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Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress
Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health. Practice overcoming negative self-talk with examples provided.
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you're optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.
Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don't despair — you can learn positive thinking skills.
Understanding positive thinking and self-talk
Positive thinking doesn't mean that you ignore life's less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.
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 lack of information or expectations due to preconceived ideas of what may happen.
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.
The health benefits of positive thinking
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress and pain
- Greater resistance to illnesses
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Reduced risk of death from cancer
- Reduced risk of death from respiratory conditions
- Reduced risk of death from infections
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It's also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
Identifying negative thinking
Not sure if your self-talk is positive or negative? Some common forms of negative self-talk include:
- Filtering. You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive ones. For example, you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job. That evening, you focus only on your plan to do even more tasks and forget about the compliments you received.
- Personalizing. When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
- Catastrophizing. You automatically anticipate the worst without facts that the worse will happen. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong, and then you think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.
- Blaming. You try to say someone else is responsible for what happened to you instead of yourself. You avoid being responsible for your thoughts and feelings.
- Saying you "should" do something. You think of all the things you think you should do and blame yourself for not doing them.
- Magnifying. You make a big deal out of minor problems.
- Perfectionism. Keeping impossible standards and trying to be more perfect sets yourself up for failure.
- Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad. There is no middle ground.
Focusing on positive thinking
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you're creating a new habit, after all. Following are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
- Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute, life changes or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way. Think of a positive thought to manage your stress instead of a negative one.
- Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
- Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 5- or 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Get enough sleep. And learn techniques to manage stress.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
- Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you're thankful for in your life.
Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive thinking twist to them:
Practicing positive thinking every day
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you're better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.
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- Forte AJ, et al. The impact of optimism on cancer-related and postsurgical cancer pain: A systematic review. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2021; doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2021.09.008.
- Rosenfeld AJ. The neuroscience of happiness and well-being. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2019;28:137.
- Kim ES, et al. Optimism and cause-specific mortality: A prospective cohort study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2016; doi:10.1093/aje/kww182.
- Amonoo HL, et al. Is optimism a protective factor for cardiovascular disease? Current Cardiology Reports. 2021; doi:10.1007/s11886-021-01590-4.
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.
- Seaward BL. Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021.
- Seaward BL. Cognitive restructuring: Reframing. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 8th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2018.
- Olpin M, et al. Stress Management for Life. 5th ed. Cengage Learning; 2020.
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Published on: 14 April 2021
Last updated on: 07 March 2023
Psychology of Positive Thinking – 4 Ways to Achieve a Positive Mindset
Positive thinking is another name for an optimistic attitude. It is the practice of seeing and finding good in every situation. In literal terms, it means addressing life challenges with a positive approach. Martin Seligman, a well-known psychologist, has highlighted the ‘explanatory style’. According to his description, people with an optimistic explanatory style blame the external forces for bad events and take credit for all the good things in their life. People with a pessimistic style blame themselves for bad events and don’t take credit for good events.
The positive attitude of a person towards something is highly dependent on the situation. In simple words, the approach that ‘everything will go well’ is the root of positive thinking. There are many benefits of an optimistic approach.
- A well-balanced psychological health
- Peace of mind
- Grip over anger and stress management
- Lower chances of depression
- Lower risks of cardiovascular diseases
- Longer life span
- Unbiased thinking
- Enhanced creativity
- Better problem-solving skills
- Being assertive
It is also noteworthy that positive thinking is different from positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of human thoughts, behaviour, and attitudes that focuses on strengths instead of weaknesses.
Positive psychology and healthcare
In the healthcare field and especially nursing, a positive mindset is crucial to the profession. The core values reside within a positive attitude, the hallmark of good professional practice. Healthcare practitioners are now excessively polishing their skills with online programs such as online MHA to improve the emotional quotient. These programmes enable them to enhance their decision-making skills, and soft skills and foster confidence to impact the organisation positively.
A positive approach in such a profession helps professionals to build a good reputation. It consequently paves the path for further career opportunities. The benefits of positivity in the healthcare profession extend to patients as well. Giving optimistic hope to patients with critical diseases expedites the recovery process.
Here are some commonly used and evidence-backed tips to achieve a positive mindset.
Kick off your day with positive affirmations
How you start the day determines how the rest of it will unfold. Get your full night’s sleep, wake up fresh, and plan with positive affirmations. A good morning ritual will set the tone for the rest of the day.
Routines make tasks easier and more manageable. Make a routine of starting your day with positive affirmations. In this way, you can replace negativity with positive thoughts. Some of the positive affirmations are as follows.
- Everything works out at the perfect time.
- I trust my inner wisdom.
- Today will be full of opportunities.
Keep a gratitude log
When you keep a log of all that you are grateful for each day, you are compelled to see the good side of life. People who appreciate little things in life are more content and experience lesser stress.
There are multiple ways of expressing gratitude. For example, thinking about all the joyous memories, blessings at present, and hopes for the future. You can cultivate gratitude in the following ways.
- Thank people mentally
- Count your blessings
- Pray and meditate
Concentrate on your strengths
Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on too many things will not bring positive outcomes. Therefore, concentrate on your strengths for the greater good. According to positive psychology, if you put effort into something you are good at, then you can reap desired benefits. Personal strengths such as kindness, organisation, confidence, and creativity are the traits that many of us have. These strengths help achieve personal goals and self-satisfaction.
Benefits of focusing on one’s strengths include:
- Lesser stress and anger
- Plenty of energy
- Defined objectives
Turn failures into lessons
Failure is a part of life. It is less likely for us to learn lessons in life if we do not encounter failures. Naturally, we get ashamed of our failures because it makes us feel humiliated. We have to stop thinking like this. We need to learn from our failures to get the most out of them. In every mistake of ours, there is the growth potential for us. Do not demotivate or demoralize yourself. The fear of failure makes us inactive. It is better to do things imperfectly than to do nothing at all.
Some of the well-learned lessons from failures include:
- It teaches you to embrace change
- It is a source of motivation
- Success is never guaranteed
People who have gone through the worst phases of life find it harder to see the positive side of challenging situations. It requires time and necessary counselling; you cannot become a positive thinker overnight. However, changing your perspective towards problems can help you look at things differently. It will cultivate positive thoughts, and your self-criticism will turn into self-acceptance. The creativity inside of you will find ways to nurture it. It will consequently lead to both better physical and mental health.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
The articles we publish on Psychreg are here to educate and inform. They’re not meant to take the place of expert advice. So if you’re looking for professional help, don’t delay or ignore it because of what you’ve read here. Check our full disclaimer .
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Home » Positive thinking
How to benefit from positive thinking
Positive thinking is everywhere: Manifestation, vision boards and phrases like “No bad days” abound, and it seems that everyone on the planet wants to learn how to think positive . But what does it really mean to think positive? And can positive thinking alone help you realize your dreams?
It is true that your thoughts affect your actions. Your actions, in turn, translate into whether or not you succeed – in your career, relationships and life. Your thoughts also play a part in your values and beliefs , which influence the quality of your personal relationships and how you view the world at large.
It’s essential that we don’t get caught up in only thinking positively. You can sit in the garden of your mind telling yourself there are no weeds, but to build a truly fulfilling life , you need to stop covering up the weeds with positive thinking – and pick them instead. You need to get to the root of what’s holding you back and cultivate an overall positive mindset that doesn’t ignore negative emotions, but knows how to control them.
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health and success instead of expecting the worst. Leveraging the law of attraction , this mindset creates a positive feedback loop that brings even more good into your life.
So what is positive thinking not ? It is not a cure-all that will automatically make you happier and more fulfilled. It isn’t a solution to deep-seated limiting beliefs like fear of failure and fear of success. And it doesn’t mean sitting around all day telling yourself you’re happy. To achieve your dreams, you’ll need more than a positive mindset . You’ll need to act.
Don’t just think positive – overcome your limiting beliefs and transform your entire mindset.
Ultimately, building a fulfilling life is about mastering your emotions , both positive and negative. Positive thinking is one tool in your toolkit, but there are others you’ll need. Here are six ways to fully embrace not only the power of positive thinking but also the incredible power of your mindset.
1. Empower yourself
You didn’t get the promotion you worked so hard for. You’ve been let go from your job. Your partner broke up with you. You have chronic health issues that hold you back. These are all difficult situations that many of us will face at some point in our lives. The real question is: How will you react to them?
Do you blame others when bad things happen to you? Or do you look to yourself for the solution? When you take responsibility for how you think, act and feel , you have an internal locus of control – and that’s a key trait of successful people. This type of thinking lends you a deep belief in yourself and a positive mindset that allows you to get up and start over after a failure. From there, everything else in your life can fall into place.
Remember: The only thing in life you can control is yourself. You can’t control every event – but you can control how you react to them. Once you empower yourself to change what’s in your control – you – only then are you ready for the power of positive thinking .
2. Take control of your state
Have you noticed that when you’re having a bad day, your body language shows it? You slump over in your chair, you have a hard time making eye contact with others and do things like cross your arms when you’re feeling uncomfortable. You stop being mindful and allow your environment and circumstances to control you. This is not a powerful stance. Your body tells those around you that you are uneasy, angry or sad and want to be left alone. This creates a feedback loop as your poor posture reinforces your poor mindset.
