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Published on February 13, 2019

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

There is so much material and content around us, spouting essential ingredients of how to be positive in order to gain the success in life you’re chasing. It’s actually overwhelming (not to mention a billion dollar industry!)

You might also have become tunnel-visioned to believe only the secret tips and advice prescribed to us by mindset gurus at sensationalized forums, seminars and conferences can help us. Such stage educators seemed so polished and poised that it’s hard to resist that we can change our thinking without their help.

The truth is that you don’t need to sacrifice your life savings with a coach to turn your mindset around. With this step by step guide, you’ll realize you already have all the ingredients within you and the opportunities around you to start cultivating a positive mindset today. (I’m not denying working with a coach can definitely help. However, you can take a faster route not to mention a less expensive one!)

1. Allow Yourself Feel Negative Emotions

Stop trying to be positive with everything. It’s exhausting, let alone an unrealistic expectation.

Stop listening to everyone’s advice on what you should think. Take back the reins on deciding how you want to feel about something.

Furthermore, you’ll start to be that person everyone wants to be around. To be positive all the time is trying to prevent yourself from being human. We are born with capacity to feel a full spectrum of positive and negative emotions because they all have value, meaning and guidance for us.

When you allow yourself time and space to feel the initial sting of unpleasant emotions, you will find their intensity lessens and their duration shortens. Then, you’ve got more space to start directing your thoughts and focus in a direction that better serves you.

2. Increase Awareness of Your Current Mindset by Seeking Feedback

From those who feedback you trust will be truthful and fairly objective, ask them about what positive and uplifting energy they might experience simply from you being you. Also ask if they can provide examples of how they feel your mindset hinders you rather than helps you.

Asking others for feedback can be a challenging step. By doing so you’re showing you’re considering change. Beware that friends and family can often be bulls in a china shop eagerly dishing you advice and criticism from every angle. If you’re not ready for this, your soft, tender emotional belly will become an unwilling punching bag.

Remember that regardless of who you’re asking, you’re not looking to solicit judgment or opinions. You’re asking them to share with you their observations and experiences. The exercise is purely to help you gain heightened insight and choose where you might start practicing making changes.

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If you do feel your feedback sources have misread the exercise as opportunity to stroke their ego, criticize you and lash you with an emotional cat-o-nine tails, don’t retaliate or respond. Thank them for their feedback, park it mentally into a box that you will go back to and review later.

Your after-thought might well be to simply empty the box! However, there also might be some truth the messages they’re giving too.

3. Recognize Unhelpful Thoughts and Language and Practice Reframing Them

Don’t hesitate to catch yourself mid-sentence and work on reframing your words and language.[1] Being able to catch yourself is a skill but you can become nimble with practice.

Go back to the unhelpful thoughts you came up with and see if you can make slight modifications to the hindering dialogue simmering in your head. “I can’t do this” might gently become “I feel like I can’t do this.” “That will never happen for me” might become “it hasn’t happened for me yet”.

Pay attention to the difference that different words make you feel. Notice how different sentences make you feel and look for the difference it makes to how others respond to you. Asking yourself if you would speak to a friend or child in the way you speak to yourself can draw incredible self-awareness of how your language works against you.

It can take a few training-wheel sessions with a coach or therapist to help you develop reframing techniques. Applying them long enough for you to start feeling and noticing a difference. The investment is well worth it. The benefit of this skill not only charges your positive mindset; it has a vicarious flow-on effect to those around you.

This guide on stopping negative thoughts maybe useful for you:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

4. Carefully Choose Situations to Plant the Seeds of Your Positive Mindset

Keep it simple to start with. Only choose one or two contexts in your life where you feel you could practice more positive behavior and/or language changes.

Choose wisely, though. Be careful to avoid starting with situations where you feel – or have been told – you should.

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‘Should’ is a word weighted with expectation. It also implies you need redemption because you made a lower-handed choice in the first place. You knew what you could do, be or say and you chose not to. That’s heavy stuff! It’s actually not the best starting point to try cultivating a positive mindset from. Trying to develop from situations tarnished with the stamp of reprimand always feels harder.

Avoid trying to make a massive mindset turnaround in a short space of time. It’s likely you’ll be met with raised eye-brows and a label of being inauthentic. Not being annoyed when your mother-in-law comes around unannounced and stays for hours yet again, might be too big a mindset challenge to start with.

Like a tree seedling needs a foundation of good soil for it to have a fighting chance, a neutral situation will give you a good foundation to practice and grow your positive mindset.

Consider a simple situation that is likely to repeat itself in your everyday life:

  • Greeting people at work when you arrive.
  • Picking up your coffee at the same café each morning on your way to work.
  • You and your partner’s morning routine before you both head separate ways to earn your living.

