Positive thinking can be understood in terms of how you explain situations and events; how you interpret, make sense and meaning of how and why things do and don’t happen.
When you interpret an event, situation or circumstances in a positive way, you take a favourable view of past, present and future situations, events and circumstances. You’re likely to look the for the best in other people, and view yourself and your abilities in a positive light. You’re optimistic – you expect a favourable outcome for future events. You’re not unrealistic though – you know that things don’t always work out – but if things go wrong – when there are problems – you don’t dwell on them, instead you look for positive solutions. You also look for the silver linings; you recognise that often, challenges and difficult situations have a positive aspect to them.
If, though, you have a negative way of explaining and interpreting things, you resign yourself to having no control or solutions to problems. Negative thinkers are pessimistic; they tend to see and anticipate difficulties and problems. In a variety of situations, if you think in negative ways, you may see yourself as a victim; you feel that you’ve been deceived or cheated and you look to lay blame when things go wrong. Even when good things happen, negative thinkers tend to notice and dwell on the negative parts – the not so good aspects – of a situation.
Let negative thoughts take hold, and in a variety of situations, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and powerless. On the other hand, if you can think positively, you’ll feel able to manage and do well.
Recognise and change the way you’re thinking
Get into the habit of noticing your thoughts. Over the next few days, in the morning, write down what your thoughts are about the day ahead. Then, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to write down your thoughts at five different times the day. Or have a note on a computer screen or screen saver that simply asks “Thinking……..?” Notice if you were thinking neutral thoughts, positive thoughts or were they judgmental, anxious, apprehensive or blaming thoughts?
When you notice negative thoughts are entering your mind, say “stop!” to yourself. If you’re alone, you can say it out loud, but it’s also effective when you just say it in your head. Images can help; a bright red stop sign that you picture in your mind’s eye when intrusive thoughts begin to appear.
Use a thought changing prompt. When you notice that negative thoughts or images are starting to enter your mind, to prompt you to come up with alternative more positive, helpful thoughts, try one of these;
- If you’re sitting down, stand up.
- If you’re standing up, sit down.
- If you’re indoors going to a different room
- If you’re outside, change the direction you’re walking; take 20 steps in the opposite direction before turning around and going back the way you were going.
Challenge your thoughts. When you notice yourself thinking in negative ways, challenge yourself; question how helpful your thoughts really are. Ask yourself “Is what I’m thinking, helping the situation?” Think whether your thoughts make you feel good or bad and do or don’t get you what you want.
Know that when you ask yourself “Is this thought helpful?” you’re not disputing the accuracy of your thoughts; you’re not arguing with yourself as to whether or not the person at the end of the phone was or wasn’t being rude or that the reason you haven’t left your job is because you think no one else will want to employ you. Regardless of their accuracy, these thoughts probably aren’t helping you; they’re not making you feel good and they’re not making your life easy.
Move on to positive thoughts. In another example, if you thought, “The waiter is deliberately ignoring me” whether he’s ignoring you or not simply acknowledge and accept that it’s not helping you to get all het up and stuck with thinking in this way. Instead, move onto thinking of more helpful thoughts and solutions. So, in this example, you’d think about how you could more effectively get the waiter’s attention.
Positive thinking requires practice. The more you think and behave in positive ways, the sooner it will become your normal way of thinking and behaving. My new book – Positive Thinking Pocketbook – shows how small, simple changes can make a big difference to the way you think; they can really help you think and behave in helpful, positive ways.
As the musician and singer Willie Nelson said; “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”
By Gill Hasson, author of Positive Thinking Pocketbook.