Positive thinking is as much about your body as it is about your brain. Take control of your physiology by taking pride in how you present yourself. Work on your posture to give those around you nonverbal cues that you are feeling strong and positive, and are ready to listen to them. Stop nervous habits like fidgeting or twirling your hair. This technique requires you to observe yourself; as soon as you catch yourself giving in to a nervous tic or starting to slump, straighten up. As you hold your body in a power pose, a more positive mindset will naturally follow .
Those around you will pick up on the physiological signals you’re sending and will respond with positivity. The more you portray positivity and others see you this way, the easier positive thinking becomes, creating a new feedback loop. You will then be able to focus on others and do things such as asking three vital questions to find out how you can give to the world and others.
3. Adjust your mindset
Adjusting your physiology is only one part of the puzzle; it’s critical to catch the other negativity trigger in its opening stages as well. Your mindset governs what thoughts flow through your head and how you feel and react to each one. If your mindset is poor, everything around you is going to seem all the worse.
For example, you’re at the airport and are unnecessarily delayed while going through security. Then the airline attendant checking you in is rude to you. Another airline worker overhears, apologizes and bump s your ticket up to business class.
Once you’re in the air, are you fixated on the hassles you faced in the airport, or are you grateful for your spacious seat and free cocktail? Do you think of the delay as wasted time or as a way to take time and reconnect with yourself ? Do you automatically revert to the power of positive thinking or do negative thoughts take over?
You can choose to focus on the negatives or the positives of this – and any – scenario, but if you choose to focus on what’s bothering you, it will begin to negatively impact your life. You’ll also attract more negative situations – people won’t be friendly to you when you’re scowling and hostile. You may punish your partner or others for not living up to your expectations, eroding your relationships and adding to more bitterness. You’ll forget that you can empower yourself to tackle any situation and start believing that a positive mindset is out of your reach.
Positive thinking bypasses that rage and inconvenience, allowing you to enjoy the moment and be fully present. By consciously choosing to focus on positive moments in your life, you’ll begin to reframe your thoughts , cultivating an abundance mindset that is grateful and open rather than negative and closed off.
4. Study your habits and form new ones
You can’t form new habits and harness the power of positive thinking if you’re unaware of your current ones. Are there things that set you into a negative spiral of self-doubt? Do you react to situations openly or do you utilize defense mechanisms ? If so, what are they?
Perhaps you become agitated whenever you start thinking about going after a promotion at work. Your thoughts take you to a dark place and positive thinking goes out the window. You calculate how long you’ve been with the company and start thinking about why you haven’t been promoted already. Do your bosses know something you don’t? Maybe they don’t think you’re capable of doing the job. You begin to question your skill set, and then you wonder if you’ll ever move up in your field. Maybe you’ll just quit.
Think of all the time you’re wasting by falling back on this negative habit. Self-doubt is almost always rooted in fear – often the fear of failure . Doing something and failing seems like it would be unbearable, so your mind comes up with all sorts of reasons as to why you won’t even make an effort. If you give in to these negative thoughts, you might not fail but you will stagnate, which is worse. As Tony says, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” If you fail, at least you can learn something. If you stagnate, you won’t.
What if, instead of getting swept up in a pattern of negative thoughts, you refocused your energy and developed empowering habits that use positive thinking ? Stop the spiral of doubt by blocking it with positive thoughts. If you’re able to cut off a negative thought pattern before it gets out of hand, you can shift to recalling positive affirmations instead.
By training your mind to block negative thoughts with positive thinking , you’re steadily training yourself to stop thinking in a negative way. Fear won’t rule you anymore . That’s the power of positive thinking .
5. Choose your words carefully
One habit that is essential to positive thinking is to transform your vocabulary . The words you choose – both in conversation and in your own mind – have a deep impact on your mindset. Studies have found that positive self-talk improves psychological states , helps people regulate their emotions and more. Your conversation affect s how others respond to you, again creating a feedback loop that can be either positive or negative.
Before you can choose different words, you need to recognize what words you’re already using. Take note of how you label and describe things in conversation, particularly your own emotions. Are you really “terrified” of that big work presentation or just a little nervous? Are you truly “angry” at your partner or mildly annoyed at one of their bad habits? When you dial back your vocabulary and use words that are less emotionally loaded, you’ll find your mindset becomes attuned to more positive thinking .
Many people find it helpful to write down negative words they find themselves using throughout the day. For every negative word, write a positive alternative next to it. Keep the alternatives in the back of your mind to use next time. Find this aspect of positive thinking overwhelming? Start with just one area of your life that causes negative thoughts, like work or your relationship status. Catch yourself in those moments, and build from there.
6. Identify those you admire
Think of someone who’s had a profound impact on your life. It can be a close friend, family member or someone you’ve never met, like a celebrity, professional athlete or renowned entrepreneur. What mottos does that person live by? Have they been able to unlock extraordinary lives due to their positive thinking habits?
Chances are, they use the power of positive thinking to find the success they seek – and you can, too. When you feel yourself falling into negative habits and can’t quite seem to figure out how to think positive , pull up a quotation from someone you respect. Read it and determine how you can best embody it. You can even write it down and post it somewhere you’ll see it often, such as the refrigerator or on the side of your computer screen.
The person you admire doesn’t have to be famous. The story of Jay and Fariha is a real-life example of how positive thinking can be contagious to our friends and loved ones . One of the first things Fariha noticed about Jay was his positivity – the “kick in his step.” Jay was cultivating positive emotions on a daily basis thanks to Tony’s philosophies. He shared those philosophies with Fariha and both attended Unleash the Power Within , where Fariha learned vital strategies she could use to change her mindset and start living the life of her dreams.
If you have someone you think of as a mentor , even better. Get on the phone and ask them to share some positive thoughts. Tony often quotes his own mentor, Jim Rohn, when he says, “Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind, and you alone decide what thoughts and beliefs you let into your life.” Will you give in to the temptation to think negatively and stagnate – and then blame others when you don’t reach your goals? Or will you guard your mind and only allow in positive thinking that propels you toward the life you dream of? It’s up to you.
Positive thinking FAQs
Can positive thinking change your life.
Yes, positive thinking can change your life. Studies have found that positive thinking helps you live longer, reduces loneliness and more. But the most life-changing effect of positive thinking has to do with the law of attraction. This is the idea that what you focus on, you attract. As Tony says, “Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” When you focus on the negative, you’ll experience more negatives. But when you focus on the positive, the whole world opens up to you.
How do you train your mind to think positive?
The first step to training your mind for positive thinking is to identify your bad habits and negative thought patterns. Once you’ve recognized these, you can replace them with positive habits and words that aren’t as emotionally charged. If you find yourself spiraling into a thought pattern of worry and anxiety, ask yourself: What is this emotion really telling me? What am I really afraid of? Then make an action plan to overcome that fear.
How do you keep your mind positive?
Keeping your mind positive is a series of actions you take every day. It doesn’t always come easily, but experiencing the power of positive thinking in your life is worth it. One significant habit is to start your day with priming, meditation or affirmations. Your morning ritual sets the tone for your day and puts you in the right mindset to take on all your tasks with positivity.
Ready to harness the power of positive thinking?
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Benefits of Positive Thinking for Body and Mind
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
You have probably had someone tell you to "look on the bright side" or to "see the cup as half full." Chances are good that the people who make these comments are positive thinkers. Researchers are finding more and more evidence pointing to the many benefits of optimism and positive thinking .
Such findings suggest that not only are positive thinkers healthier and less stressed, they also have greater overall well-being. According to positive psychology researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, "Setbacks are inherent to almost every worthwhile human activity, and a number of studies show that optimists are in general both psychologically and physiologically healthier."
Press Play for Advice On Thinking More Positively
Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to find the positive things in life. Click below to listen now.
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Benefits of Positive Thinking
Even if positive thinking doesn't come naturally to you, there are plenty of great reasons to start cultivating affirmative thoughts and minimizing negative self-talk .
When faced with stressful situations, positive thinkers cope more effectively than pessimists. Rather than dwelling on their frustrations or things that they cannot change, they will devise a plan of action and ask others for assistance and advice.
Pessimists , on the other hand, are more likely to simply assume that the situation is out of their control and there is nothing they can do to change it.
In recent years, researchers have found that your mind can have a powerful effect on your body. Immunity is one area where your thoughts and attitudes can have a particularly powerful influence.
In one study, researchers found that activation in brain areas associated with negative emotions led to a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine. Researchers Segerstrom and Sephton found that people who were optimistic about a specific and important part of their lives, such as how well they were doing in school, exhibited a stronger immune response than those who had a more negative view of the situation.
Not only can positive thinking impact your ability to cope with stress and your immunity, but it also has an impact on your overall well-being, including a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular problems, less depression, and an increased lifespan.
While researchers are not entirely clear on why positive thinking benefits health, some suggest that positive people might lead healthier lifestyles. By coping better with stress and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, they are able to improve their health and well-being.
Resilience refers to our ability to cope with problems. Resilient people are able to face a crisis or trauma with strength and resolve. Rather than falling apart in the face of such stress, they have the ability to carry on and eventually overcome such adversity.
It may come as no surprise to learn that positive thinking can play a major role in resilience . When dealing with a challenge, optimists typically look at what they can do to fix the problem. Instead of giving up hope, they marshal their resources and are willing to ask others for help.
Researchers have also found that in the wake of a crisis, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster, positive thoughts and emotions encourage thriving and provide a sort of buffer against depression among resilient people.
