City : Motivation, Health and Wellbeing Academy : Positive Thinking
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question has a big affect on every area of your life.
Positive thinking that typically comes with “glass half full” brings about so many benefits. If you are a “glass half empty” person, don't despair — anyone can learn positive thinking skills.
Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore difficult and tough times. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think “what can I learn from this situation?” or “how can I make sure this doesn’t happen again” and try and find some good in even the most difficult situations.
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. Some self-talk is based on what you’ve grown up thinking and hearing, whether wrong or right!
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.
Benefits of positive thinking:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hard times and times of stress
- You’ll be more motivated
- You’ll be more creative
- You’ll be more confident
- Helps you look for, and see, solutions
- Helps you identify opportunities
- Helps you achieve your goals
- Helps you have more energy
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.
Not sure if your self-talk is positive or negative? If you do any of these I’m afraid you’re exercising negative self-talk:
- Filtering. You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and ignore (or filter) out all of 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.
- Personalising. 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.
- Catastrophising. You automatically anticipate the worst. The coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.
- Polarising. You see things only as either good or bad. There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or you're a total failure.
Don’t worry if you have identified yourself as displaying some negative thinking traits, 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. Give yourself time and congratulate yourself on trying.
Here 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 normally think negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
- 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. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress. You can find more information on a healthy life style in the floor below.
- 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. If you have lots of negative people in your life you can introduce them to these tricks too, remember anyone can be a positive thinker!
- 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 and respond with something that is good about you.
Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive thinking twist to them:
Putting positive thinking into practice
|Negative Self Talk||Positive Thinking|
|I’ve never done it before||It's an opportunity to learn something new|
|It’s too complicated||I’ll think about it from a different angle|
|I don’t have the resources||It will make me more inventive|
|I can’t do it||I’m willing to give it a go|
|There’s no way it will work||I’ll do my best to try to make it work|
|Too much change||This is a new opportunity|
Practicing positive thinking every day!
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, 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. This will not only provide health benefits but will help you with your job search, help improve relationships with those around you and help you be the success that you can be. Have another look over the list above at the benefits of positive thinking, there are so many, it’s worth giving it a try!