January 9 (Insider) – Becoming a positive thinker happens when you engage in habits and practices that allow you to face difficult situations while maintaining a positive sense of self.
According to Danielle Casioppo, MS, Education Specialist at Being Well at Yale, thinking positively is about being an adaptable thinker with an optimistic outlook. A positive thinker has a growth mindset that is capable of seeing obstacles as opportunities and has hope for a good outcome.
Holding pessimistic views about yourself or the world and finding the worst in everything are signs of negative thinking. Positive thinkers don’t block all negative emotions or thoughts during times of loss, stress, and loneliness, but they know they have the strength to overcome these moments of adversity.
“It is always okay not to think or feel positively all the time. To expect to do so is unrealistic and unhealthy,” says Casioppo.
It’s important to note that having an excessive amount of negative thoughts may be a sign of deeper mental health issues. If you feel your negative thoughts and emotions are overwhelming, seek the help of a mental health professional.
Here are the benefits of thinking positively and how you can train yourself to adopt that mindset.
Benefits of positive thinking
Engaging in positive thinking has proven to not only counter worry, but it also has a host of long-term benefits.
Here are a few physical and mental health benefits of becoming a positive thinker:
- Improves depression
- Better quality of social relationships
- Higher quality of life
- Better coping strategies in times of stress
- Reduces vulnerability to disappointment
Although thinking positively is a mental attitude, it has physical health benefits as well, which include:
- Lowers the risk of heart failure
- Reduces the risk of hypertension
- Improves fertility in women
- Reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease and total mortality
- Fewer chronic illnesses
7 habits that can help you think positive
Being a positive thinker isn’t always something that is an innate quality. Positive thinking is something that you can consciously implement in your life over time by guiding your thoughts and feelings in a more optimistic direction and engaging in habits that improve your mindset.
“Cultivating a more positive outlook or mindset does not happen overnight. It’s a learnable life-long practice that comes with experience and is even better when shared with others,” says Casioppo.
Here are several techniques that can train your mind to think positively:
- Disengage from negative information. Although social media platforms provide plenty of benefits, like making meaningful connections and receiving social support, they can also affect your psychological health. Distressing news and social comparison all affect your capability to think positively, as well as your self-esteem. Taking a break from social media will help you focus on the present and disconnect from negativity.
- Imagine your best possible self every day. By imagining your “Best Possible Self” or (BPS) for five minutes a day over two weeks, you can improve your overall mood and ability to think positively. During each session, construct an image of your BPS in terms of personal, relational, and professional development. This activity encourages you to think of what you want to be while encouraging that you can attain it. The ability to believe in yourself is beneficial to have a positive mindset in life.
- Practice positive self-talk. People often say that their harshest critic is themselves, but keep in mind that the language you use to yourself can affect your disposition. To direct your thoughts, feelings, and behavior in a more positive way, reframe how you talk to the voice in your head. Instead of thinking, “It’s too difficult and I can’t do it,” shift to “I’ll give it another try from a different angle.” By consciously changing the way you talk to yourself, you can begin to think more positively.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Listing down what you are grateful for may help you appreciate the positive aspects of life, instead of dwelling on problems. Gratitude provides emotional and interpersonal benefits and is associated with better physical and mental health, increased happiness, and an overall sense of wellbeing. Keeping a gratitude journal can help you think more positively in life because you realize how well things are going.
- Practice mindfulness. To avoid getting distracted by negative thoughts, consciously engage in the present and be more mindful. Take the time to acknowledge the good things. Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings helps you understand yourself better and understand where your negativity may be coming from. The increased sensitivity to how you respond to situations helps you shift to a positive and more productive mindset.
- Recognize when you entertain negative thoughts. To think more positively, you have to acknowledge and address the areas where you tend to be pessimistic. It can be about your career, social relationships, or even yourself. Focus on one aspect to tackle and consciously approach it in a more optimistic manner. Be introspective and identify why you tend to be pessimistic about that part of your life. Taking action to make positive changes will help you become a more positive person.
- Be in the company of positive-thinking people. The people you often spend time with greatly influence you, which means that their mindset can rub off on you. Negative thinkers may discourage you from believing that situations can get better, but positive thinkers will inspire you to keep hoping for good outcomes, especially when you’re having difficulty to look at the bright side. Surrounding yourself with optimistic people will help you have a positive mindset.
Eventually, these habits will come easily to you if you do your best to practice them every day.
“Changing our thinking is a learnable skill that can have dramatic effects on our quality of life,” Casioppo says. “The way we keep this mindset is by being open and adaptable in our thinking.”
Positive thinking is about adapting to unpleasant situations with a good attitude and hoping for a favorable outcome. It is a habit that improves your wellbeing with its numerous mental and physical health benefits. You can train yourself to have a more positive outlook by trying different techniques, but you also have to put in the effort to maintain it.
It is important to feel and acknowledge negative emotions because they help you deal with the problem. Everyone experiences emotions differently, but a positive thinker understands that negative feelings are normal and temporary.
Casioppo recommends practicing self-compassion to let go of any self-criticism about your thoughts. “To move towards positive change in our thinking, we can choose to shift our mindset to being more open to growth, gratitude, and hope, one baby step at a time,” she says.