Fortunately, experts also believe that such positivism and resilience can be cultivated. By nurturing positive emotions, even in the face of terrible events, people can reap both short-term and long-term rewards, including managing stress levels , lessening depression, and building coping skills that will serve them well in the future.
Before you put on those rose-colored glasses, it is important to note that positive thinking is not about taking a "Pollyanna" approach to life. In fact, researchers have found that in some instances, optimism might not serve you well. For example, people who are excessively optimistic might overestimate their own abilities and take on more than they can handle, ultimately leading to more stress and anxiety.
Instead of ignoring reality in favor of the silver lining, psychologists suggest that positive thinking centers on such things as a belief in your abilities, a positive approach to challenges, and trying to make the most of the bad situations.
Bad things will happen. Sometimes you will be disappointed or hurt by the actions of others. This does not mean that the world is out to get you or that all people will let you down. Instead, positive thinkers will look at the situation realistically, search for ways that they can improve the situation, and try to learn from their experiences.
Segerstrom SC. Optimism and immunity: Do positive thoughts always lead to positive effects? . Brain, Behavior, and Immunity . 2005;19(3):195-200. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2004.08.003
Segerstrom SC, Sephton SE. Optimistic expectancies and cell-mediated immunity: The role of positive affect . Psychol Sci . 2010;21(3):448-455. doi:10.1177/0956797610362061
Buigues C, Queralt A, De Velasco JA, et al. Psycho-social factors in patients with cardiovascular disease attending a family-centred prevention and rehabilitation programme: Euroaction model in Spain . Life . 2021;11(2):89. doi:10.3390/life11020089
Fredrickson BL, Tugade MM, Waugh CE, Larkin GR. What good are positive emotions in crises? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001 . J Pers Soc Psychol . 2003;84(2):365-76.
Conversano C, Rotondo A, Lensi E, Della vista O, Arpone F, Reda MA. Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being . Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health . 2010;6:25-9. doi:10.2174/1745017901006010025
Schwartz T. Psychologist and Scientist Suzanne Segerstrom ’90 Studies Optimism and the Immune System. The Chronicle . 2003.
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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Doable ways to cultivate a positive mindset
Positive thinking helps reduce stress and can even improve your health. It requires a bit of practice, but with persistence and these five strategies, you can get there.
A positive mindset doesn’t just improve your mood. It brings physical health benefits as well. Increased lifespan. 1 Reduced risk of illness. Better heart health. And that’s just the beginning. But having a sunny outlook isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Positive thinking is a skill you have to learn. 1,2
What’s also important? Understanding what a positive mindset isn’t. It doesn’t mean ignoring unpleasant things. Instead, a positive mindset helps you deal with both good and bad in a more productive way. (Learn more about what it means to have good mental health .)
It’s possible to shift your mindset, but it’s not something you do overnight. You commit to taking lots of small steps. And over time, you’ll be able to find the positive more and more. Try working these easy tips into your day to get started.
Practice positive self-talk
We all have an inner voice. It’s an endless stream of unspoken thoughts. This “self-talk” can be negative or positive. 3 To see which way you lean, check in with yourself during the day. If you tend to be positive, keep it up. If you tend to judge yourself negatively, try to soften your approach. Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a dear friend. Show kindness, gentleness and encouragement.
Work 1-on-1 with a virtual coach or therapist from AbleTo.
Reframe your negative thoughts
When you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, pause. See if you can spin what you’re thinking in a positive way. Here are a couple of examples:
If you’re thinking: “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’ll probably fail.”
Reframe it: Say to yourself, “This is a chance to learn something new.”
If you’re thinking: “There’s no way I’ll get this job.”
Reframe it: Say to yourself, “I have the skillset for this job.”
You’re not ignoring reality. These things could indeed be hard to do. And it’s possible you won’t succeed. But that’s OK. You’re going to give it a shot anyway.
When you’re curious, you’re open to new experiences. You take an interest in those experiences. You also spend a lot of time asking questions, rather than mulling over negative thoughts. 4
“People who really explore things are able to have a more positive take on the world,” says Robert McGrath, PhD. He’s a professor at the School of Psychology and Counseling at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey.
For instance, if something goes wrong, it’s easy to dwell on what happened. Curiosity helps refocus your attention. You can look at why it happened and what you can learn from the experience. Say your partner says something that hurts your feelings. Rather than focusing on what they said, explore why they said it. Then think about whether that can teach you something about how you can be better partners to each other.
Start each day with hope
Hope is expecting the best in the future and working toward it. 5 “Hope is one of the best predictors of well-being,” says McGrath.
He recommends starting each day by stating three realistic hopes for the day. Think of these by filling in the blank, “Today I hope to …” It’s OK if you don’t achieve them. And it’s helpful to consider the obstacles you may face. The idea, though, is to start the day looking to your best possible future. “It breaks the cycle of negativity,” says McGrath .
End each day with gratitude
Gratitude is being aware of and thankful for good things happening. And practicing gratitude helps you feel happier. 6 Here’s a popular gratitude exercise. Before bed, simply think of three things you’re grateful for that day.
“Thinking back on your day and what was good about it really does help people,” says McGrath. “It could be a pretty sunset or praise from your boss,” he says. “Celebrate the small wins, not perfection.” This might be hard to do at first. “Even something as simple as that actually takes some practice,” he says. “You have to get in the groove.”
So take your time. Give yourself space. And little by little, you’ll start to feel brighter inside and out.
- Biological Sciences. Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women. Published August 26, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2022.
- The American Psychologist. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. Published 2005. Accessed July 25, 2022.
- Neuroimage. Differences in the modulation of functional connectivity by self-talk tasks between people with low and high life satisfaction. Published August 15, 2022. Accessed July 25, 2022.
- The American Journal of Medicine. The importance of being curious. Published December 17, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2022.
- Global Epidemiology. The role of hope in subsequent health and well-being for older adults: An outcome-wide longitudinal approach. Published November 2022. Accessed July 25, 2022.
- Greater Good Science Center. The Science of Gratitude. Published May 2018. Accessed July 25, 2022.
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21 Ways to Think Positively Every Day
Updated on 11/7/2019 at 11:30 AM
A good attitude always starts with good thoughts. Positive thinking is equally as powerful as negative thinking: you'll start to believe it eventually. So it's critical to adopt the former and make it into a daily habit. Like everything, shifting your mindset requires conscious effort and commitment, and there are many ways to condition yourself to think positively until it becomes second nature. See 21 things that will help ward off all the Negative Nancys out there.
Eliminate negative words from your vocabulary.
By actively filtering out certain words and phrases, you're forcing your brain to find more positive ways to communicate. Prohibit yourself from saying "no," "can't," and other restricting things.
Surround yourself with good company.
A good attitude is contagious, so hang out with those who will contribute to your positivity instead of bringing you down.
When you say thanks either vocally or to yourself, it makes it more difficult to think negatively. Remind yourself that things could be worse and take a moment to be appreciative.
Adopt a personal motto.
Create an original phrase or choose from existing ones . Whenever things start slipping to the wayside, recite your motto to get you back on track.
If you can prevent negative thoughts from forming, do what you can to keep them at bay. Ask your mother if you can call her back another time, for example, or take a different route to work instead.
Give yourself an incentive to stay positive by treating yourself once in a while. Good thoughts will also likely be a result from doing so.
Being aware of what you're saying, thinking, and feeling can do wonders for your attitude. You'll have a better hold of your emotions and thoughts, which will translate all around.
Slow down and relax.
It's easier to form negative thoughts when you're constantly on the go and stressed out. Take a breather and find your calm until you reach a more restored state.
Set yourself up for a good day.
By starting your day off on a good note, the rest of your day is more likely to follow. Wake up to your favorite playlist, stop by your favorite coffee shop, and take your time getting ready.
Set up positive reminders around you.
Don't underestimate the power of sticky notes. Sprinkle Post-Its around your room, mirror, or work space as a friendly reminder to keep up the positive thinking.
Practice positive affirmations.
Vocalize the type of thinking you want to adopt. It might seem uncomfortable at first to talk aloud to yourself, but hearing something vs. listening to the voice in your head can have a different impact.
Don't be so hard on yourself.
Self-criticism is so easy because you don't realize how much damage you can do to yourself. Be mindful about the things you're telling yourself and catch any negative thoughts before you allow them to manifest.
Do things that bring you joy.
This is almost a foolproof method to keep your spirits up. If there's a particular activity that always puts you in a good mood, do it! And do it often.
Pay it forward.
Helping others almost always makes you feel good in return — it's a win-win! Even a small gesture like writing a coworker a thank-you note can help shift the nature of your thoughts.
Read an inspiring book.
Pick up a book that has the potential to change your perspective on things or reread an old favorite. Books that have an impact will most likely stay with you for a while.
Find the silver lining.
Every situation, good or bad, can have a positive element — it just depends on the way you choose to see it. Evaluate the scenario and take away an opportunity or lesson from it.
Look at the bigger picture.
Step back from a situation and views things from at large. The day-to-day stresses of a time-consuming project, for example, will have a major payout in the long run.
Find stress releasers.
Look to a healthy outlet that will help facilitate good vibes. Exercise in general is an effective way to let go of both mental and physical tensions.
Take a break from social media.
Being constantly connected to your news feed can be unhealthy. You may see articles that spark some sort of negative emotion or unconsciously compare yourself to your Instagram-perfect friends. Allow yourself to shut it off for a short period.
Don't dwell on the past.
