I think positively, or negatively?”
Do you enjoy life and think positively as much as you can? Do you see the brighter side in life? Do you feel happy more often than not? Does life excite you? Or, does life make you feel anxious? Do you complain a lot? Do you judge others or gossip? Do you easily get annoyed and snap at people?
Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle? Many of us actually are in the middle, because none of us are perfect.
Self-assessment is meant to be an exercise in which you confront yourself and honestly answer the question: am I more of a happy and positive person, or am I prone to being glum and negative?
2. Prepare yourself to be positive: commit to conditioning your mind to consciously experience moments of positivity
The wondrous thing about positive thinking, is that we can actually condition ourselves to be more positive. As with any “conditioning,” it takes practice, effort and mindfulness. We need to be willing to accept that “I’m a negative thinker and I am going to change that…” One must live more in the moment and not dwell on the past or stress about the future. What is happening in the now that is good — what positive things are happening all around you and how can you better take note of them? Don’t look for the bad, but instead, look for the good — seek out the positive and before you know it, your brain will take over and you’ll see more good than bad.
Here is just one example: You wake up, its raining and you have to go to work. You could complain about the rain and let it ruin your mood and thus, your day, or, you can accept that there is nothing you can do to control the weather and the sun will come out again. You could moan about having to go to work, or, you could be thankful that you have a job. If you first orient your mind toward the good aspects, it realigns your thought processes and it releases you from having to feel negative.
“Your morning sets up the success of your day. So many people wake up and immediately check text messages, emails, and social media. I use my first hour awake for my morning routine of breakfast and meditation to prepare myself.” – Caroline Ghosn
3. You need an attitude of gratitude: practice makes perfect and that includes being grateful
Let’s be honest — life can be challenging and there’s a lot out there to make us feel anxious, angry or sad. But the truth is, there is so much to be happy about — there is boundless beauty and tremendous joy, so why not look for that and be thankful?
We have the power to self-choose the things we want to focus on and one way to train our brain to center on the positive is to practice gratitude — gratitude for the people, experiences and things that make life worth living. It can be anything from your family, to your job, to your home, the food on the table, the rose bush in your yard…the opportunities for gratitude are endless and the fact is, positive people have a very, very long list of what they’re grateful for.
4. Reaffirm it: fortify your memory for the positive
Did you know that we often subconsciously think of negative words, which in turn results in a negative feeling and most likely, a negative outcome?
For example: your co-worker says something that annoys you. Part of you wants to react positively, despite being annoyed, but in your mind, you silently utter “man, she is just so stupid…sometimes I really hate her.” But, instead of thinking that, focus instead on positive words and thoughts, such as “I don’t like what she’s saying, but I know her to be a good and kind person and that’s the important thing….”
Focus your mind on words that uplift and inspire, like “love,” “compassion,” “joy,” “friendship,” “understanding,” etc. You can also use positive affirmations, which really do work. When dealing with someone causing you to feel negative, try:
- I’m not taking this personally.
- I can’t change him/her, but I can control how I respond to him/her
- I follow my own path of happiness and that path is one of peace, love and compassion
- I have an open, positive mind and no one can take that from me
- His/her negativity will not affect me – I’m shielded by an armor of peace and tranquility in my heart and mind
“By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.
Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.” – “Words Can Change Your Brain,” by Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman
5. Balance: we can’t always think positively
Thinking positive is of course the best mindset. But sometimes, our minds and bodies just need to release negativity. A common misconception is that positive thinkers are delusional pollyanna’s — that’s not the case at all. If you need to let it out by having a good cry, then do it. The difference is though, a positive thinker is acutely aware that they’re having negative thoughts/emotions and realize that they’re not there to stay, but are only visiting. A positive thinker still sees the bright spot down the road and affirms to one’s self that they will get back in the right frame-of-mind as soon as is possible.
Let go of all-or-nothing thinking
Negative thinkers tend to see things in pure black or white. They often have an “all-or-nothing” mindset in which things are either great or, terrible. However, positive thinkers understand that life is sometimes shades of gray. A situation may not be optimal, but there is always hope and trying to stay positive is the differentiator. Give compromise a try. Learn to give and take and see both sides to a story or situation. Be magnanimous with people you may firmly disagree with — after all, if you want people to respect that you have your own opinion, give them the same courtesy. Life is not always easy, but there is so much to be hopeful and thankful for and that is what we need to focus our energies on.
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ―
Learn more and try taking the Berkeley Well-being survey.