If you have a lifelong habit of thinking negatively, training yourself to think in positive terms may be one of the greatest challenges you ever face. One reason it’s so easy to choose negativity over positivity is that positivity can be scary. Although a pessimistic outlook can harm your physical and mental health, a negative state of mind may be more comfortable than challenging yourself to think optimistically. You may be afraid that if you think positively, you’ll risk being disappointed if you don’t succeed at a project, get the perfect job or find the ideal relationship. The key is to train yourself view your entire life, not just your successes or achievements, in a positive light. Then you’ll be equally capable of coping with failure and success. Try these five tips to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones.
1. Be aware of negative self-talk and make a focused effort to change it. Negative thoughts can engrain themselves in your consciousness like the lyrics from an annoying pop song. You may have become so accustomed to these internal recordings that you no longer notice thoughts like “I can’t do anything right.” Negative thought patterns can damage your relationships as well as your self-esteem. Thoughts like “she’s going to dump me like every other woman I’ve dated,” may become self-fulfilling prophecies. Spend a week writing down your negative thought patterns in a journal. Think of positive variations of these messages, like “I’m a generous and hard-working person” or “she always supports my goals.” When you catch your mind playing a negative message, stop the recording and replace it with a positive variation.
2. Keep a positivity list to remind yourself of things that make your life fulfilling. Simple items like “adequate food” and “a roof over my head” are a great place to start. When you start your positivity project, you may have only one or two items on your list. As you get used to thinking positively, you can add more items, like “supportive friends,” “a healthy body,” or “a steady income.” Use your list to remind yourself of your growing ability to view your life in an optimistic light.
3. Practice guided imagery at the start of the day or before you take on a challenging task. You might be surprised at how often you visualize something negative happening, only to have your vision turn into reality. Turn this habit around by deliberately visualizing yourself having a rewarding work day, enjoying a social event or launching a new project.
4. View failure as a creative opportunity. Many people who think negatively view their lives from an all-or-nothing perspective. If you see yourself as either a complete success or a total failure, you’re likely to be disappointed. Failure is not only a natural part of life; it’s an essential by-product of creative production. Many brilliant works of art or ingenious scientific discoveries came about by accident when the creator failed to accomplish his or her original goal.
5. Instead of making a to-do list in the morning, make a list of everything you accomplished during the day before you go to bed. Long to-do lists are the perfect setup for negativity and frustration. Try reversing this process by recording your accomplishments at night and rewarding yourself with positive, self-affirming thoughts.
Thinking positively won’t happen overnight, but like any other habit, you’ll improve with practice. Positivity is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened so that you can overcome the pain of negativity. Although you may not achieve instant success or dazzling financial wealth by thinking positively, you can look forward to a richer, more fulfilling life.