Being surrounded by people with a negative attitude isn’t fun. No matter what happens, for some reason, these people are able to see the worst in every situation. It’s almost as if they are challenged to find something to complain about. Negativity is like a disease that can spread like wildfire. Soon, others will start seeing the negative in situations as well.
But, what if the complainer is you?
Being stuck in negative thinking is stressful. Not just mentally, but physically and emotionally, too.
How do you change? How do you stop the negative thinking? Is it even possible?
Many people ask these questions. There is an answer, but it takes work. It means changing how you look at the world around you, but also how you see yourself.
The first thing to understand is this: positive thinking does not mean that every time something bad happens you feel good about it. It means having a solution-oriented perspective. It means that when you are presented with a problem you want to find a solution, not complain because you have a problem. The brain will focus on what it is fed so if it is negative, then negative is all that is seen.
This begs the question, is it possible to change this way of thinking? A resounding ‘Yes!” is the answer. It will take some work; in fact, developing a new habit can take anywhere from 60 days to a year. The hard part is unlearning old behavior, implementing the new, and then practicing for it to ‘stick,’ voila – new way of thinking.
If you’re ready to work a bit on yourself, here are 6 steps you can take to become a positive thinker:
Look for the Positive
Life is challenging. Other people do things that harm us, we get ill, economic downturns can cause us to lose our jobs, and more. Looking for the positive can be difficult. It takes practice and if you don’t make it a part of your everyday way of thinking, you will lose the skill.
When you have a strong negative reaction to something, take a breath, a deep breath. Calm that reaction so that you know your mind is unaffected. The point is to not dwell on the feeling but to focus on what can be done. Look for a solution. Ask what you can do about it and then do it. When the situation has passed, we can often look back and see how we could have handled ourselves differently – do this now with past situations and look for the positive, look for when you could have asked yourself what the solution might be. This way you can begin to see current challenges differently and practice looking for solutions. This will help you to respond more positively, instead of just reacting to the negative and complaining because you think you have no control.
Maintain a Gratitude Journal
Make journaling an everyday habit, whether it is first thing in the morning or one of the last things you do each evening. Using your smartphone or a pen and notepad, write about all that you are grateful for. Look over your day and recall the experiences you had that you are grateful for, including things you appreciate about yourself. This simple habit will help you recognize the positive things that are happening your life and help you see the positive in situations much faster.
Say “I Get To”
A small change in how you talk to yourself about your daily life will go a long way toward helping you become a positive thinker. One of these is the simple phrase “I have to do this”. You say it every time you do something you don’t want to do, putting your mind into the negative. For instance, “I have to go to work” can feel overly negative, especially when there is a project you don’t look forward to working on.
Replace the “I have to” with “I get to”. This way of thinking allows you to see and appreciate the positive points of the mundane, daily things you do. “I get to go to work” can be expanded on at any time to include “I get to go to work and finish that project that has been annoying me” or “I get to go to work to finish that project so I can work on something new.” Another example could be “I get to go to the grocery and buy the stuff I need to make my favorite dinner”. As you can see, within a short time this simple change of thinking will help you feel more positively about your day.
No Problems, Only Challenges
Much like changing the word have with get, when you have a problem you can instead say you have a challenge. When you have a problem, it’s usually something that is broken and almost always something that is negative. Your subconscious connection with the word is what is creating the negativity. By using the word challenge you open your mind to see solutions.
Understand That You Have Control
Nothing that happens to us is good or bad, positive or negative until we assign that attitude to it. You have the ability to control how you see the situation and to understand what you can do about it. When you choose to respond, rather than react, with a positive attitude that asks “What can I do now?” “What can be done about this now?” “Does this really apply to my life now?” you are in control of your thoughts and your actions. Neuroscience says that we need 3 positive thoughts to override one negative – doing this action will help you control your thoughts and actions. It puts you in problem-solving mode for how you will deal with any situation.
Positive Self-Talk Only
Have you listened to what you say to yourself each day? If you said the same thing to someone else, would it make them feel better or worse? When you catch yourself saying something negative you need to stop, take a breath, and instead say something positive. Ever say “I’m such an idiot!” under your breath? Stop. Now say “That’s not true. Sometimes I do smart things like XXX” and then list a couple of examples to remind yourself of what you are capable of. Find a way to laugh at yourself and the situation as it will diminish any negative feelings you have around the situation while releasing dopamine, our happy chemical which gives your more positive feelings.
There you have it. 6 steps to become a positive thinker. Don’t be discouraged, however, if you find this to be more challenging than you expected. You are learning, so that means you will make mistakes. If you need a reminder or ‘catch’ yourself when making a negative statement, write down (or tick off) every time you have a negative, or have an accountability partner to remind you. You will soon see that it won’t take long before your awareness is raised and you will work on the steps above.
Be kind to yourself during this process, as change is not easy. Shrug it off and keep at it because you will be happier which, in turn, will spread that positivity around.