Are you a “glass-half-full” or “glass-half-empty” type of person? Many of us want to be the first yet find ourselves passing through each day with the latter’s outlook. It can be difficult to channel positive energy in today’s world especially when everywhere we turn the bank account gets smaller, political fights are never ending and increasing acts of terrorism grace headlines. Many scientists point out that negativity is hard-wired in our brains because our ancestor’s survival instincts trained us to focus on any and all potential threats. Today, this translates into negative perspectives in which we identify situations and all of the ways they could go wrong. If a situation involves choosing whether to walk down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood, our negative outlook could be life-saving. If you are working on a project or trying something new and spend the entire time thinking of all of the ways it will go wrong, negativity will wreak havoc in your life.
According to Entrepreneur, being more positive affects your health (pessimistic people’s health tends to deteriorate more rapidly as they age) as well as your performance “on-the-job.” For example: optimistic sales people sold more products/services than their negative counterparts who were more likely to leave their job within a year.f you want to become more positive and enjoy your life day-by-day, you need to practice the skill of changing your thoughts.
Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has conducted extensive research on the effects of positive/negative thinking. He has 3 ways to help train yourself into becoming more positive.
1. Separate Fact from Fiction - While our brains might be wired to notice potential threats, many negative thoughts are just that, thoughts not facts. He suggests that when you find yourself believing those negative thoughts, you should write them down. This will slow down the momentum of your negative thinking and help you see your thoughts clearly in black and white. If the statements you write down include words like “never, always, worst, etc.” they are inflated feelings versus facts. If, however, your statements still look like facts once you have them written down, take them to a friend or colleague you can trust to get feedback.
2. Identify a Positive - Once you’ve practiced writing down your negativity and getting rid of self-defeating thoughts, it’s time to teach your brain what to focus on instead. So if you find yourself slipping into negativity, consciously focus on a positive thought, memory or feeling. When life is going well, this is fairly easy. When life is giving you lemons, this might be a challenge. This is why it is important to practice and have a few “positive thoughts” at the ready. A key part to this is to be specific in your thought. Instead of thinking of being on vacation - think back to a great moment from your vacation last summer. Make the moment clear and vivid in your mind so you can easily remember your feelings of happiness. This will make it easier to focus on when it seems like your world is falling apart.
3. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude - Beyond whether you believe in God or a higher power, taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for physically reduces your stress hormone by 23 percent. Research conducted at UC Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate gratitude experiences improved mood and energy with less anxiety.
So once again, whenever you find yourself experiencing negative thoughts, use this as a cue to shift into thinking about people and experiences that you are grateful for. It might be beneficial to create a habit of positive thinking by setting aside time every day (over your first cup of coffee or right before bed) to think about specific parts of your life that are good and gratitude generating. These three tips might sound very basic but their potential for training your mindset into a positive powerhouse is enormous. And besides, what have you got to lose...besides the negativity?