Are you finding it difficult to think positively lately? Do you feel like you complain constantly about the same things? If so, here are some researched-backed strategies that you and I can use to work towards becoming more positive:
- Practice the “three good things” exercise.
*This is pretty self-explanatory. Think of three good things that happened during your day. Write them down so that you can focus and reflect on them more clearly. It is a good idea to choose a particular notebook and to keep it somewhere convenient (such as on a desk or in your nightstand), so that you keep up with the exercise. I recommend writing your “good things” down at roughly the same time each day, so that you have a better chance of making this a daily priority. You could call your notebook a “gratitude journal” and use it solely for that purpose.
- Make positive words a part of your regular vocabulary.
*When we use even one negative word, this increases the activity in the area of the brain called the amygdala; the amygdala is responsible for intense emotions, such as anxiety and stress. Therefore, using words that are typically associated with positive emotions should lead to more positive feelings. An example of using more positive wording can be as simple as replacing the phrase “I have to…” with “I get to…” when describing plans for the day.
- Begin your day with positive affirmations or by reading/focusing on positive quotes that you have hung up.
*This is a simple way to help steer your brain towards positive ways of thinking.
- Make sure your physical environment is positive.
*For example, for my physical environment to be a positive place to be, it needs to be clean, organized, and somewhat quiet. This helps me to think more clearly and efficiently, and therefore, leads to greater productivity. If I sat down to start working on writing a research paper and knew that I was surrounded by dog hair, dust, and clutter, I would be too distracted to get my work done or it would take me a longer time to complete, as my mind would be elsewhere.
- Try to catch negative thinking and re-frame it/challenge it.
*We can ask ourselves the following questions: What are some possible solutions to my problem? Can I visualize a positive outcome? Is the negative thought rational?/Does it really make sense? Is there evidence for my negative thoughts? (I’ve learned that we are taught to think that every thought we have is important, when in reality we have so many unhelpful and/or irrational thoughts that we shouldn’t pay attention to. It can be difficult to sort through all of our thoughts and to figure out which ones should be attended to.)
*You can try wearing something like a bracelet, elastic, or a watch around your wrist and moving it to the opposite wrist every time you catch yourself complaining about something. This helps you to more clearly attend to how many times you think negatively throughout the day. The goal is to use this strategy to eventually reduce the amount of time you spend complaining. You could apply this same strategy but use a different tracking method, of course.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
*In saying this, I mean that we should work on spending more time with the people whose company we truly enjoy. Spend time with people who make you laugh, who listen without judgement, and those you feel comfortable being around.
- Pay attention to your diet.
*A healthy diet supports the growth and development of a healthy mind and body. Consume a variety of whole grains, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins, for optimal amounts of macronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
*Engaging in exercise releases mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and BDNF. After the release of these neurotransmitters, we are more capable of thinking clearly and therefore making important decisions and completing important tasks. If exercise is a part of your regular routine, you will begin to see a shift in your mood.
Ackerman, C. (2020, October 13). What is a positive mindset: 89 ways to achieve a positive mental attitude. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/positive-mindset/
Alton, L. (2019, June 28). 7 practical tips to achieve a positive mindset. Success. https://www.success.com/7-practical-tips-to-achieve-a-positive-mindset/
Clarke University. (2021). Developing a positive attitude. Clarke University. https://www.clarke.edu/campus-life/health-wellness/counseling/articles-advice/developing-a-positive-attitude/
Happiness India Project. (2021). 11 ways to have the strongest positive mindset. The Happiness Blog. https://happyproject.in/positive-mindset/