Allowing things outside your control to get into your head can be toxic. Try your best to move forward or else you'll be stuck in this unhealthy cycle of "I should've"s and "I would've"s.
Make an attitude shift.
If positive thinking doesn't come naturally to you, you can't expect it to happen for you all of a sudden on its own. It requires altering your current mindset and actively seeking the good in every situation.
- Self Improvement
Mindful Thinking: 4+ Ways to Stop Ruminating & Overthinking
At some point in your life, you may have faced this unhealthy habit or something close to it, worrying obsessively or being stuck in a thought cycle to the point where it affects everything around you.
Today, we will begin by defining rumination and look at how we can stop ruminating:
- During periods of anxiety and depression
To counteract these behaviors, we’ll explore some useful techniques, the most effective of which are mindful thinking exercises, meditation, and self-compassion.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free . These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life, but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
Rumination defined, 8 ways to stop ruminating, stopping rumination in anxiety and depression, 4 helpful worksheets, meditation for rumination, night rumination and four ways to control it, 5 techniques to stop overthinking mistakes, controlling work-related overthinking, positivepsychology.com’s mindfulness resources and blog posts, a take-home message.
There are a variety of proposed definitions for rumination. For example, Mandell, Siegle, Shutt, Feldmiller, and Thase (2014, p. 35) define rumination as the “ tendency to engage in sustained, repetitive thinking about negative topics. ”
Nolen-Hoeksema (1991, 2000) expanded the definition to include the consequences of our behavior and feelings, while also narrowing the definition so that it is limited to depression only.
Specifically, Nolen-Hoeksema (1991, p. 569) defines rumination as “ repetitively focusing on the fact that one is depressed; on one’s symptoms of depression; and on the causes, meanings, and consequences of depressive symptoms .”
Despite the variations, the definitions converge on the premise that rumination is a repetitive behavior or pattern of thinking, which is often linked to negative feelings or the events that preceded these negative feelings and may extend to include future consequences of these feelings.
Some examples of rumination include:
- When feeling upset about our work performance, we relive these feelings and the thoughts linked to these feelings.
- After arguing with a friend or loved one, we replay the argument repeatedly in our heads and reflect on it.
- After receiving criticism about our work, we may anticipate future remarks directly linked to our feelings about behavior linked to the original criticism.
Although rumination and obsessions both involve repetitive behaviors, they are not the same. Obsessions are often centered around themes of uncleanliness (among others), can present in various forms (e.g., images or thoughts), and are described as intrusive. Rumination, however, is more frequently verbal and linked to behaviors or events in the past (Turner, Beidel, & Stanley, 1992).
The distinction is nuanced but important, especially since anxiety and depression are often comorbid (Clark & Watson, 1991; Brown & Barlow, 1992). A similar distinction is made between worry and rumination. Worry tends to focus on the future, whereas rumination tends to focus on the past.
Mindfulness can help curb rumination (Hawley et al., 2014). Segal, Wiliams, and Teasdale (2013) found that over eight weeks, formal mindfulness techniques were more effective at reducing rumination and depressive characteristics than informal techniques.
How does mindfulness combat rumination? The answer is complicated, but here is a summary of some of the ways that mindfulness reduces rumination.
- Mindfulness directs our attention to the present experience. This shift helps us stop ruminating behavior.
- Mindfulness focuses on behaviors such as acceptance, compassion, and openness. These qualities help combat the negative self-evaluations encouraged by rumination.
- Rumination encourages a hyper-vigilant response to negative feelings and psychological states. In contrast, meditation develops awareness about our thinking and psychological states, while also performing a protective role against these states.
In summary, mindfulness strengthens our ability to:
- Shift our attention (i.e., distracts us from rumination)
- Make us aware of our behaviors and thoughts
- Engage with (but not encourage) our distressing thoughts in a nonjudgmental way
With this in mind, we have created a list of techniques to stop rumination. These techniques are a combination of formal and informal techniques used in the Mindfulness Homework Practice Questionnaire (Hawley et al., 2014), as well as mindfulness-based stress reduction (Kabat-Zinn, 2013) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (Segal et al., 2013).
First, set aside a regular time for mindfulness exercises . Try to do these exercises at least six days per week. The exercises include:
- Breath awareness – Be aware of your breathing and the feeling of breathing in and out.
- Do a body scan – Scan your body and be aware of how your body feels.
- Practice mindful yoga .
- Practice sitting yoga.
- Perform a regular breathing exercise while you reflect on your feelings and thoughts, and focus on your breathing. This doesn’t have to be a long period; three to five minutes will suffice.
Outside of the regular time that you put aside for mindfulness exercises, also practice the following:
- Be mindful of your routine activities. Be aware of the tasks that you are engaging in and why you’re performing them (e.g., mindful eating).
- Practice mindful walking , where you concentrate on your breathing while walking.
- If you feel stressed out, anxious, or are engaging in rumination behaviors, take a time-out to practice breathing. For three to five minutes, sit somewhere quiet, try to clear your mind, and focus only on your breathing.
If you’re new to mindfulness exercises, it might be challenging to implement these exercises. However, don’t give up! Try to implement these exercises for shorter durations and slowly increase the time until you reach 45–60 minutes.
It will get easier the more you engage in these exercises, and it will lead to reduced rumination. Don’t just focus on the time, though; the quality of the exercises is more important than the quantity (Lloyd, White, Eames, & Crane, 2018).
Patients who engage in rumination report higher rates of symptoms of depression, even up to 18 months after the traumatic event about which they ruminate (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000).
Some patients who ruminate also report that they receive little social support from their friends and family; a possible explanation is that their support system might think that these patients keep on ruminating when they should have ‘made peace’ or recovered from the experience already (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000).
Besides increasing the risk of depression and reducing social support, rumination also has the following effects on depression (Olatunji, Naragon-Gainey, & Wolitzky-Taylor, 2013):
- Increases feeling of unhappiness
- Impairs problem solving
- Reduces motivation
A meta-analysis of 39 studies (n = 1,140) confirmed the utility and efficacy of therapies that incorporated mindfulness exercises. Respondents with diagnosed anxiety and depression showed a marked improvement in their anxiety and mood symptoms at the end of treatment compared to the beginning (Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010).
The difference in the symptoms at the end of treatment compared to the beginning of treatment was of moderate effect size, and the difference was almost a full standard deviation.
Finally, by engaging in rumination, patients are more vulnerable to relapse of depressive episodes (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000). For these reasons, it’s particularly important to help patients who experience anxiety and depression to avoid engaging in rumination behaviors.
To help you stop ruminating, we can recommend some worksheets from our PositivePsychology.com library. I have listed them with a short description below.
1. The Raisin Meditation
This mindfulness exercise can be a great introduction to informal mindfulness practice.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
The Alternate Nostril Breathing activity is one of the recommended mindfulness exercises and encourages you to breathe consciously for a period of time. This guide will help you implement this technique step by step.
3. The Five Senses Worksheet
Using this exercise , you are made aware of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel using your different senses. In this tool, you’ll learn how to cultivate an awareness of the present moment in a non-judgmental way.
4. Yogic breathing
The yogic breathing worksheet will help you relax while developing breath awareness. Breath awareness refers to deep belly breathing (i.e., diaphragmatic breathing), which is a useful tool for reducing rumination.
Download 3 Free Mindfulness Exercises (PDF)
These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients enjoy the benefits of mindfulness and create positive shifts in their mental, physical, and emotional health.
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Meditation is a regular (preferably daily) practice where one practices nonjudgmental awareness of their breathing, feelings, thoughts, and bodily states.
Of the extant research investigating the effect of meditation on rumination, the majority of studies have used interventions with mindful meditation (Campbell, Labelle, Bacon, Faris, & Carlson, 2011).
Through this type of meditation, we can develop mindfulness, which is a useful tool for combatting rumination (Campbell et al., 2011). Meditation has also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and rumination in patients diagnosed with cancer (Zainal, Booth, & Huppert, 2013) and high blood pressure (Campbell et al., 2011).
Other novel methods can be used to combat rumination through meditation through the addition of aerobic exercise. Alderman, Olson, Brush, and Shors (2016) recruited two groups of patients: one group of ‘healthy’ patients and another group with clinically diagnosed depression. Both groups participated in meditation exercises where they performed sitting meditation, then walking meditation, followed by a medium-intensity cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes (e.g., running).
Participants performed these tasks for eight weeks. After eight weeks, Alderman et al. (2016) found that both groups of participants reported fewer symptoms of clinical depression compared to when they started the program (up to 40% less). Furthermore, both groups said that they had fewer symptoms of rumination at the end compared to the start of the program.
The positive changes from the program were not limited to only self-report measures of rumination. The depressed group also showed marked improvement in neural activity for markers linked to conflict monitoring and cognitive control to such an extent that their neural activity started to resemble that of the healthy group.
These results suggest that meditation (combined with physical exercise) reduces rumination behaviors while increasing neural activity that allows for better conflict monitoring and cognitive control.
We should mention that the researchers didn’t include a group who participated in only meditation or only in exercise. Hence, it is not clear what effects meditation and exercise have on reducing rumination separately. However, these results are promising.
Additionally, rumination delays the objective and subjective onset of sleep (Zoccola, Dickerson, & Lam, 2009).
