With spring just around the corner the days are noticeably longer. The day now has more precious additional minutes and seconds to get important errands done, take a walk at dusk with an old friend, or do a little bit of extra yard work outside. Extra time in the day is a good thing right?
It is, if you have a good mood and positive attitude to go along with it. However, if you’re like the average person, you have somewhere in the range of 45,000 negative thoughts a day. And if the day is longer, guess what that means? More time for negative thoughts to creep in; thoughts that are unpleasant, stressful, or self-sabotaging. Luckily for you, a longer day doesn’t have to mean more time for those pesky bad thoughts!
You can eliminate (or greatly reduce) those bad thoughts by learning to control them and cultivate a positive attitude complete with peace of mind, confidence, happiness, and self-awareness. And it only takes a few easy steps (7 to be exact!):
Step #1: Figure Out Why
When we have a negative thought, we don’t normally stop to figure out why we are having that particular thought. We accept it as true and just go on with our day, never revisiting the reasoning behind that negative thought. To combat this tendency to just think and forget, give yourself a visual reminder that you need to stop and acknowledge the feelings behind the thoughts – for example, a rubber band on your wrist. You may be surprised how often you get caught up in negative thinking.
Step #2: Cut the Cord
Now that you’ve spent some time getting to know those negative thoughts and feelings, it’s time to kick them to the curb. and replace them with a positive attitude. The best way to that? Snap that rubber band! Or, if you’re not keen on the resulting sting of doing so, move the band to the other wrist every time you notice a negative thought. This interrupts the mental looping of negative thoughts and gives you an opportunity to clearly identify them as they happen. This is crucial for recognizing your thoughts as something you consciously choose.
Step #3: Turn a Negative into a Positive Attitude
So now that you’ve cleared out some negativity, you have room for more positive thoughts. Yes, you can re-train your brain to change a negative thought into a positive one. The best way is by reframing your thought to disprove it, or reframing it into a positive one. For example, if your negative thought is “I’ll never get that presentation done in time”, you could follow that negative thought up by saying “No, that’s not true. I have completed plenty of presentations on time and I will do it again.” You may have to say this to yourself a few times before it sticks. Or if that same thought keeps popping up you can change your focus by occupying your mind with something different that distracts from those negative thoughts (i.e. starting making a grocery list).
Step #4: Be Thankful (and mean it!)
If the unwanted thought still wants to sneak in, another great tactic is to push back at it with gratefulness. By writing down what you are grateful for, you will fill your mind with positivity. Before bed is a great time to do this exercise. Do this every day to keep gratitude at the forefront of your mind, and a positive attitude will naturally follow.
Step #5: Stop Being Reactive
Instead of allowing yourself to have a knee jerk reaction every time something starts to drive you nuts, teach yourself to take some deep, calming breaths. This reaction will minimize negativity and re-program your brain to consciously decide not to follow that old pattern of reacting. Laugh instead if you can, as inanities and frustrations are in essence part of the human condition.
Step #6: Surround Yourself with Positivity
If you’ve been hanging around with negative people, chances are their negative attitude has worn off on you. Negativity is contagious and instead of sticking around to catch the next batch of it, you may want to surround yourself with people who uplift you, people who have a positive attitude and are happy, and confident. Avoid situations where you might not only encounter negative people, but also negative news. Instead, replace the dreary stories on the six o’clock news with programs, blogs, podcasts, books, and magazines that are inspiring and leave you smiling!
Step #7: Have Fun!
It’s amazing what the simple act of having fun can do for balancing the stresses and demands of our complicated lives. When’s the last time you played a board game or laughed until you cried? Add “Have fun” to your daily to-do list and make a point of sticking to it. While you’re at it, add “Simplify my life” to that list as well. When we’re overwhelmed by life, we have little, if any, time left for fun, reflection, relationships or exercise – all things key to being happy and relaxed.
Oh, and it’s not on the list of steps, because we’d like to think it’s a given, but ALWAYS make time for your family and friends. Be proactive about it. Don’t just wait around for someone to invite you out to do something. Take the initiative to have a family games night or potluck dinner. Start a new tradition.
Most importantly, to gain positivity in your life you must give it out to others, so remember to speak to your loved ones with love, affirmation, and respect. You’ll be surprised how the universe gives it back to you tenfold.
Like anything, learning to have a positive mental attitude will take some practice but we’re confident you can do it! We’re always here to help.
To your inner positivity – Anna
Davenport, B. (2014). 10 Positive Mental Attitude Mindsets For Happiness.