Choose contexts where you are emotionally and mentally indifferent where you could – not should – test simple behavior or language adjustments. You’re looking for calm steady waters you can set sail on to test new positive mindset strategies, and then observe how people respond to your changes, without pressure and without expectation.

5. Examine Positive Mindsets of People You Admire but Set Your Own Goals

Now you’ve chosen your context to start practicing changes, you now need to decide what changes you’re going to make.

Brainstorming possibilities can be challenging from your current mindset. Make it simpler. Look outside yourself for clues and suggestions.

Whose books inject energy into your soul through their written words? Whose TED talks, interviews and podcasts make you nod in agreement? Who has inspired you to at least make plans to take action toward doing or being what you have always wanted to do? Who are those people? What is it about them that resonates with you strongly?

Study them. Observe their behavior, their language and how they respond to setbacks and adversity. Watch them closely. Now compare what they do to how you normally react in similar situations.

The comparison is to help you gauge what changes you want to aim for in your behavior, your communication and your thinking. Remember, you are not looking to copy these people. The world needs the best of you not a carbon copy of Oprah, Tony Robbins or Jack Canfield!

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Besides, there would be nothing more irritating than seeing a highly respected industry expert’s protégé start dressing the same way, trying to call everyone ‘pal’ because the expert addresses his or her trusted staff this way.

People see through copy cats. They are inauthentic and boring at best!

Taking the example of your greeting people in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, your current start to the day may unfurl follows:

  • You don’t acknowledge or talk to anyone in the lift.
  • You say ‘hi’ to the receptionist, Anna, en route to your desk.
  • You robotically say ‘Hi Mary, how are you?’ to your colleague without looking at her, put your bags down, place your suit jacket on the back of your chair and turn on your computer.
  • You sigh as you sit and think to yourself: ‘Same thing, different day; here we go again.’

Now, if you were to put an Oprah-like spin on this same situation, what changes might you aim for? What might feel most natural to you? What changes in your behavior, communication and thinking could you plant here? Let’s play the game again with two potential levels of change:

    Do the above mild and marked examples of changes sound and feel like you? If not, rework the possibilities.

    Turning up with a coffee unexpectedly for someone could be deemed creepy and very uncharacteristic of you. Changes you make need to feel like you can own them. They might feel strange at first but as people start to respond differently to you, you’ll want to keep exercising these features of your new positive mindset!

    6. Exude More Positive Energy Through Your Combined Thoughts and Actions

    Spending too much focus on trying to change yourself can derail you. It’s exhausting especially if you’re trying to exercise introspective reflection 24/7!

    Ditch that idea and once again, turn your focus outward.

    Look at those around you who you feel could do with an emotional or mental hand-up. You’ll not only be helping others, you’ll be greatly benefiting yourself.

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    In fact, researchers Naomi Eisenberger and Tristan Inagaki found giving can actually be more emotionally and psychologically satisfying than receiving. Their study examining neural activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging found that those who were in receipt of help experienced less stress-related activity, and higher reward-related activity in certain brain parts than those who gave the help.[2]

    Being generous with your thoughts and actions not only provides a time-out from your own cognitive swamp. It can kick start your momentum to feeling good about something to start with. When you’re on a roll, you’ll be in a better place to starting doing inward repair work.

    7. Be Wary of Unhealthy Co-Dependent Relationships

    Whilst it feels good to be needed, it can become dangerous to be needed and depended upon too much.

    Looking to sustain relationships where we fall short of experiencing the support, care and understanding fractures our self-esteem. We are prone to developing dysfunctional attitudes and patterns of thinking in such relationships, creating more opportunities to develop depression and other mental health ailments.

    Think of the girlfriend who rings up to whinge and complain yet again about how she constantly dates losers or the best mate who’s always asking to borrow $100. She knows you will always listen and will be the shoulder she can cry on, and he is eternally grateful but never pays you back.

    It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive. It’s another to make yourself an emotional and mental dumping ground and enable yourself to be taken for granted. In fact, research has shown that sustaining negative relationships long-term can give rise to serious physical ailments.[3]

    If you find yourself more often than not to be drawing the short straw, that’s a hint the foundations of your self-worth and esteem might need a review.

    Starting to cull such dynamics in your relationships will feel difficult at first. However, a liberating feeling of freedom automatically clears for positive thoughts, ideas and possibilities to organically float into your mindset.

    The Bottom Line

    A positive mindset is not like a switch that you can just turn on and you suddenly become positive. Building a positive mindset is about taking baby steps in your everyday life.

    With this guide, you will be able to cultivate an unwavering mindset and tackle any challenge, obstacle or goal no matter how hard times may become.

    More Resources About Staying Positive

    Featured photo credit: Parker Johnson via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Helen D'Silva

    Performance Psychologist for Business and Entrepreneurship, Sport and Personal Development

    How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide) How to Cope with Anxiety and Stress at Work: 5 Psychology Techniques

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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