Now that we're aware of the different types of negative thinking, let's have a look at how we can learn to cultivate positive thoughts instead. The process is simple, but you'll need to remind yourself that all new habits take time and practice. Here are 5 easy ways to become optimistic:
1. Identify The Need to Change. They say in AA that the first step is to admit that you have a problem. If you want to become more optimistic, you'll need to start by recognising that you have a tendency towards negative thinking. It might help to identify the areas of your life that you generally have the most negative thoughts about, such as your work, health or relationship.
2. Be Mindful of Your Thoughts. Now that you're aware of the area of your life you complain most about, you can start to be mindful of the times you're falling into your old negative thinking patterns again. When you notice yourself thinking about this situation or circumstance, take a moment to stop and consider what you're thinking. If you're stuck in a negative mindset, take a leaf out of founding father of Positive Psychology Dr Martin Selligman's book Flourish, and ask yourself "what went well and why?".
3. Surround Yourself With Positive People. Apparently we become more like the people we surround ourselves with; we become like our friends, family members and partners. In order to become more positive, it's vital to surround yourself with positive, supportive people who challenge you to become the best version of yourself. Negative people will only serve to fuel your negative thinking patterns, and will ultimately lower your standards.
4. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle. Remember that scene in Legally Blonde, when Elle Woods tries to prove her clients innocence by claiming "exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands"? Well, she was onto something. A regular exercise regime (at least three times a week) helps to improve your mood, release tension and de-stress stress. In addition to a regular exercise routine, a regular meditation and mindfulness practice will give you the ability to take a step back, and become more aware and accepting of your thoughts. This ultimately makes us less judgmental, less reactive and less inclined to have negative thoughts. According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, a regular meditation and mindfulness practice “can retrain the brain to scan for the good things in life—to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels.”
5. Be Kind to Yourself. Positive thinking practices are easiest to adopt when they begin with the way we speak to ourselves. Simply start by being compassionate, supportive and gentle towards yourself. Remember, if you wouldn't say it to a friend then don't say it to yourself.