Developing positive personality traits—such as being optimistic and finding the silver lining in situations—can benefit our health and wellbeing. Studies have linked stress and pessimism with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease. If you tend to lean toward the negative, or if the stress of 2020 has brought out the pessimist in you, fear not, practicing positive thinking is easier than you think.
Studies show that positive thinking associated with optimism requires more focus on the mind over matter. For some people, it comes naturally, and for others it requires effort and discipline. If you are looking for the variety of health benefits associated with positive thinking, a great way to start is by setting aside 10-15 minutes for meditation or even deep breathing exercises. This helps to quiet the mind and detach from whatever is causing stress or worry. Even the practice of taking three deep breaths in stressful situations sends a message to our brain to calm down.
Another helpful practice is self-reflection which can easily be practiced by talking to yourself; either aloud or to yourself in your thoughts. We all have a stream of unspoken thoughts that run through our heads every day. Some of our “self-talk” comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk comes from misconceptions due to our assumptions or lack of information. When our automatic thoughts are mostly negative, we will naturally see the negative in most situations. When we start thinking positively, we can discover silver linings and create more joy in our life. Therefore, becoming more optimistic starts with positive thoughts, words, and actions.
Something to be aware of is when we say negative comments; “I always get bad service” or “I never get what I ask for”. These types of statements create an expectation for the worst—which usually happens—because our brain believes whatever we tell it. Practicing positive thinking helps us catch ourselves when we use strong words such as “always” and “never”. Using these words put us in a cycle of pessimism which can create all-or-nothing thinking. Since our brain believes everything we tell it, try approaching challenges with positive thinking to discover possible solutions, even if they seem outlandish. Rather than turning situations into catastrophes, this gives us the ability to be flexible in our thinking and constructively deal with situations that life throws our way.
Here are some tips to support your positive thinking and increase your happiness and well-being:
- Focus on the good in every situation, no matter how small or insignificant it seems.
- Write down or say what you are grateful for every day to find more comfort and happiness by reducing stress.
- Laugh every day to lower stress and improve your coping skills.
- Practice positive self-talk with positive affirmations; describe to yourself how it’s going to be a great day.
- Forgive yourself and others for past acts and live in the present.
- Spend time with positive people who lift you up and help you see the bright side.
- Look at the different areas of your life and identify areas of negativity. Maybe ask a trusted friend or relative for insight.
Tackle one area at a time, and before you know it, positive thinking will show you the way to a more productive, happy and healthy life.