Today’s post is all about how to create a positive mindset. In previous posts I’ve talked about getting control of your negative thoughts and flipping your bad mood with gratitude, but that’s not the same thing as developing an overall positive mindset. With these tips and exercises you can change your whole mindset to focus on the positive instead of just playing defense agains the negative.
There’s a lot of emphasis in our society on being happy. Being happy is wonderful, but being happy all the time isn’t realistic. However, what we can do is develop a positive mindset so that when things aren’t going our way — we turn our thoughts towards the better instead of wallowing in the worse.
And while it may seem like a nice to have sort of thing, it’s actually has more positive effects than just feeling good. Positive mindset is linked to improved confidence, improved mood, and a reduction of stress related disorders. Considering how much most of us struggle with these issues, I think positive mindset is less a want to have and more a need to have.
But what are you supposed to do about it? Aren’t we just born optimists or pessimists? Not exactly.
Our happiness level seems to have a sort of biological set point that it usually returns back to, which I talked about here. And while we might currently have a way of thinking that we frequently return to – thought patterns are habits. And habits can be trained.
Below are 5 ways that you can work to move your overall mindset towards the positive. This doesn’t mean that you will turn into crazy positivity person that never gets upset about anything. But what it can mean is that you will start to be able to seek out the positives in any given situation instead of dwelling on the negatives.
Anybody remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live? I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. No, just me? Well this is awkward.
Positive affirmations can be a powerful way for you to change your thinking. While they may seem silly to say to yourself at first (most affirmations are better than those above – but whatever works), you’re training a habit here. If you can teach your brain to go to a positive affirmation instead of a negative thought pattern, you can switch the whole way you see the world.
In my negative thinking post I explain how my negative thoughts had become a habit. I had to switch those thoughts into positive ones. That was an active process and it didn’t happen overnight.
In order to get to a place where positive thinking is a habit, you’re going to have to practice, and one way to practice is with affirmations.
- I am enough
- I choose positivity
- I choose to be kind to myself
- I choose what I become
- I am the creator of my own happy life
A great time to practice these is first thing in the morning. That way you get your day kicked off on a positive note.
Still doubtful? Consider this – how does your day usually go when you oversleep your alarm? Now you’re late, haggard, running around like a crazy person trying to get out the door. Frequently the rest of the day that follows isn’t much better. One bad thing tends to lead to another.
So why not switch it around and turn it into one good thing leading to another?
FIND THE POSITIVE
Nearly every thing that happens to us is going to have some sort of good side to it. I’m not talking about natural disasters here – – it’s hard to find good in your house burning down.
I’m talking about every day stuff like
getting stuck in traffic = more time to listen to your favorite podcast
forgetting your lunch = getting away from your desk and having lunch with a friend
This might be VERY hard at first if you strongly lean towards the negative right now — but it can be done. Trust me I speak from experience on both accounts.
Just start small. Maybe your boss yelled at you. Again. That sucks for sure. However, the good thing might be that it was the exact incident you needed to get on the computer and update that resume. Perhaps this negative experience will fuel the fire that you need to switch from this job you hate into one that you love.
It won’t be perfect at first, but just keep trying. Finding small things will turn into being able to find bigger things. And when you do find positive things in the negative, take a moment to dwell on those a bit. For more see the next section.
TAKE IN THE POSITIVE
Your brain is already wired to take in the negative. We don’t have to worry about planning to avoid negative situations, our evolution has instilled that in us.
In ancient times if you got attacked by a tiger while walking through a mountain pass, you’d have no problem remembering that negative event anytime you walked through a similar pass. Vividly remembering negative events is what allowed us to survive.
However, we don’t have this same wiring for positive situations.
So when any sort of positive thing comes along, take a few seconds to relish it. Relive the moment. Enjoy the result. Savor it.
This isn’t going to just happen – you’re going to have to actively make it a part of your life.
But even taking 5-15 seconds to just enjoy that positive moment and relive it a little will help make you more aware of positive things in the future. And it will contribute to your overall happiness as well.
And when it comes down to it, making this a habit will prove to be a gold mine in and of itself.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
Ever hear the saying that if you hang around 4 broke guys, you’ll be the fifth? Well if you hang around 4 (or more) super negative people, what do you think that will make you?
Our brains have evolved to tribe mentality. We needed each other to survive, and so being kicked out of the tribe was akin to death.
It was your whole goal to be like enough to every one else that you stayed in the tribe. So if the tribe around you is negative, even if you’re a super positive person to start, they’re likely to drag you down with them.
Make sure that the people you surround yourself with have the traits that you want to embody. If you’re looking to be more positive, you’re going to have to find some positive people and join their tribe.
The ever wise Lao Tzu said “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
One of the best ways to bring yourself to the present when you’re stuck in the past or the future is to practice mindfulness. Becoming aware of the thoughts that you are thinking and either accepting what you are telling yourself, or reframing what you are telling yourself is an easy first step.
Sometimes we get so sucked into our swirling thoughts and emotions that we don’t even notice that we’ve gotten ourselves into a funk or all stressed out. If this happens to you often, try setting some alarms on your phone to go off throughout the day. Take a moment for a mindfulness break — maybe try some stress relief exercises — and then reframe whatever you’re working on into the positive.
Even just one deep, focused breath can be enough to recenter yourself, get a hold of your thoughts, and allow you the pause you need to flip things into a positive light.
A positive mindset isn’t something we’re either born with or not – it’s something that we can create for ourselves. Try some or all of these 5 techniques to help you develop a consistent positive outlook which will improve your overall wellbeing.
If you’re struggling to develop a positive mindset and need help, please contact me. Coaching is a great tool to help you recognize your struggles and figure out how to dig out of them.