Poor sleep quality increases the likelihood of developing depression and is also linked to other diseases such as diabetes (Âkerstedt, 2006). Furthermore, once aware of the rumination, we may develop anxiety about the sleeplessness (e.g., “ When will I fall asleep?” ; “ I have a meeting tomorrow, and I need to sleep” ; Jansson & Linton, 2007). These concerns feed into a negative cycle where we ruminate on our worries, anxiety, and inability to sleep, which further increases our cognitive arousal.
Rumination is a form of cognitive arousal, and some tasks will arouse you further. Additionally, using electronic devices will expose you to bright light, which can reduce melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy).
Therefore, to improve sleep hygiene we discourage any of the following before bed:
- Reading on your smartphone
- Watching television
- Suppressing your worries – Thought suppression has the undesired boomerang effect of increasing cognitive arousal (Harvey & Greenall, 2003).
If you find that you ruminate at night, some of the following techniques may help:
- Distract yourself with a relaxing task (e.g., reading a book)
- Leave the bedroom and go somewhere quiet to meditate.
- Do a three-minute breathing exercise.
- Do a body scan.
- Do some light mindful yoga or stretching.
Rumination is not only linked to work, depression, or anxiety. People who place a high value on perfectionism or who score highly on perfectionism traits are also likely to engage in rumination (Flett, Nepon, & Hewitt, 2016; van der Kaap-Deeder et al., 2016; Nepon, Flett, Hewitt, & Molnar, 2011).
Some perfectionists are especially concerned with evaluation, set unattainable goals, and experience self-doubt and low confidence. When perfectionists ‘fail’ at a task, they may tend to ruminate over their mistakes, which in turn heightens the negative feelings that they experience.
To counteract ruminating about past mistakes, instead engage in the following behaviors (Barnard & Curry, 2011; van der Kaap-Deeder et al., 2016):
- Recognize that your self-worth is not contingent on your successes or failures.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Accept yourself unconditionally.
- Recognize that your failures make you human and allow you to connect with other people.
- Engage in mindfulness when you realize that you are being judgmental or negative about yourself.
- It is very demanding.
- It has few opportunities for decision making.
- Workers have little control over how the work must be performed.
One way in which work-related stress manifests is by workers not being able to ‘relax’ after work (Cropley & Purvis, 2003). This is a common occurrence that all of us have experienced at some stage in our lives. After completing a day of work, we remain in ‘work-mode,’ and we’re not able to ‘shut off’ our work mindset. Sometimes, occupational stress can also result in rumination (Cropley & Purvis, 2003) or worry at nighttime (Rodríguez-Muñoz, Notelaers, & Moreno-Jiménez, 2011).
So how can we combat work-related overthinking? Some of the techniques that we have already outlined in this post may help; for example:
- Breathing exercises
- Mindful yoga and stretching
Make sure to carve out time for these exercises every day, preferably after you have come home from work so that you have a clear break between work and home life.
Another tool that might help is to identify what is triggering your rumination behavior at work. However, make sure that by developing awareness and recognizing the trigger, you do not end up ruminating over it. Your goal is to practice mindful awareness, where you identify the feelings and thoughts, but do not judge them.
We have several excellent resources regarding mindfulness and mindful thinking. Have a look at the following:
1. From our worksheet library
Clinicians can find numerous mindfulness resources in our worksheet library. If you work with clients who want a better way to manage panic attacks, then begin with our STOP the Panic exercise. This worksheet can be printed and carried around.
Once you have introduced your clients to some basic mindfulness resources, you might want to help them develop it further. In addition to the tools already recommended here, try our Workplace Mindfulness resource, with which clients can learn how to decrease stress and improve workplace satisfaction through a series of simple questions.
2. From our blog
Readers interested in meditation can read more in the following posts:
- 65+ Mindfulness Worksheets for Adults, Kids, and Your Therapy Sessions
- 28 Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners to Learn
- 30 Meditation Exercises and Activities to Practice Today
- Mindfulness Meditation Videos, Exercises, Books, and Courses (+PDF)
Readers who are interested in reading more about self-compassion and acceptance are referred to the following posts:
- How to Build Self-Acceptance: 16 Tips, Activities & Exercises
- The Self-Compassion Scale and Test (incl. PDF)
- 12 Best Compassion Training Exercises & Activities
- What Is Self-Acceptance? 25 Exercises + Definition and Quotes
3. From our courses
The Mindfulness-X Masterclass is a complete mindfulness training package for practitioners. If you find that mindfulness is a life-changing solution to stop rumination and wish to teach others the benefits, this course is for you.
4. 17 Mindfulness & Meditation Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, this collection contains 17 validated mindfulness tools for practitioners . Use them to help others reduce stress and create positive shifts in their mental, physical, and emotional health.
Rumination is a negative thinking process where we repeatedly reflect and think about past behaviors, and it can increase the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms.
Rumination does not discriminate and can manifest in people with anxiety, depression, overworked, or high perfectionist tendencies. One of the most effective ways to combat rumination is through mindful-based therapies and exercises. Mindful exercises also help combat the underlying conditions of which rumination is a symptom (including anxiety and perfectionism).
The benefit of mindfulness exercises is that client learns to distract themselves from the ruminating behavior by shifting their behaviors, becoming aware of their actions and thoughts, and engaging with (but not encouraging) their behaviors and thoughts in a nonjudgmental way.
We hope you found this article useful. Don’t forget to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free .
- Âkerstedt, T. (2006) Psychosocial stress and impaired sleep. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health , 32 (6), 493–501.
- Alderman, B., Olson, R., Brush, C., & Shors, T. J. (2016). MAP training: Combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry , 6 (e726), 1–9.
- Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology , 15, 289–303.
- Brown, T. A., & Barlow, D. H. (1992). Comorbidity among anxiety disorders: Implications for treatment and DSM-IV. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 60 (6), 835–844.
- Campbell, T. S., Labelle, L. E., Bacon, S. L., Faris, P., & Carlson, L. E. (2012). Impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on attention, rumination, and resting blood pressure in women with cancer: A waitlist-controlled study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine , 35 (3), 262–271.
- Clark, L. A., & Watson, D. (1991). Tripartite model of anxiety and depression: psychometric evidence and taxonomic implications. Journal of Abnormal Psychology , 100 (3), 316–336.
- Cropley, M., & Purvis, L. J. M. (2003). Job strain and rumination about work issues during leisure time: A diary study. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology , 12 (3), 195–207.
- Flett, G. L., Nepon, T., & Hewitt, P. L. (2016). Perfectionism, worry, and rumination in health and mental health: A review and a conceptual framework for a cognitive theory of perfectionism. In F. M. Sirois & D. S. Molnar (Eds.), Perfectionism, health, and well-being (pp. 121–155). Springer.
- Harvey, A. G., & Greenall, E. (2003). Catastrophic worry in primary insomnia. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry , 34 (1), 11–23.
- Hawley, L. L., Schwartz, D., Bieling, P. J., Irving, J., Corcoran, K., Farb, N. A., … Segal, Z. V. (2014). Mindfulness practice, rumination, and clinical outcome in mindfulness-based treatment. Cognitive Therapy and Research , 38 (1), 1–9.
- Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 78 (2), 169–183.
- Jansson, M., & Linton, S. J. (2007). Psychological mechanisms in the maintenance of insomnia: Arousal, distress, and sleep-related beliefs. Behaviour Research and Therapy , 45 (3), 511–521.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness . Bantam Books.
- Karasek, R. A., & Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of working life. Basic Books.
- Lloyd, A., White, R., Eames, C., & Crane, R. (2018). The utility of home-practice in mindfulness-based group interventions: A systematic review. Mindfulness , 9 (3), 673–692.
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- Olatunji, B. O., Naragon-Gainey, K., & Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B. (2013). Specificity of rumination in anxiety and depression: A multimodal meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice , 20 (3), 225–257.
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4 Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Positive Thinking
- By Lakeisha Ethans
- Published on November 22, 2022
- Last modified July 31, 2023
Here’s how to release negativity and find your happiness.
Are you a bit of a pessimist? Do you tend to have a cynical view of life? Are you often caught up in negative feelings, thoughts, and sensations that ruin your day? It doesn’t have to be that way! Indeed, it is time to rewire your brain and reclaim your happiness.
You can change how you experience the world around you and experience an incredible mental transformation. How? It all starts with changing your brain’s subconscious action. Here are four ways to rewire your brain for positive thinking.
1. Rewire Your Brain By Changing Your Interactions With Negativity
To rewire your brain for positivity, you must first deal with existing and recurring negativity. Before you can implant better ways of thinking, you must remove what is taking up your capacity. As such, how you interact with various negative inputs is the first thing you need to change. Here are some ways to do that!
· Flip The Negative To The Positive
You’ve spent years naturally consuming and believing in negative thoughts. It’s time to flip that switch and rewire your brain! When you start thinking negatively, pause and twist them around to the positive. You can do this by picking out small silver linings in negative moments or totally distracting yourself with happier thoughts. You can also respond to your negative reviews with a positive counterpoint. For example, if you think you’ll never succeed due to a lack of skill, remind yourself of the many times you’ve showcased your capabilities. Or you can respond by asking yourself how to build your skills, and creative, productive thought instead.
· Release Negativity
It’s one thing to validate and process negativity, which is fine. But it’s an entirely different to hoard and relive negative thoughts again and again! Dwelling on these thoughts and emotions causes them to build up, and that rumination can become a self-fulling prophecy. It can even start to change your personality, making you excessively cynical or anxious. That’s why knowing that it’s okay to let go of negativity and take back control of your mind is crucial. You don’t need to hold on to every wrong thought or experience you have! Don’t let them drag you down. When you have a negative idea, take a breather to consider whether it is productive or helpful. If it isn’t, visualize throwing it away and moving on!
