Are you tormented by negative thoughts and wondering how to get rid of them? See the best tips on how to start thinking optimistically, and be positive and happy in life.
Are you a person who sees the glass half empty or half full? Some studies have shown that both of these ways of thinking can affect your physical and mental health, and that positive thinking is better than both.
Research tells us that people who are optimistic have a significantly lower risk of getting sick and dying from several leading causes of death, including:
- heart disease
- cancer, including breast, ovarian, lung and colorectal cancer
- diseases of the respiratory system
Other proven benefits of positive thinking include:
- better quality of life
- higher energy level
- better psychological and physical health
- faster recovery from injury or illness
- less colds
- lower rates of depression
- better stress management and coping skills
- longer lifespan
Positive thinking isn’t magic and it won’t make all your problems go away. But what it will do is make problems seem solvable and help you become a positive person and approach difficulties more productively.
The best ways to have positive thoughts
Positive thinking can be achieved through several different techniques that have been shown to be effective, such as positive self-talk, affirmations, and creating a positive self-image.
Here are some tips that can help you train your brain to think positively.
1. Focus on the good things
Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you are faced with one of these, focus on the good things, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the situation may seem.
If you look for it, you can always find the positive in every cloud – even if it’s not immediately obvious.
For example, if someone cancels some important plans you made, don’t be negative, but instead remember that you now have free time to watch your favorite TV show or do other activities you enjoy.
2. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and promote resilience even in very difficult times.
Think of people, moments or things that bring you some kind of comfort or happiness and try to express gratitude at least once a day.
It could be thanking a co-worker for helping with a project, a loved one for washing the dishes, or your dog for their unconditional love.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
Studies have found that writing down the things you are grateful for can improve your optimism and sense of well-being.
You can do this by writing in a daily gratitude journal or writing down a list of things you are grateful for on days when you are having a hard time.
4. Be open to humor
Studies have found that laughter reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It also improves coping skills, mood and self-esteem.
Be open to humor in all situations, especially difficult ones, and give yourself permission to laugh. It lightens the mood right now and makes things a little less difficult.
Even if you don’t feel it; pretending or forcing yourself to laugh can improve your mood and reduce stress.
5. Spend time with positive people
Negativity and positivity proved to be contagious.
Consider the people you spend time with. Have you noticed how someone with a bad temper can knock down almost everything in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others.
Dealing with positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase the chances of achieving goals. Surround yourself with positive people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.
6. Practice positive self-talk
We tend to be the hardest on ourselves and be our own worst critics. Over time, this can lead to you forming a negative opinion of yourself that is hard to shake.
To stop this, you’ll need to be mindful of the voice in your head and respond with positive messages, also known as positive self-talk.
Research shows that even a small shift in the way you talk to yourself can affect your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts and behaviors under stress.
Here’s an example of positive self-talk: Instead of thinking “I really messed up,” try “I’ll try again another way.”
7. Recognize your areas of negativity
Take a good look at the different areas of your life and recognize the areas where you are most often negative.
I’m not sure? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Chances are they’ll be able to provide some insight.
A colleague may notice that you are negative at work. Your spouse may notice that you become particularly negative while driving. Tackle one area.
8. Start each day on a positive note
Create a ritual where you start each day with something energetic and positive. Here are some ideas:
- Tell yourself that today is going to be a great day or any other positive affirmation.
- Listen to a happy and positive song or playlist.
- Share positivity by complimenting people or doing something nice for someone.
How to be positive when everything is going wrong
Trying to be positive when you are grieving or experiencing other serious distress can seem impossible.
At that time, it is important to take the pressure off yourself in order to find comfort. Instead, channel that energy into getting support from others.
Positive thinking is not about burying every negative thought or feeling you have or avoiding difficult feelings. The lowest points in our life are often the ones that motivate us to move on and make positive changes.
When you are going through such a time, try to see yourself as a good friend who needs comfort and sound advice.
What would you say to her? You would probably recognize her feelings and remind her that she has every right to feel sad or angry about her situation, then offer support with a gentle reminder that things will get better.
Side effects of negative thinking
Negative thinking and the many feelings that can accompany it, such as pessimism, stress and anger, can cause numerous physical symptoms and increase the risk of disease and shortened life expectancy.
Stress and other negative emotions trigger several processes in our bodies, including the release of stress hormones, metabolism and immune function.
Long periods of stress increase inflammation in your body and can also be involved in numerous or serious illnesses.
Some of the symptoms of stress include:
- a headache
- body aches
- difficulty sleeping
Cynicism, stress, anger and hostility are associated with a higher risk of:
- heart diseases
- heart attack
When to seek medical attention
If you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and have trouble controlling your feelings, see a doctor.
You may benefit from medical help, such as positive psychology or therapy. Persistent negative thoughts may be caused by an underlying psychiatric condition that requires treatment.
Practice optimism and how to be positive
You won’t be able to undo years of pessimism and negative thoughts overnight, but with some practice and exercises you can learn to be positive and approach things with a more positive outlook.