Most of us live with a constant stream of internal statements, criticisms, and commands running through our heads. But we have a choice: We don’t have to let them define us — or our days. When we’re worried or dissatisfied, most of us will do anything not to feel these feelings. Instead, we avoid them, search for something to distract or soothe ourselves or try to problem-solve our way out of them.
What exactly is a negative thought?
Suppose a coworker or a grocery store clerk suddenly gave you a mean look. How would you react? Would you just let it slide off you, like water off a duck? Or would you take it personally and feel bad about yourself, or even get angry about it? If you turn small things into big things that bother you for days, weeks, or even longer, you’re having negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can make you feel sad and anxious. They take the joy out of life and they can take a toll on your physical health. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to deal with them.
Understanding positive thinking and self-talk
Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of a lack of information. If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.
How to train yourself to have an optimistic mindset
The mind functions as a reservoir, and we must learn how to supply this reservoir. Optimism is an attributive style; essentially a way we attribute meaning to daily events. When evaluating a fact of life, pessimistic individuals and optimistic individuals will have opposite perspectives from each other.
For a Positive Fact: “I got a raise!”
Optimistic Individual: Everything always works out for me.
Pessimist Individual: My taxes will be even higher now.
For a negative fact: “I lost my house keys.”
Optimistic Individual: I never lose anything, someone probably picked them up for me.
Pessimist Individual: I always forget everything; I am so distracted!
If you find yourself identifying with the pessimist profile, don’t be discouraged. With mental strength and daily training, you will be able to create good in any situation.
What we speak to ourselves matters – Our inner voice!
- Starting with your speech, eliminate negative phrases such as “I can’t”, “I always give up”, or “I am *insert negative adjective*”. For example, you may have found yourself saying, “I am lazy.” A better way to frame this in your mind is “Today I did not accomplish as much as I wanted to. I will make a list for tomorrow so I can complete all of my tasks!” Additionally, try to avoid complaining at all costs. If you are working with a particularly difficult client, try to view the experience as a positive challenge rather than a negative situation. This will allow you to remain in good spirits and help the client in the most productive way possible
- If your thoughts include “should”, take a pause- say Cancel- Cancel and rephrase the sentence with “I could”
“I should do, act, or feel better.”
“I should go to the gym every day.”
It’s not that the intention behind these thoughts is bad. Depending on your situation, it can be healthier to eat more whole foods and go to the gym. What’s potentially damaging is the word “should.” This can trigger guilt and send you down a frustrating path of spiraling negative thoughts.
Exercise to train your mind- Reset your negative thoughts!
- Take out a piece of paper or open a writing software on your computer or mobile.
- List every negative thought you have. Once you’ve listed everything down, don’t stop
- Make another column or a separate list. Now, for every negative thought, write at least one positive thought.
What else can you do to feel more positive?
Sometimes negative thoughts are connected to the way you live from day today. Here are some things you can try right now to help you see the brighter side of life:
- Focus on what you are feeling right now. If you’re sad, feel the sadness. But don’t tell yourself that you have always felt this way and are doomed to feel sad forever. Sadness passes. A negative thought can linger… until you let it go.
- Share your feelings with someone close to you. Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time. Talking about it with someone else helps you keep those thoughts in perspective.
- Do something nice for yourself. Maybe you could work less today and play with your kids more. Or you could find something that makes you laugh.
- Take time to count your blessings. There are so many things for each of us to be thankful for. What’s one thing you appreciate?
- Eat well. Sleep well. Be active. The nicer you are to your body, the easier it is to feel more positive about yourself.
- Make social connections. This is just a fancy way of saying “create the kind of community you want.” Enjoy some time with family and friends.
- Do activities that you used to enjoy as a child- connect with your passion
Keep training your thoughts; your inner voice. Remember it’s all about daily awareness and practice.