Experts continue to find evidence that our thoughts — positive and negative — don’t just have psychological effects, they also have physical effects on our body. Advantages of positive thinking include less stress, better overall physical and emotional health, longer life span, and better coping skills. Follow the practices highlighted here for four to six weeks to improve your positive thinking skills. Don’t give up. Remember, you are worth it!
A positive self-image is key to living a happy and healthy life. Research shows that people who feel confident in themselves can problem solve and make better decisions, take more risks, assert themselves, and strive to meet their personal goals. In fact there is an entire field devoted to it called Positive Psychology. Here are some ideas to help you be more positive AND feel better.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts
One technique that will help you think more positively is to become aware of your negative “self talk” and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Sometimes we imagine the worst in situations or about ourselves and often are unaware of the negative thoughts.
- Positive thoughts are those that make us feel good about our progress. Take time to praise yourself for the little things.
- It is important to actively think about what you are feeling and how it is portrayed in your life. Try to catch yourself thinking a negative thought, and say “STOP” to redirect yourself to positive thoughts.
- Work on replacing negative self-talk with positive words. For example, replace “I hate getting up in the morning,” with “I am grateful for a new day.”
- Write down negative thoughts. Carry a small pad throughout your day and jot down negative thoughts whenever you notice them.
- Evaluate relationships in your personal and work life, and surround yourself with those who are also positive and support you.
- Develop positive statements to replace negative ones using words such as happy, peaceful, loving, enthusiastic, and warm.
- Avoid negative words such as worried, frightened, upset, tired, bored, not, never, and can’t.
- Remember to smile, it’s contagious!
Nourish Your Body and Mind
The basic human desire is to feel loved, and sometimes that love comes from within. And to love ourselves fully, we must incorporate healthy habits into our lives for a nourished body, mind and soul. A few ways you can nourish your body are by exercising, eating healthy foods, stretching and connecting to others. A few ways to nourish your mind are to do a mind puzzle, meditate, breathe deeply, and laugh. These activities in conjunction nourish both the body and mind simultaneously to improve positive thinking and a positive outlook.
- Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
- Be your body’s best friend and supporter, not its enemy.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
- Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
- Before you go to bed each night, write about how you treated yourself well during the day.
Give Back & Help Others
Giving back has a positive effect on your body and will make you feel great. Studies show that when people donated to charity, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward were triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts. Giving back can also improve your self-esteem, sense of belonging, and make you feel more thankful and appreciative of what you have.
- Volunteer at a food bank or local community service project.
- Donate old clothing or household items to a local drive, Goodwill, or Salvation Army.
- Offer to help a neighbor or family member in need.
- Perform one intentional act of kindness.
- Donate blood.
- Cook for someone in need.
- Participate in a local walk to raise money for a charity or condition (ie. Diabetes walk).
- Clean up the environment.
Build Your Inner Confidence
Having a low self-esteem or feeling bad about yourself may prevent you from doing the things you love. In addition, low self-esteem may hinder the development of healthy relationships with your family and friends. People with a poor self-esteem are more likely to experience declined physical and mental health that affects their daily lives leading to stress and anxiety.
- Replace the word ‘can’t’ with ‘can.’
- Replace the word ‘try’ with ‘will.’
- Focus on the present.
- Make a list of your current wants and desires and what you will do to achieve them.
- Set aside a specific time each day for you.
- Invest in yourself – sign up for a class or workshop.
- Look for the good in things.
- Make signs that say positive thoughts and place them in places where you will see them often.
Create Affirming Lists
Make lists, reread them often to help you feel more positive about yourself. Write affirming lists into your journal or a piece of paper, like:
- 5 of your strengths, for example, persistence, courage, friendliness, creativity.
- 5 things you admire about yourself, for example the way you have raised your children, your good relationship with your brother, or your spirituality.
- 5 greatest achievements in your life so far, like recovering from a serious illness, or learning to use a computer.
- 10 things you can do to make yourself laugh.
- 10 things you could do to help someone else.
Talk Back to Negative Thoughts
Here are some examples that can help you keep setbacks in proper perspective when negative thoughts come to mind. In general, catch yourself! Think, “I am being negative about myself.” Say “Stop!” to yourself. Say it out loud. Picture a huge, red stop sign.
Negative Thought: Foods are Either ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’
- “I can never eat dessert again.”
- “Look at what I did. I ate that cake. I will never do well.”
Positive Thought: Work Toward Balance
- “I can eat dessert and cut back on something else.”
- “One slip-up is not the end of the world. I can get back on track.”
Negative Thought: Excuses
- “It is too cold to take a walk.”
- “I don’t have the willpower.”
Positive Thought: It’s Worth a Try
- “I can go for a walk and stop if it gets too cold.”
- “It is hard to change old habits, but I will start with small steps and progress slowly but surely!”
Negative Thought: Should
- “I should have eaten less dessert.”
- “I haven’t written down everything I eat.”
Positive Thought: It’s My Choice
- “It is my choice. Next time I can decide not to eat so much.”
- “I’m writing down everything I eat because it helps me eat better.”