How can one develop positive thinking?

Train your brain to think about things in a more positive way!

Here are a few recommendations on developing positive thinking.

Read Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning.

It’s a book that goes beyond positive thinking to give an in-depth look at the psychology of survival. It is a real life story by a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor about finding strength to live in circumstances where most people would give up. It is also one of the most humbling reading experiences; a must read!

Say “thank you” every day to change your attitude about life.

Practicing gratitude rewires our brain to think about positive things, the things that we have going for us, instead of the things we do not have and that can leave us feeling frustrated and unhappy. How? Create a gratitude journal and write in it for 5 minutes each morning when you wake up or just before you go to sleep. List 3 things you are grateful for in your life right now. It can be the simplest of things, such as having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, a family that loves you, food in your fridge, a dog or cat that you have as your pet. Get specific: if it’s a family member, write down which of their qualities you are grateful for.

Adopt a “growth mindset.”

Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”In other words, the view we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the way we lead our life. For example, if you believe you can think more positively, you can make it happen. Conversely, if you don’t believe in the power of positive thinking, then it doesn’t matter how much others will tell you how great the benefits are. How can you think more positively? Start nurturing a “growth mindset” (versus a fixed mindset). If there’s something about your mindset you don’t like, the good news is – you can change it for the better. Tip: read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Treat happiness like a habit that you can implement in your life.

A happy life cannot exist without you creating it. What does that mean? It means that every day you need to actively look for what you can do to become happier, instead of expecting life to just become happy on its own. How can you do this? Apply some positive psychology to the way you lead your life, and you will feel a more positive impact on your attitude, your motivation, and your relationships with people. Tip: read Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Happiness and Choose the Life You Want: The Way To Lasting Happiness Moment by Moment by Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer at Harvard University. In both books he gives practical suggestions on how you can apply the concept of happiness to daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in personal relationships.

Do one small thing every day that makes you feel good.

Doing what we enjoy boosts our happiness levels, which is why it’s important to make the time for activities we like to do. Depending on your personality, it could be a solitary activity or something fun you like to do with a partner or friend. Make time to practice it every day. For example:

  • If you love books, make the time to read a novel for 30 minutes before going to sleep. Make it a ritual: prepare a cup of tea, eat a few squares of good dark chocolate, play some relaxing music, and enjoy the experience.
  • If you like to be physically active, schedule in a bike ride, a long walk, or a run in the late afternoon when you’re done with your work or studies. If you’d like, invite a friend along; it can help them develop a positive habit too.
  • If you love music, learn how to play guitar or drums or a harmonica.
  • If you like to write, make it a priority to write one page every single day, either early in the morning before getting ready or later at night when it’s quiet and you have the time to organize your thoughts. You could, for example, write just a few paragraphs in your journal on how the day went, something interesting that happened, a pleasant or thought-provoking conversation you had with someone, something nice you heard, or a meal that you enjoyed.

Replace saying “I can’t do this right now” with “why not?”

We all feel like procrastinating on some things in life, it’s human to do so. It doesn’t require a lot of effort to procrastinate. In fact, it’s almost a default reaction to something challenging that’s in front of you. Try these ideas to beat procrastination.

  • Think carefully if there is something else hiding behind procrastination.Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something successfully.
  • Next time you feel like procrastinating, rather than immediately saying “I can’t” ask yourself where the resistance is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Find out what it is so you can do something about it.
  • The biggest benefit to making this change is this: whenever you say “why not?” you win over fear. There is something really powerful when we leave a little space open for possibilities, instead of shutting the door in our own face. It’s a subtle change in attitude towards ourselves than can have a tremendous impact in our lives.

Develop a positive attitude towards your mistakes.

Making mistakes is a normal part of life. It’s how you approach them that matters. Try a different strategy of viewing your past by forgiving yourself for mistakes that you made. Reflect on them, learn from them, but don’t hold on to them. This applies to your relationships, your career, your education, and other areas of your life in which you feel you didn’t achieve what you wanted or underperformed in some way. By changing how you relate to mistakes, you will give yourself more freedom to manage your future more successfully.

Don’t waste time with toxic people.

Toxic people may claim they are your friends, but they are not. What makes them toxic is their negative attitude towards everything, so it’s not likely they can give you a boost of positivity. Be very selective who you spend your free time with, and next time a toxic person wants to monopolize your time, just say no. Tell them you’re busy. Don’t engage in negative banter. You’re better off spending free time on your own doing something that makes you relaxed and happy.

Take a more positive look at yourself.

Instead of being overly self-critical about everything you do (or everything you feel you’ve done wrong), switch to looking more closely at the best version of yourself. You know who that is. It’s that version of you that you strive to be, that you’ve always wanted to be. It’s the version of you who knows what is right, what needs to be done, how much time needs to be sacrificed, which goals need to be pursued. Always keep a conversation going between the self you currently are and your ideal self. Whenever you are contemplating your next move, ask the best version of yourself what’s the right path to take, then go in that direction. This technique ensures that you see yourself in a positive light, which in turn will give you more motivation and a greater likelihood of success in your endeavors.

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