CHANGE YOUR THINKING TO
BECOME MORE POSITIVE
Text by Kathryn Brooks
Chances are you’ve probably had someone tell you to “be positive” or to “look on the bright side.” And while they may be well-intentioned, as anyone who has ever been blindsided by a breakup, taken care of an ill loved one, or been laid off from their job will tell you, that’s often easier-said-than-done. But here’s the thing: Being a positive person may have less to do with staying positive all the time and more to do with having a resilient response to life’s turns and twists. If you have a tendency to see the downside, here are ten strategies for how to be more positive, that will result in making you healthier, happier and more confident.
HAVE A MANTRA, AND REPEAT IT
We’re often harder on ourselves than we would be on someone else, so one solution is to talk to yourself like you would to your best friend. Studies have shown that talking to yourself can influence your thoughts, feelings, and behavior—especially if you’re speaking to yourself in the third person: “You can get through this” instead of “I can get through this.” Mantras can bring you relief and remind you that things will get better, even if they seem insurmountable right now.
LEARN FROM YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Do you tend to overanalyze things? Or perhaps you’re still churning over that not-so-stellar work presentation last month? That’s what’s known as rumination, a process in which we continually replay or dissect an upsetting event in the past and think about the possibility of negative situations in the future. To turn your rumination into a useful problem-solving task, instead of fixating on the problem itself (for example, “I can’t believe I tanked that job interview!”), focus on the solution (in this case, “What can I do to avoid tanking the next job interview?”).
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Everyone encounters bumps in the road. When you do, cut yourself slack and allow yourself to feel your emotions—whatever they may be. Trying to squash your stress or grief is not only unhelpful, but it can also be harmful. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded that individuals who accept rather than judge their mental experiences may attain better psychological health because acceptance helps them experience less negative emotion in response to stressors.”
Words make a big difference, not only in terms of how you feel, but also in the way others perceive you. One of the biggest ways we transfer stress is verbally. For example, by starting a conversation with a positive statement you set an optimistic tone. It makes sense that if you put out positive energy, you are more likely to receive it. In short, the energy we put out in the world is the energy we get back.
A good workout enhances both your physical and emotional wellbeing. Research has documented that people who exercise as little as 30 minutes per week were more cheerful that those who never exercise. And the link between exercise and happiness is not exercise-specific, meaning you can expect to reap the benefits whether you do an online workout video, take your furry friend for a walk. attend a yoga class or run a 5K.
Never underestimate the power of giving thanks: In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants were asked to write a few sentences each week—one group wrote about the things they were grateful for and the other group wrote about the things that had displeased them. After 10 weeks, researchers found that those who kept gratitude journals were happier and more optimistic. If keeping a journal isn’t your thing, try writing a note of thanks to someone who has been particularly kind to you or extend the cycle of gratitude by sending a short affirming text to a friend or colleague.
Spending time in nature has been shown to boost positive thinking and reduce stress, as well as increase creativity and cognition. And you needn’t take a half-day hike for nature to work its magic on you. A study found that spending just over 17 minutes per day exploring your neighborhood or walking in your local park greatly enhanced a person’s overall sense of well-being. You can also bring the great outdoors indoors by adding plants to your home and office or even watching nature scenes on YouTube, which has been shown to have similar effects.
Meditation won’t solve all your problems, but it may help with stress, anxiety, and sleep issues. Being mindful for just a few minutes a day teaches us that everything changes, making it easier to have hope in dark moments. It will also help strengthen your practice of observing—but not always giving into—the negative thoughts your brain likes to conjure.”
Volunteering doesn’t just benefit the recipient, but the giver as well. Consider getting involved with a local animal, homeless, or domestic violence shelter, or a nearby school or hospital and you’ll be face-to-face with problems bigger than your own. If you are reluctant to take on in-person activities, there are many meaningful virtual volunteer opportunities you can do from your home such as writing thoughtful cards to assisted living residents through Letters Against Isolation and Be My Eyes to help the visually impaired.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Even a small act of kindness can have an uplifting effect. Researchers found that when people carried out several acts of kindness each week, they experienced significant increases in happiness. And it didn’t have to It need not be a big gesture. It could be almost anything, from giving a friend a ride to letting someone at the grocery store get in line ahead of you from putting a coin in an expired meter to leaving a generous tip for an efficient waitperson. By doing something kind for a stranger, you’re proving to yourself that kindness exists in the world. And who knows…you may be on the receiving end one day.