· Challenge Negativity With Reality
Not everyone can manage to be optimistic all the time. Realism is much more feasible for tackling negativity! To rewire your brain, gunning for rationality and logic helps to correct yourself. Ground yourself in reality by reminding yourself of how unlikely your catastrophizing thoughts are. Think about all the times that things turned out okay despite your fears. Or consider how you have survived various adverse circumstances and learned from them. Remember your capabilities and ask yourself if your thoughts are productive, realistic, or helpful. If they’re not, they need a good dose of reality immediately!
2. Rewire Your Brain Building More Gratitude
Did you know that gratitude is one of the most powerful traits you can develop? It has a unique research-backed way of predicting a happier and healthier life. The more grateful you are, the more comfortable you’ll be in the long run!
This outcome is why gratitude can be a great tool to use as you rewire your brain. It’s also a self-perpetuating cycle. The more grateful you are, the more you find happiness in the world around you. The happier you feel, the more grateful you become! This cultivates a long-term good attitude towards the world and life. You can rewire your brain toward happiness by proxy! You can practice gratitude to do in the following ways:
· Count Every Single Blessing
There are many things you can be appreciative of in life, but they often go overlooked. Instead of taking your blessings for granted, count every single one of them with a smile. Think about the roof over your head, the people you care about, and the things you enjoy about life. Consider how much you love your favorite music, food, and movies. Express your thanks for how pleasant the sun’s warmth feels early in the morning and how your coffee mug fits right in your hands. Don’t be picky about appreciation! Romanticize your life and all its little details.
· Volunteer and Perform Acts Of Service
Acts of compassion and service grant you insight into the worlds and lives of others. These moments teach you valuable lessons in perspective and can help you step outside yourself. You’ll rewire your brain as you learn to be grateful for what you have and your ability to help others! It’s pretty foolproof: studies have found that those who volunteer regularly enjoy better life satisfaction and happiness!
· Rewire Your Brain By Saying “Thank You” More Often
It’s basic manners to thank those who help you or do something for you. But how often do you say it with true, genuine meaning? Give those around you more thankful acknowledgment. Everyone from your spouse to the barista who makes your drinks deserves appreciation. This builds your gratitude bit by bit, as you get to practice the skill and habit of being grateful in everyday life.
· Actively Seek Out The Good In The World
There are tens upon tens of good things for every bad thing in the world. All you have to do is open your eyes and seek them out! Look around you and be determined to find things that make you smile. This rule also applies to complex or negative experiences. You can take the time to process them while also finding silver linings to be grateful for. Once you know how to see the light, your brain will be rewired even in the darkest of times. All other forms of positive thinking will come much more quickly!
3. Give Yourself Things To Be Motivated And Inspired By
It’s hard for anyone to rewire your brain if you have nothing to drive you forward. If you already struggle with positive thinking, your internal motivation may require some supplementation! You can find positive and healthy forms of external motivation in various sources as you train your mind for positivity. Here are some forms to seek out:
· Create Goals to Help Rewire Your Brain Toward Happiness
Goals are a great form of motivation, especially when they’re easily measured and tracked. Find things that drive you forward in a direction you want to go and make goals in line with them. Break huge goals down into smaller milestones and celebrate whenever you achieve one. Opt for realistic expectations that still make you feel challenged!
· Look To Inspirational Things
Tons of sources of inspiration could fill you with passion and drive. So find those things to be inspired by! The world lacks inspiring things, whether from prominent figures, art, fiction, media, or loved ones. Use these things as motivation to spur you forward to find the happiness that lies dormant within your soul.
· Surround Yourself With Good People
Your social circle can be a huge source of motivation. Supportive and encouraging friends and loved ones can hold you accountable and uplift you as you rewire your brain. Don’t have a big social circle? Join clubs, support groups, and non-profit organizations of like-minded individuals!
4. Practice Meditation to Rewire Your Brain
Meditation is a powerful way to control your mind and emotions. It’s a highly effective method to rewire an anxious brain, according to research , and can teach you to release negativity. It helps you regulate your feelings and allows you to sit with your thoughts and interpret them well.
There are numerous ways to meditate, most of which involve acts of mindfulness. In other words, most meditative formats require some degree of groundedness. They work their magic by teaching you to remain present as an audience rather than a slave of your thoughts. Some standard meditation methods and tools that can rewire your brain for happiness and positive thinking are:
· Witness Consciousness
Witness consciousness has its roots in mindfulness but is often used in meditation. It involves “witnessing” your feelings, thoughts, and sensory input as they pass through your consciousness. The point is to treat them like clouds floating over your head, so you don’t interact with them in any way other than as their witness.
This allows you to reach a point where negative events and thoughts don’t overwhelmingly affect you. You separate yourself from your feelings, sensations, and beliefs, recognizing them as yours but not as a definition of you. This can rewire your brain to a state of healthy and reasonable detachment.
· Body Scan
A body scan is an engaged meditative practice. You begin in a neutral and comfortable position. This could be lying down with your palms up or sitting with your feet flat against the floor. You stay as still as possible and focus on awareness of your natural breath. Then, you slowly move your attention from one part of your body to the next, using each element to receive and process sensory input. Typically, you go from your toes and work your way up slowly to your head. As you go, you note the sensations each part experiences and any unusual states of them. This keeps you grounded and relieves stress, bringing you closer awareness of your body’s reactions to your environment.
· Visualization Can Help Rewire Your Brain
Did you know that the human subconscious often struggles to distinguish fantasy from reality? While you may see what you imagine isn’t true, the brain processes it as if it were fact and stores it as accurate. This is why numerous studies have touted the benefits of meditation for improving emotional resilience and training more optimistic thought patterns.
When you imagine positive things, your brain begins to internalize those thoughts, considering them real. Immerse yourself in an imagined situation that you’d like to be in and utilize creative, vivid details to make it feel more natural. For example, you might imagine yourself succeeding at something you’re anxious about or impressively showcasing your capabilities. Your subconscious will begin to believe those things about you!
Final Thoughts On Some Ways To Rewire Your Brain For Positive Thinking
Anyone can rewire their brain for positive thinking. All it takes is some work to change your interactions with negativity and some healthy meditative, mindful practices. Plus, with extra gratitude, motivation, and inspiration, you’ll be spurred toward positivity and happiness at an even more productive rate!
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About the Author
Lakeisha Ethans is a compassionate mom of two who believes in the power of positivity, kindness, and empathy to create a positive change in the world. As a Contributing Writer at Power of Positivity, Lakeisha strives to make a difference through her content. Lakeisha holds a degree in Accounting and Business Management and has also pursued her interest in holistic health and wellness by obtaining a certificate in Yoga and Ayurveda.
Driven by her love for writing, she can craft compelling content that deeply connects with her readers. She aims to establish a connection between words and hearts, effortlessly weaving narratives that inspire, inform, and entertain. In addition, Lakeisha is an interior design enthusiast and a gardening fanatic!
She is a widely published relationship and gardening expert and a ghost author of several published books. When she’s not writing, she’s either knee-deep in soil, tending to her beloved plants, looking for ways to spruce up her space, or making memories with her kids!
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How to Think Positive – 18 Effective Tips
Do you sometimes wonder how to think positive, and how to stop thinking negatively?
Do you ask often ask, “how to think positive?”
If your predominant thoughts tend toward the negative, you should consider to stop this tendency. This habit might have started from an early age, making you an unhappy, grumpy and unsatisfied person, but you can stop it.
Negative thinking leads to unhappiness, stress and passivity, while a positive state of mind leads to happy frame of mind, motivation, energy and to greater chances of success.
You might ask whether it is possible at all to change the way you think. You might want to know how to think positively. how to think more positive
Discover the Power of Positive Thinking
Is It Possible to Think More Positive?
The answer is yes, it is possible, and the fact that you are reading this article means that you want to change your mindset.
As you begin to change the way you think, you become more optimistic. This give you the key to changing and improving your life, because everything starts in the mind.
In this article, you will find some effective, simple ways to change your mindset. Changing your mental attitude will affect your mental health in a favorable way and develop a positive outlook.
Tips on How to Think Positive
I would like to suggest a few tips on how to think more positive. Read them a few times, and try to implement them in your life. Every day, try several of these tips. With persistence, after a while, you will start to see your mindset and attitude changing.
1. Emotional and mental attitude Display a more good emotional and mental attitude toward yourself, toward other people and toward external situations. This means displaying more self-esteem, more respect to people, and striving to accept everything more calmly and with a positive and happy attitude.
2. Negative inner dialogues Refuse to participate in negative inner dialogues . It’s just a waste of time and energy. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, switch to positive thoughts.
3. Don’t allow anything to affect your state of mind Don’t allow disappointments, difficulties and obstacles affect your moods and state of mind. Learn from them, and then go on without giving up.
4. Don’t allow negative thinking Refuse to occupy your mind with negative thinking. Either replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, or engage yourself in some activity that will take your attention away from the negative thoughts.
5. Other People’s thoughts and words Do not allow what people think and say affect your feelings and state of mind. You can find advice and guidance about this topic, and how to stop taking things personally, in the book, “ Emotional Detachment for Happier Life “.
6. Avoid people who sap your energy Associate with people who bring something of value into your life. Avoid people who sap your energy and enthusiasm. If you cannot avoid them, learn how stay emotionally detached when your are in their company.
