Try any one of these 5 practical suggestions to start thinking more positively about things both big and small:
- Reconsider your mindset
- Be kind to yourself
- Say thank you
- Visualize having a good day
- Treat positive thinking as a habit
#1. Start by reconsidering your 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. However, if you don’t believe in the power of positive thinking, then your resistance will become your main obstacle. 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, you can change it for the better. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is an excellent first step.
#2. Be kind to yourself.
It’s highly likely that life will throw you a curveball or two when you least expect it. It can come in the shape of a traumatic event, a professional failure, the end of a relationship, financial hardship or something else. It’s a confusing feeling when you don’t know what to do next. And that’s OK. Maybe you don’t necessarily have to do anything right now. What you can do, though, is just to be patient with yourself. Use this time to reflect on what happened and find out what you can learn from the situation. Try your best to avoid self-blame and blaming others. Use the time to practice self-compassion: be kind to yourself, give yourself time to heal and get better.
#3. Say thank you.
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. Everyone has at least something going for them, it’s just that these things are often neglected or taken for granted. Create a gratitude journal and write in it for 5 minutes each morning; list 3 things you are grateful for. 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, a career or a job that improves the quality of life to people around you, food in your fridge, having the companionship of your pet, or having an education that allows you to read and write.
#4. Visualize having a good day.
This technique helps train your brain to anticipate what happens next and to focus on a positive outcome to your day. First, think about the work you need to do and picture yourself accomplishing what’s on your list and having enough time to do it. Make an estimate of how much time you’ll need for the important things. Then, imagine which obstacles you may encounter throughout the day (you’ll run out of time? you will struggle to solve a problem at work or school?) and come up with several things to do if that happens. Finally, think of an activity that will make you happy: running into a friend, having an interesting conversation, watching a soccer game, playing guitar, going on a bike ride, or watching your favorite show while you’re having dinner.
#5. Treat positive thinking as a habit.
How can you make it a habit to think more positively? Make an effort to do something, no matter how small, every day to go in a more positive direction. It’s the practical side of positive psychology that empowers you to make good things happen, instead of expecting good things to happen to you. When you are proactive, you will develop a more positive attitude, greater motivation, and even a higher quality of relationships with people closest to you. Here are 3 books by Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer at Harvard University, that are full of tips on how to think more positively:
- The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. A unique take on perfectionism and how it can be a major obstacle in life. There’s a difference between positive (or optimal) and negative perfectionism. The positive version can equip you to assume a proactive stance towards life’s obstacles.
- Choose the Life You Want: The Way To Lasting Happiness Moment by Moment. The book is full of practical suggestions on how to implement positive psychology in your daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in your personal relationships.
- Even Happier: A Gratitude Journal for Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. This is actually a guided journal (or a happiness workbook!) with exercises to inspire happiness, gratitude, and positivity in your daily life.