If you’re like most people, then you’ve heard that you should “think positively” and you’ll be happier. And most of us suspect this is true.
Why? Because positive thinkers tend to be more likeable, get better jobs, have more friends, and just enjoy more out of life.
But for a lot of people, thinking positively doesn’t always come easy. Some grow up in negative families. Some just seem to start with a darker, more negative outlook on life. Some take the slings and arrows that come with any life personally and can’t seem to recover their sunny outlook after those inevitable setbacks.
But as Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology has proven, optimism is a learned trait. So if you want the benefits of optimism in your life, you can climb back into the light when you find yourself trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts and worries. Here are 5 simple but powerful tricks that keep you thinking positive and feeling great.
1. Observe Your Thoughts
According to research, humans experience roughly 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Our brains are constantly assessing and reacting to our environment, both consciously and unconsciously, reliving past memories, painting visions of the future, and chattering to themselves in our heads all day long.
While it would be nearly impossible to consciously observe every thought that runs through your mind in a day, you can use your emotions as an indication to the importance of different kinds of thoughts playing in your mind.
For example, whenever you’re feeling down, take a moment and simply sit in awareness of the thoughts that are running through your mind at that moment. Just observe them, without judgment, as if you were watching a movie in your head, sitting quietly in the audience.
When you bring an observing awareness to your thoughts, you begin to realize that you have the choice to think whatever you choose to think. That means when you observe a negative thought that is making you feel bad, you can choose to change it. (For example, obsessing over getting your ex back isn’t going to help you feel great, and will probably chase away new possible loves).
Recognize each thought as beneficial or not to your happiness and, when negative, shift your focus and imagine the best possible outcome of whatever issue has you worried. The negative charge you have in that thought thereby functions as fuel for your creativity and learned positivity.
Second, you can employ what’s called a “pattern interrupt” for help to flip the swit h from negativity to positivity or cynicism to optimism. When you catch a negative thought shouldering into your consciousness, start singing a silly song in your head or replaying a hilarious scene from your favorite comedy. It only takes a few seconds of focus on something positive to completely banish your negative thought back to the depths from which it came.
2. Practice Daily Gratitude
Take a few minutes each day to write down what you are grateful for in your life. One of the simplest and most effective practices is to have a pen and notepad next to your bed where you can write down your five things when first wake up and right before you go to sleep.
By taking time to genuinely reflect upon what you’re grateful in your life you shift your focus away from feelings of lack to feelings of appreciation and joy which will help to keep your brain thinking positive and you feeling happy.
3. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Jim Rohn famously said that you are the aggregate of the 5 people with whom you most spend time. While most people think that’s limited to financial success, it’s also a good measure for your positivity.
Negativity and positivity are both contagious. When you see a cute baby giggling, its hard not to start smiling and giggling yourself. Likewise, when you encounter someone who’s angry and abusive, it’s easy to accept – and slip into – those negative emotions as well.
Researchers suggest that stress is contagious and the more you surround yourself with it or with stressful people, the more likely it will negatively affect your thoughts. Surround yourself with people who are either naturally at peace, positive and loving – or who do the daily work (meditation, yoga, service) to cultivate those qualities. It rubs off.
Practice smiling more throughout your day. Smile at the cashier at the grocery store, smile and say hello to others as you pass them on the street. It may feel a bit forced at first but if you keep doing it, you’ll soon find yourself feeling strangely happier and more positive.
That’s because when you smile, you release happy hormones. In fact, if you want a little jolt of positivity and you’re not feeling particularly bubbly, simply hold a pen or pencil between your teeth so that it forces you to curl up the sides of your mouth into a grin. Doing this for just a minute or two sends messages to your brain that you are smiling (tricky, huh?) and will likely significantly increase your mood and make you feel happier.
5. Feed Your Brain With Positive Books, Audios, Videos, and Quotes
Just as it’s a good idea to surround yourself with positive people, it’s also effective to immerse your mind in positive books, audios, videos, and quotes.
Consistently feeding your brain with uplifting and positive material will keep you feeling inspired and happy and will shape your thought habits into a natural, habitual positivity.
Listen to great thinkers and teachers, search Youtube for motivational videos, read biographies of great and inspirational people. You can even write down your favorite positive quotes on sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror, computer screen, or in your car so that you see them often. By doing these sorts of things on a consentient basis your brain will get into the “habit” of thinking positively.
And habit, as is widely known, creates character and character creates destiny.
Create a positive destiny with these 5 tricks. And make an optimistic, high-vibing mindset the bedrock of a happy life.
About the Author
Best Selling Author, Emmy-Nominated Producer, Screenwriter and Entrepreneur, Adam Gilad leads a community of over 80,000 men and women on their quest to create love and a bold, inspired life. Having served as a Stanford Humanities Center Graduate Research Fellow and host of National Lampoon Radio, Adam blends a bracing mix of research, humor and global wisdom traditions to help men and women break through the habits blocking their ability to open into love and freedom.