7. Say positive things Say positive things about yourself and about other people. Think positively about yourself, about your abilities, and about other people.
8. Compliment people Compliment people when you feel they deserve it. Compliment people for their work, actions and success. This will make them like you more.
9. Faith in yourself Have faith in yourself and in yourself and in your abilities. If you failed in the past, it does not speak about the future.
More Tips on How to Think Positively
10. Do things in a different way Try doing things in a new or different way. Doing things differently than how you usually do them, will help you be more creative, adventurous and enthusiastic, and therefore, more happy and optimistic.
For example, go to a different restaurant, eat different food, change the way you dress, start reading a new book, or find a new hobby.
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11. Read about successful people Read about people who overcame hardships and succeeded in life. This will motivate and inspire you, and help you think more positively.
12. Set goals Setting goals is important. No matter how impossible these goals might seem at the present moment, believe you can achieve them, and keep yourself busy working on them.
13. Congratulate yourself when you achieve a goal, small or big Think about each goal you accomplished, and congratulate yourself about it. Each accomplished goal, no matter how small it might be, will bring you more confidence and self-esteem.
14. Find new ideas At least once a day, try to come up with more new ideas on how to think positively in various situations, and how to act and behave better in various situations.
15. Imagination and mental images Be careful what kind of mental images you allow into your mind. What do you imagine in your mind?
How you see yourself and your life in your mind, how you visualize and daydream, affect your conscious and subconscious minds, your attitude, and eventually, your life.
Looking at the mental images in your mind is like watching a video, which ultimately, comes true. Replace the old video with a new one that is better, happier and more successful.
16. Surround yourself with positive people The kind of people that you meet affect your mindset, moods, thoughts, feelings and behavior in many ways. Avoid negative people, and seek to surround you with positive people.
17. Positive self talk Positive self talk is a method for motivating and encouraging yourself, and rejecting negative thoughts.
It is a technique of focusing the attention on solutions and expecting positive results, instead of focusing on problems and expecting difficulties.
Repeating positive words and statements, instead of occupying the mind with useless or negative thinking is the key to developing positive self talk and rejecting negative self talk.
18. Analyze your behavior and attitude Ask yourself why you are repeating habits and attitudes that make you suffer. There is no need to follow patterns of behavior that hurt you and make you suffer. You can change them into habits and attitudes that are constructive and which improve your life.
Positive Thinking Is the Key Improving Your Life
As I already said, when you learn how to think positive, you gain the key to changing and improving your life. New constructive thoughts and ideas will rise in your mind, and you will experience more energy, motivation, and positive changes to your life.
It is easier to keep a positive frame of mind when things go well.
It is tougher to do so when you are in the midst of problems, difficulties or obstacles. In such times, negativity rises its head.
In difficult times you will need to put more effort, attention and patience into changing your attitude and thought patterns, and keep them constructive and optimistic .
If you strive to be more positive every day, especially when you are not under pressure, stress or strain, it will be easier to do so, when things are tough. As you go on training yourself, this attitude would turn into a habit.
Like everything in life, positive thinking requires practice. It is not as difficult as you might think, it is fun, and the rewards are great.
You can find practical and clear guidance on how to become more positive in thoughts and in action in the book Positive Thinking – The Power to Succeed . It is a small book that it has the potential to change your mindset completely.
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8 Ways You Can Improve Your Communication Skills
Your guide to establishing better communication habits for success in the workplace.
Mary Sharp Emerson
A leader’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively with employees, within teams, and across the organization is one of the foundations of a successful business.
And in today’s complex and quickly evolving business environment, with hundreds of different communication tools, fully or partially remote teams, and even multicultural teams spanning multiple time zones, effective communication has never been more important—or more challenging.
Thus, the ability to communicate might be a manager’s most critical skill.
The good news is that these skills can be learned and even mastered.
These eight tips can help you maximize your communication skills for the success of your organization and your career.
1. Be clear and concise
Communication is primarily about word choice. And when it comes to word choice, less is more.
The key to powerful and persuasive communication—whether written or spoken—is clarity and, when possible, brevity.
Before engaging in any form of communication, define your goals and your audience.
Outlining carefully and explicitly what you want to convey and why will help ensure that you include all necessary information. It will also help you eliminate irrelevant details.
Avoid unnecessary words and overly flowery language, which can distract from your message.
And while repetition may be necessary in some cases, be sure to use it carefully and sparingly. Repeating your message can ensure that your audience receives it, but too much repetition can cause them to tune you out entirely.
2. Prepare ahead of time
Know what you are going to say and how you are going to say before you begin any type of communication.
However, being prepared means more than just practicing a presentation.
Preparation also involves thinking about the entirety of the communication, from start to finish. Research the information you may need to support your message. Consider how you will respond to questions and criticisms. Try to anticipate the unexpected.
Before a performance review, for instance, prepare a list of concrete examples of your employee’s behavior to support your evaluation.
Before engaging in a salary or promotion negotiation, know exactly what you want. Be ready to discuss ranges and potential compromises; know what you are willing to accept and what you aren’t. And have on hand specific details to support your case, such as relevant salaries for your position and your location (but be sure that your research is based on publicly available information, not company gossip or anecdotal evidence).
Before entering into any conversation, brainstorm potential questions, requests for additional information or clarification, and disagreements so you are ready to address them calmly and clearly.
3. Be mindful of nonverbal communication
Our facial expressions, gestures, and body language can, and often do, say more than our words.
Nonverbal cues can have between 65 and 93 percent more impact than the spoken word. And we are more likely to believe the nonverbal signals over spoken words if the two are in disagreement.
Leaders must be especially adept at reading nonverbal cues.
Employees who may be unwilling to voice disagreements or concerns, for instance, may show their discomfort through crossed arms or an unwillingness to make eye contact. If you are aware of others’ body language, you may be able to adjust your communication tactics appropriately.
At the same time, leaders must also be able to control their own nonverbal communications.
Your nonverbal cues must, at all times, support your message. At best, conflicting verbal and nonverbal communication can cause confusion. At worst, it can undermine your message and your team’s confidence in you, your organization, and even in themselves.
4. Watch your tone
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. As with other nonverbal cues, your tone can add power and emphasis to your message, or it can undermine it entirely.
Tone can be an especially important factor in workplace disagreements and conflict. A well-chosen word with a positive connotation creates good will and trust. A poorly chosen word with unclear or negative connotations can quickly lead to misunderstanding.
When speaking, tone includes volume, projection, and intonation as well as word choice. In real time, it can be challenging to control tone to ensure that it matches your intent. But being mindful of your tone will enable you to alter it appropriately if a communication seems to be going in the wrong direction.
Tone can be easier to control when writing. Be sure to read your communication once, even twice, while thinking about tone as well as message. You may even want to read it out loud or ask a trusted colleague to read it over, if doing so does not breach confidentiality.
And when engaging in a heated dialogue over email or other written medium, don’t be too hasty in your replies.
If at all possible, write out your response but then wait for a day or two to send it. In many cases, re-reading your message after your emotions have cooled allows you to moderate your tone in a way that is less likely to escalate the conflict.
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5. Practice active listening
Communication nearly always involves two or more individuals.
Therefore, listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to communicating successfully. But listening can be more challenging than we realize.
In her blog post Mastering the Basics of Communication , communication expert Marjorie North notes that we only hear about half of what the other person says during any given conversation.
The goal of active listening is to ensure that you hear not just the words the person is saying, but the entire message. Some tips for active listening include:
- Giving the speaker your full and undivided attention
- Clearing your mind of distractions, judgements, and counter-arguments.
- Avoiding the temptation to interrupt with your own thoughts.
- Showing open, positive body language to keep your mind focused and to show the speaker that you are really listening
- Rephrase or paraphrase what you’ve heard when making your reply
- Ask open ended questions designed to elicit additional information
6. Build your emotional intelligence
Communication is built upon a foundation of emotional intelligence. Simply put, you cannot communicate effectively with others until you can assess and understand your own feelings.
“If you’re aware of your own emotions and the behaviors they trigger, you can begin to manage these emotions and behaviors,” says Margaret Andrews in her post, How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence .
Leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence will naturally find it easier to engage in active listening, maintain appropriate tone, and use positive body language, for example.
Understanding and managing your own emotions is only part of emotional intelligence. The other part—equally important for effective communication—is empathy for others.
Empathizing with an employee can, for example, make a difficult conversation easier.
You may still have to deliver bad news, but (actively) listening to their perspective and showing that you understand their feelings can go a long way toward smoothing hurt feelings or avoiding misunderstandings.
7. Develop a workplace communication strategy
Today’s workplace is a constant flow of information across a wide variety of formats. Every single communication must be understood in the context of that larger flow of information.
Even the most effective communicator may find it difficult to get their message across without a workplace communication strategy.
A communication strategy is the framework within which your business conveys and receives information. It can—and should—outline how and what you communicate to customers and clients, stakeholders, and managers and employees.
Starting most broadly, your strategy should incorporate who gets what message and when. This ensures that everyone receives the correct information at the right time.
It can be as detailed as how you communicate, including defining the type of tools you use for which information. For example, you may define when it’s appropriate to use a group chat for the entire team or organization or when a meeting should have been summarized in an email instead.
Creating basic guidelines like this can streamline the flow of information. It will help ensure that everyone gets the details they need and that important knowledge isn’t overwhelmed by extraneous minutia.
