Obsessing over thoughts and emotions, day in day out, affects all aspects of our lives. Learning to understand and be aware of our “internal dialogue” helps us recognize thought patterns and how they may be affecting the way we handle the situations of daily living.
Many people have found that, when they tune in to their internal dialogue, much of it is negative. Thoughts like, “I can never do that” and “What if I fail?” can seriously impact the way we behave. Stress, apparently associated with attachment to this negative internal dialogue, in turn, affects every aspect of our lives, usually in a negative way.
On the other hand, the physical and mental benefits of positive thinking have been demonstrated by multiple scientific studies. Positive thinking can give you more confidence, improve your mood, and even reduce the likelihood of developing conditions such as hypertension, depression and other stress-related disorders.
Letting go of attachment to negative thoughts and emotions is liberating. This is a process which requires a lot of practice, but it is well worth the effort.
All this sounds great, but what does “positive thinking” really mean?
You can define positive thinking as positive imagery, positive self-talk or general optimism, but these are all still general, ambiguous concepts. If you want to be effective in thinking and being more positive, you’ll need concrete steps to help you through the process
Use positive affirmations
Positive affirmations or positive self-talk can benefit not only yourself but also other people that you interact with. Affirmations shift thoughts resulting from negative, dirty, and harsh experiences or ideas to a more positive note.
Talk to yourself in the mirror, even if you feel silly, with statements like, “Today will be a good day” or “I’m going to be awesome today.” You’ll be amazed how much your day improves.
Affirmations are more beneficial when they are repeated. The more you repeat the same affirmation, the more your subconscious begins to believe it. Over time we are training our brains to think more positively through self-affirmations.
You should also write your affirmations down. Saying good things about yourself aloud is one thing, but writing them down increases their potency. Writing an affirmation down allows your mind one more way to absorb the positive message.
For best results, you can record these affirmations and play them at night so that when your conscious mind is fast asleep, your subconscious mind absorbs them.
Focus on the present
Each day presents us with opportunities to grow, to learn, to connect with others and to have fun. Perhaps a meal with friends, a walk in the park, a game of tennis, or half-an-hour's relaxation with a cup of tea and a good book.
But if we allow ourselves to be preoccupied with worries about the future or regrets about the past, we can waste those opportunities.
Needless to say, we must sometimes prepare for the future and reflect on the past. But for the most part, it is perhaps wisest to focus on the present.
Focus on the good things, no matter how small
Almost invariably, you’re going to encounter obstacles throughout the day—there’s no such thing as a perfect day. After all, what’s life without a bit of spice? When you encounter such a challenge, focus on the benefits, no matter how slight or unimportant they seem. For example, if you get stuck in traffic, think about how you now have time to listen to some of your favourite songs. If you have had a fight with your better half, think of it as an opportunity to discover something new about him or her and keep the excitement going. Slowly, over a period, you will get used to an optimistic attitude and find yourself enjoying all the little joys life has to offer.
Find positive friends, mentors and co-workers
It is important to surround yourself with positive people. This will make you hear positive outlooks, positive stories and positive affirmations. Their positive words will sink in and affect your own line of thinking, which then affects your words and similarly contributes to the group. Finding positive people to fill up your life can be difficult, but you need to eliminate the negativity in your life before it consumes you. Do what you can to improve the positivity of others, and let their positivity affect you the same way.
See humour in trying situations
Allow yourself to experience humour in even the darkest or most trying situations. Remind yourself that this situation will probably make for a good story later and try to crack a joke about it. I have witnessed friends who, when going through tough times, stop themselves from laughing at something (even though I know they would normally find it funny). We tend to halt our laughter because it doesn’t seem right or appropriate.
Laughter is always right and appropriate (if it not at someone else’s expense).
In your darkest hours, if you find something funny, allow yourself to laugh. Many studies have shown that laughter and humour have a huge array of benefits including strengthening the immune system, reducing pain, and stress and increasing energy.
If you are going through a difficult experience or are generally feeling down, humour may accidently find you. Embrace it.
And if you don’t come across it by chance, track down a way you can lose yourself in some proper laughter. Watch a film that never fails to make you chuckle, speak to a humorous friend, or read a funny book. It’s not wrong to laugh when things are tough; on the contrary, I promise it will help.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
You might have been conditioned during childhood to hide your mistakes so that nobody else could criticize, judge or embarrass you for making it. On the surface this might make you feel a little better. However, below the surface the mistake you made will eat you up with guilt.
More often than not, when you make a mistake, psychologically the best thing for you to do is to admit that you made the mistake and take full responsibility for resolving things. Not only will this gain you the respect of your peers, it will also give you peace of mind.
You made a mistake, and now you are responsible for fixing things and learning from your experience so that you can do better next time. This is how things should be. However, often people won’t admit their mistakes, and they certainly won’t learn from their experience. And as a result they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again until critical lessons are finally learned.
It is however important to remember that you are not your mistakes. Mistakes are what you do, and not who you are. You must not get this mixed up.
Secondly, when you make a mistake it’s important to realize that you are in fact making progress. Mistakes are not a step back, but rather a side-step that will help you to see the path ahead with greater clarity as you keep moving forward. They are there to help you, and to help balance you along your journey towards your desired outcomes.
Almost anybody in any situation can apply these lessons to their own lives and increase their positive attitude. As you might imagine, positive thinking offers compounding returns, so the more often you practice it, the greater benefits you’ll realize.