One of the most valuable habits we can adopt is to proactively think in a more positive way. I use the word “habit” because that is precisely what it is — a conscious practice that over time, becomes a habit and thus, second nature.
Thinking and acting more optimistically makes us feel more alive and free because as we shake-off the negativity, we get a powerful feeling of revitalization in our life. Stress and anxiety begin to melt away and our sense of purpose and meaning in life starts to come alive – that sense of hope and possibility for our life is reborn.
But how do you adopt the habit of thinking and acting more positively? The answer depends on the individual, but there are specific habits you can adopt that will get you going on the right path. You can start off with these 7 daily habits and once you get rolling, I have no doubt you’ll take off running from there:
1. Replace the negativity in your mind, body and life
We’re all prone to letting negative, detrimental thoughts into our head. Once in our minds, they manifest themselves in every aspect of our life.
“What you think you become, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you create.” – Adele Basheer
Become mindful of your thoughts and reactions to internal and external influences. When negative thoughts pop into your head, stop and ask yourself why you’re thinking and feeling that way — analyze them to get control over them. This holds true for negative thoughts you have of yourself, as well as other people, so when you have critical thoughts about another person, figure out why and ask yourself if those thoughts are warranted.
Another good habit it to look at your life as a whole and write down 3-5 sources of negativity that you feel are impacting your life — this can be people, work, TV shows you watch, websites you visit, your eating habits — anything that you perceive as bringing negativity into your life.
Once you’ve identified them, scope out what you can do to reduce or eliminate them.
The objective is to gain control of your thoughts, actions and reactions, so that you can master them, and not the other way around. This takes mindfulness and a willingness to face the negativity with determination to eliminate it.
“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.” – Allan Lokos
2. Don’t overreact
We’re all guilty of making mountains out of molehills and this is particularly true if we’re gripped by negativity. When we’re negative, we’re vulnerable and we tend to see everything as more of a problem that it really is. One way to combat this is to again, be mindful of your reactions and before you react and conclude, think — take a deep breath, look at the situation and ask yourself “Is this really such a big deal? Will this matter to me tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year?”
“Respond; don’t react. Listen; don’t talk. Think; don’t assume.” – Raji Lukkoor
3. Don’t dwell on the future or ruminate on the past
Some of the more harmful negative thoughts we let over-take us stem from dwelling on the future or ruminating on the past. We all do this — it’s human nature. However, just because it’s human nature doesn’t mean we can’t control it.
Always looking forward or backwards means we’re not settled in our present. We do need to think about the future and we should remember our past, but we can’t control what has not yet happened, or has already taken place.
How can we stop this cycle? Mindfulness comes into play again — when we catch ourselves doing this and its centered around negative thoughts about the future or the past, we need to snap ourselves back into the moment. To make this a habit, try:
- Spend several minutes every day focusing on the now — stop and smell the roses (may sound like a cliché, but it’s not). Look at the sky, the river, the puppy playing in the park. Consciously look for beauty and joy in the present and before you know it, you’ll be doing it more often and recognizing the good things about life today.
- Set aside time to think about the past and the future. We need to acknowledge our past and plan for our future, but rather than dwell on it, try setting aside an hour during the week to focus on it — to remember days gone by and to wonder about the future. Usually, as we shake-off negativity, we’re more positive about the future and thinking about it doesn’t become a negative, because we see all the possibilities that lay before us.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
A sure way to feel bad about yourself is to compare yourself to other people in the wrong way. No person has an idyllic life, no matter how much they try to portray one. We are all unique and in that distinctiveness, we find our power and destiny. It’s hard not to compare our lives to other people, but when we’re in negative mode, it happens upon us so easily — we feel down, so we look at others and think “why does she have it so easy in life?”…odds are, ‘she’ doesn’t. If you find yourself comparing your life to other people, consciously stop and re-align your thoughts. With positivity comes confidence, and one important step is to accept who we are, maximize our strengths, and strategize on how to minimize or eliminate our weaknesses.
“The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.” – unknown
5. Let off steam
If you let negative thoughts take up residence in your mind, they’ll drag you down. To get rid of these parasitic thoughts, sometimes we need to let off a little steam. Try having a set time or a set trigger that will prompt you to face those negative thoughts and kick them to the curb. A good physical workout can help, as can having a venting buddy — a friend or family member who will let you vent about your frustrations, even if they don’t offer any advise. In turn, you can do the same for them — the key is to just let it all out and once in the light of day, those negative thoughts lose most of their power.
6. Share the positivity
Positive people share their optimism. A daily habit with mutually beneficial reward is to be the supportive person someone else may need. A smile, an encouraging word or being a sounding board may seem insignificant, but helping someone else not only makes the other person better off, but it makes us feel good too. Share your positivity by adopting the daily habit of helping someone else.
7. Be realistic
Becoming and remaining a positive person isn’t easy and it is by no means a magic elixir. It takes commitment, but the end result is very much worth the effort. Remind yourself that you’re only human and be realistic in your expectations. Slowly, day-by-day, things should improve and you’ll find that being positive is far more valuable than being negative.
A few other habits to incorporate include:
- Start every day off with an infusion of positivity by reading or repeating some positive affirmations. For example, one could be: “Today is a good day and I will make the most out of my time — I matter, I care and I’m in control of my own life.”
- Get plenty of rest and exercise: this is actually a daily habit all of us can benefit from.
- Have a “re-charge” activity or safe place: what relaxes you and makes you happy? Try to have something healthy and positive to do, or someplace to go that is calming, to help you regain your perspective — this could be a quite room to read a book, or a long hot bath…whatever works for you.
“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” – Eckhart Tolle