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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life

How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life

Want to expand your potential? It all starts with the thoughts that we have and our self-talk (the stories we tell to ourselves). Negative and limiting beliefs will contract our potential; positive, and affirming thoughts will help it expand.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ― Norman Vincent Peale

This is a quote from Norman Vicent Peale, the author of the book The Power of Positive Thinking. You’ve probably tried at some point to shift things around yet, the results were not the ones you expected.

In this article, I’ll share basic concepts of positive thinking, the common stories that people tell themselves that limit their potential, how the power of positive thinking will improve your life and ways in which you can start applying positive thinking in your life so you can start seeing a positive difference in your life.

What Is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you live in a world of rainbows and unicorns, where you ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking means that you respond to uncomfortable or unpleasant situations in a more positive and optimistic way.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” — Zig Ziglar

Our mind is our greatest tool and ally or opponent when it comes to achieving our success goals. We all have a constant flow of thoughts in our minds, which is basically the self-talk that runs our lives. If the majority of our thoughts are negative, it means that our outlook on life is more pessimistic. On the other hand, if our predominant thoughts are positive, we are optimistic.

A study conducted by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, indicated that people should cultivate positive emotions and thoughts in their own lives and in the lives of those around them; not just because doing so makes them feel good in the moment, but also because doing so transforms people for the better and sets them on paths toward flourishing and healthy longevity.[1]

When positive emotions are in short supply, people get stuck.

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“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” — Joyce Meyer

Many experts agree that those who cultivate a positive attitude greatly enhance their chances of professional advancement. Here are some of the most common benefits of positive thinking on your career:

  • You will engage with others more effectively and get along better with your colleagues.
  • You will get support more easily for your initiatives.
  • You will become a better role model as positive attitude is a magnet.
  • You will inspire others around you to shift toward the positive.
  • You will be more productive.
  • You will see possibility where others only see problems.
  • You will see your achievements and accomplishments rather than focusing on your failures.
  • You will manage stress at work more efficiently.
  • You will become more resilient and bounce back faster.

The good news is if you think you’re not that optimistic, positive thinking skills can be learned!

Negative Thought to Get Rid Of

As I mentioned before, the stories we tell ourselves will determine our experiences and could open or close doors to opportunities we have both personally and professionally.

When we choose to tell ourselves stories using the lens of negative or limiting self-talk, we will limit our potential. Here are some of the most common stories:

“I Can’t”

When people are facing a big decision like applying for a promotion, considering a career change or even leaving a job to do work that feels more fulfilling, they will come up with a lot of reasons why they can’t make that decision. And these reasons will feel absolutely authentic and true.

But if they allowed themselves to dig a little deeper and see what’s behind the “I can’t”, they would find that one of the true main reasons behind it is fear – fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone, fear of taking a risk, fear of not having what it takes, fear of losing the security of what’s known.

This could stem from previous events. But here’s the thing: just because we had bad events that happened to us in the past, it doesn’t mean that it will be pervasive and that making a new decision will undermine everything we do.

“I Don’t Have Time”

A quote by Steven Covey says,

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“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

Many people struggle with time management and the truth is that we can’t manage time. We can, however, manage our choices, priorities and energy. Maybe they’re telling themselves “I don’t have time” because deep down, they don’t want change due to fear. Or maybe they need to get clarity on how satisfied they are with their situation, and how that’s affecting their capacity to move forward.

We all need to take personal and energetic responsibility because at the end of the day, the lives that we’re living now are the direct results of our own creation.

“It Can Work for Others, Not for Me”

This thought comes from thinking that “They are not enough”. By believing this, they are catastrophizing and anticipating the worst without even giving the opportunity a try. Fear of failure is behind it. They could be thinking about how their life would change and what would other people say or think of them if they failed.

When they think “It can work for others, not for me”, it really relates to low self-esteem. But even if they don’t have the skills or tools to achieve what they want now, they are always good enough and worthy of what they want.

The truth is that, we all face fear of failure at some point, it’s natural. But we have to understand that there is no learning if there’s no failing. Failing is part of success and growth. We just have to face the fear, take a step forward and be open to see the lessons from the experience or situation.

How to Practice Positive Thinking in Your Life

When we start to have negative thoughts, it can be hard to stop them. We have all been there at some point. Shifting our focus to positive thoughts is the only way to avoid going down a spiral that will not bring positive results.

Here are some of the things I have done to shift my negative thoughts that you can also try:

1. Meditate

Meditation helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels and will help you stay in the present moment and find peace within. Meditation is a great practice to have in the morning, so you can start your day grounded and present.

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If you have never meditated and would like to give it a try, here’s a beginner’s guide: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

2. Start the Day on a Positive Note

Besides meditation, reading or listening to something inspirational helps set the tone to the rest of your day:

You can also do some affirmations like “Today is going to be an amazing day”.

3. Create a List of at Least 3 Things You’re Grateful For

Gratitude helps you realize all the good and positive things you already have in your life (it doesn’t matter how small they are). Feeling grateful helps you stay grounded in the present moment. There is no way you can be grateful and negative at the same time.

Try these 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For if you need some ideas to feel grateful for.

4. Surround Yourself with Positive People

If you ever feel stuck in a negative loop, call someone you trust — someone who can help you put things into perspective and will not feed the negativity.

You can spot out the differences between positive people and negative people easily. Stick with the positive people and get rid of the negative ones.

5. Shift Negative Self-Talk into Positive Self-Talk

Our negative self-talk can be so engrained in us that it can be hard to become aware of it. It’s easy to dwell in our mistakes and beat ourselves up.

When you catch yourself doing this, just pause for a couple of minutes, take a couple of deep breaths and start replacing those negative stories with more positive ones.

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For example: replace “I’m so bad at doing _____ with “I’m getting better and better everyday”, or “I know that the more I practice, the better I’ll get at it”, or “It didn’t work out as planned but if I try again, I will see improvement”.

Here’re more ideas: 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success

Final Thoughts

Here’s the thing:

No one is perfect, we are all peers in this human experience, and we’re always learning.

The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward.

If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. I can assure you that with practice and consistency, your self-talk will start shifting to more self-acceptance and acceptance of others.

Additionally, when you’re optimistic, it will be easier to handle stress in a more constructive and productive way.

More Positive Vibes

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Patricia Young

Certified Professional & Holistic Coach, bestselling author, host of the Awakening to Life podcast

How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day) How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide) Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them)

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Published on April 15, 2021

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

“I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

“Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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“Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

What Is Optimism?

The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

What Is Positive Mindset?

The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

1. Use the WOOP Model

Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

  1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
  2. Imagining a good outcome.
  3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
  4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

  1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
  2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
  3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
  4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

3. Recognize Negative Thinking

When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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Final Thoughts

As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

“True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

More Tips on Being More Positive

Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
[2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
[3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
[4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
[5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
[6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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