8. Create a positive organizational culture
The corporate culture in which you are communicating also plays a vital role in effective communication.
In a positive work environment—one founded on transparency, trust, empathy, and open dialogue—communication in general will be easier and more effective.
Employees will be more receptive to hearing their manager’s message if they trust that manager. And managers will find it easier to create buy-in and even offer constructive criticism if they encourage their employees to speak up, offer suggestions, and even offer constructive criticisms of their own.
“The most dangerous organization is a silent one,” says Lorne Rubis in a blog post, Six Tips for Building a Better Workplace Culture . Communication, in both directions, can only be effective in a culture that is built on trust and a foundation of psychological safety.
Authoritative managers who refuse to share information, aren’t open to suggestions, and refuse to admit mistakes and accept criticism are likely to find their suggestions and criticisms met with defensiveness or even ignored altogether.
Without that foundation of trust and transparency, even the smallest communication can be misconstrued and lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.
Communicating with co-workers and employees is always going to present challenges. There will always be misunderstandings and miscommunications that must be resolved and unfortunately, corporate messages aren’t always what we want to hear, especially during difficult times.
But building and mastering effective communication skills will make your job easier as a leader, even during difficult conversations. Taking the time to build these skills will certainly be time well-spent.
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- Positive Psychology
Think Positive: 11 Ways to Boost Positive Thinking
The complete guide to positive thinking, according to science..
Posted March 6, 2018 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
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When you harness the power of positivity, it's amazing the impact it has on your life. It can decrease stress and make every moment worth experiencing. By thinking positive, you just can't help but be optimistic , even when everyone around you is miserable. As a result, you are happier, less depressed , and more satisfied. I believe in positive thinking so much that I touch on the topic in just about every chapter of my book, Outsmart Your Smartphone , and I created a whole happiness program based on Positive Psychology to help you boost happiness .
The benefits of positive thinking are vast. So how do you train your brain to think positive?
1. Ask yourself, "Do I think positively?"
Not sure whether you're a negative nelly? Take this well-being quiz , which not only gives you a score on "positivity," but can help you identify the other skills that can most help you improve your happiness and well-being. If you're someone who needs to work on your positivity, keep reading.
2. Strengthen your memory for positive information.
Did you know that you may be able to increase your positivity just by memorizing lists of positive words? It's because when you force your brain to use positive words frequently, you make these words (and their basic meaning) more accessible, more connected, and more easily activated in your brain. So when you go to retrieve a word or idea from your memory , positive ones can come to the top more easily.
Not sure which words are positive? Psychologists have painstakingly measured thousands of words to determine how positive and negative they are. I've compiled only the most positive of the positive words into a positive word workbook for adults , and a positive word workbook for kids . If you're struggling to think positive, try this strategy first. It can help develop your brain in ways that may make the other positive thinking strategies easier to implement.
3. Strengthen your brain's ability to work with positive information.
Once your brain has built strong neural networks for positive words, try to extend these networks by asking your brain to use positive information in new ways. For example, you could memorize positive words and set an alarm that reminds you to recall these words, in reverse order, an hour later.
Or, you could print out these positive words on cards (from my positivity workbook ), cut them into two pieces, shuffle them all together and then find each card's match. For example, the word " laughter " would be cut into "laug" and "hter." To match the word pieces, your brain has to search through lots of positive information to find what it's looking for. This positive memory recall task may make it easier when you try to think positive.
4. Strengthen your brain's ability to pay attention to the positive.
Are you one of those people who notices the bad stuff—like when someone cuts you off in traffic or your food doesn't taste quite as good as you wanted it too? Then you likely have trained your brain to focus on the negative, and your brain has gotten really good at it. It can be really challenging to undo this training. So instead, train your brain to be even better at focusing on the positive.
Just routinely focus on positive information and direct your attention away from the negative. Need help paying attention to the positive? Check out these positivity games .
5. Condition yourself to experience random moments of positivity.
Did you know that you can condition yourself for positivity? If you've ever taken an intro to psychology course, you've probably heard about the study of Pavlov's dog. Here is a quick refresher:
Pavlov had a dog. Pavlov would ring a bell to tell his dog that it was almost feeding time. Like most dogs, Pavlov's dog would get really excited when he was about to get fed. So he'd drool all over the place. What happened? Well, suddenly Pavlov's dog started getting excited just by the sound of that bell, even when food wasn't present. Eating food and the sound of the bell became linked in the dog’s brain. Something as meaningless as a bell was now making the dog excited.
This effect is called classical conditioning . It's the idea that when two stimuli are repeatedly paired, the response that was first elicited by the second stimulus (food) is now elicited by the first stimulus alone (the bell). This happens all the time without us even realizing it. For example, the favorite food for many of us is something that we ate as a child with our families. What likely happened was the positive feelings of being with family and the particular food got paired in our brains. As a result, we now get the warm-fuzzy feelings that we got from spending time with family just from eating the food alone, even if our family is not currently present when we eat it.
Although your environment is conditioning you to react in particular ways all the time, if you know what you're doing, you can use classical conditioning to boost your positivity . You do exactly what Pavlov did. You just repeatedly link boring things (like a bell ringing) with positive thoughts and feelings over and over again. Pretty soon, these boring things will generate positivity automatically. That's classical conditioning at work. This can help you think positive because when you are going about your life, maybe even feeling bummed about stresses or challenges, you’ll have these little positive moments that keep you energized and in a good mood.
6. Think positive, but not too much, and think negative when you need to.
Of course, thinking positive has its benefits. But thinking positive isn't always the best response. Negative thoughts sometimes have benefits, too.
When we are sad or grieving, thinking negative thoughts and showing the emotions that these thoughts create helps us communicate to others that we need their support and kindness. When we are treated unfairly and get angry, our thoughts can help motivate us to take action, make changes in our lives, and change the world. Casually pushing these negative emotions aside without seriously considering their origins can have negative consequences. So when you focus on the negative, ask yourself, is this negative emotion resulting in action that improves your life ? If so, then keep it. If not, then work on changing it.
7. Practice gratitude
I'll be the first to admit that there are an infinite number of things to be angry, sad, or anxious about. But the truth is that there are also an infinite number of things to feel passionate, joyful, and excited about. It's up to us to decide which we want to focus on.
One way to train your brain to focus on the positive it to practice gratitude. Gratitude is when we feel or express thankfulness for the people, things, and experiences we have. When we express gratitude at work, we can more easily gain the respect and camaraderie of those we work with. When we are grateful for our partners or friends, they are more generous and kind to us. When we are grateful for the little things in our day-to-day lives, we find more meaning and satisfaction in our lives.
Need to build a gratitude habit? Try these 5 ways to practice gratitude .
8. Savor the good moments
Too often we let the good moments pass, without truly celebrating them. Maybe your friend gives you a small gift or a colleague makes you laugh. Do you stop to notice and appreciate these small pleasures that life has to offer? If not, then you could benefit from savoring.
Savoring just means holding onto the good thoughts and emotions we have. You can savor by holding on to the emotions you're feeling in positive moments. Or you can savor by thinking about positive experiences from long ago. Savoring is a great way to develop a long-lasting stream of positive thoughts and emotions.
9. Generate positive emotions by watching fun videos
The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions builds our psychological, intellectual, and social resources, allowing us to benefit more from our experiences and be happier . So how do we infuse our lives with small bursts of positive emotion?
One way is to watch positive or fun videos. Watching cat videos or inspirational videos can generate a quick boost of positive emotions that can help fuel an upward spiral of positive emotions. Just be sure to mentally hang onto the positive emotions that emerge, through strategies like savoring, so that you take your good mood with you when you leave the couch. And be careful not to get sucked in for too long or you may end up feeling guilty for not getting more done.
10. Stop minimizing your successes
We have a bad habit of downplaying our successes and not fully appreciating our wins. For example, we may say, “Anyone could memorize positive words,” or “I didn’t increase my happiness as much I wanted to.” But this fails to recognize the effort that you put in—effort that not everyone would put in. These phrases minimize your small successes instead of celebrating them.
I struggle with this one a lot. People will praise me for building my own business—a business that helps people increase their happiness and well-being. But I’ll say, “Anyone could do it. I just got lucky.” This kind of thinking downplays all the small efforts I put in to make my business successful. Anyone could do it, but they didn’t ; I did.
The same is true for you. Even reading this post all the way to this point means you are putting effort in to improve your ability to think positive. Give yourself some credit for that. As you pursue positive thinking, happiness, or well-being—whatever your goal is—take note of your wins. After every small win, celebrate a little bit.
11. Stop all-or-nothing thinking
All-or-nothing thinking is when we view a situation as all good or all bad. This is another tough negative thinking habit to overcome. For example, I might think I’m a failure because I have not been particularly successful at helping kids cultivate the skills that help them think positive and increase happiness. I even had to shut down my first business which aimed to cultivate well-being in kids.
On the other hand, I have had great success in working with businesses to help them develop their happiness apps, writing content for these products and courses, and selling workbooks to help people learn happiness skills . What do you think? Does this make me a failure or success? If I was prone to all-or-nothing thinking, then I'd have to choose one or the other.
There is always room for improvement, but be careful not to start thinking you’re a complete failure just because you’re not a complete success in all the ways you hoped to be. You win some, you lose some. That’s life.
For more tips, visit berkeleywellbeing.com .
Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. , is a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology.
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