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Eating healthy, nourishing foods provides the fuel we need for an energy-filled, strong body. In the same way, the thoughts we think and the books or shows we watch or read affects our mental health for the better or worse. If we constantly fuel our minds with negativity, it’s no wonder why we develop chronic anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness.
Many people aren’t aware that they have the ability to change their thinking process. Learning to think positively is not easy, but it is possible. It’s a healthy, learned habit that can be developed over time, with practice and determination. Here are some tips for developing a positive attitude.
1. Record Negative Thoughts
First, get a journal. Start tracking your negative thoughts throughout the day. Every time you have a negative thought, write it down. Remember that a negative thought is anything that makes you feel sad, angry, unhappy, frustrated, ugly, depressed, or frightened. At the end of the day, look through your journal. You’ll be amazed at how many negative thoughts there were. Try and see if there are any patterns. Were you more upset at a certain time of the day? Was there a reoccurring negative thought? What are your thoughts centered around? Write down any observations.
2. Practice Thought Replacement
After you have spent a couple of days recording your negative thoughts and looking for patterns, you need to start practicing thought replacement. Every time a negative thought enters your mind, replace it with a positive thought. Write down the positive thought underneath the negative thought in your journal. Remember that a positive thought is realistic and not always the exact opposite of the negative thought. For example:
Negative Thought: “I feel ugly today. I’ve gained so much weight.”
Here’s the wrong way to replace this thought:
Incorrect Replacement Thought: “I feel beautiful today. I haven’t gained any weight.”
If the thought is unbelievable or unrealistic, it probably won’t make you feel better. Positive thinking is about looking at life in an optimistic, but a realistic lens. Here’s an example of what to do:
Correct Replacement Thought: “I am feeling a little insecure about myself right now but that’s ok. I’m going to wear a nice outfit that makes me feel good about myself.”
3. Keep Practicing Thought Replacement
Continue to record negative thoughts, and immediately replace them with a positive thought. Write the positive thought underneath the negative thought, but also remember to actually think it. Say it over and over again. Continue to do this throughout the day. It’s going to feel uncomfortable for a while. We are used to thinking in a negative, catastrophic way. Some of you may even feel guilty, as though you don’t deserve to talk positively to yourself. This is not true. If negative thinking made us better people, then we would be by now. Positive, realistic thinking is the key to becoming a better, happier person.
4. Read and Watch Positive, Uplifting Shows and Books
While you are working on thought replacement, keep track of what you decide to watch and read. Record how it makes you feel and think after you watch a scary movie or read the news. Though it’s healthy to be informed with what’s happening in the world, there’s no need to watch more than 20 minutes of the news every day. This is particularly true if you are working on changing your thinking patterns. Read positive books, watch light-hearted television. Stay away from anything too serious for a while. It won’t serve any purpose.
5. Don’t Let a Bad Day Set You Back
If you have a setback or a “negative” day, don’t let it discourage you. Instead of beating yourself up for a setback, think about what you can learn from it. Why did you have a bad day? What happened? Did you get in a fight, did you watch something on TV, or were you stressed about work? Usually, there is a reason for the setback. Learn, don’t get stuck.
6. Don’t Ignore Your Feelings
Positive thinking is not about ignoring the bad things that happen to you. If someone wronged you, or if something terrible happened, you don’t need to pretend that everything is ok. Positive thinking is not about putting on a façade or pretending that something doesn’t hurt. It’s about acknowledging the feelings we have and then trying to see the bright side of the situation. For example:
Negative Scenario: A family member passed away.
Correct Replacement Thought: “It is ok to feel depressed and anxious. I am going to sit through these feelings and accept them. Then I am going to take a hot bath and get a good night’s sleep so I can process these feelings. I will get through this.”
7. Getting Help If you feel as though you can’t get a hold of your negative thoughts, remember that help is available. You can continue working on thought replacement techniques and talk to a trained professional who can pinpoint the root causes of your anxiety and depression. Sometimes, unresolved traumas and pain from our past make it more difficult to change. Reach out for help if necessary. You deserve it.
Do you struggle with negative thinking and an anxious attitude? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.