If you are like most people living in the modern world, stress has become part of your day to day life. When we are stressed, it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns. We become frustrated by our challenges and frequently feel overwhelmed. A negative outlook then makes it even harder for us to manage life’s challenges, move forward, and break through the stress cycle.
Practicing positive thinking helps to focus on our strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows us to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck.
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but if you notice your thoughts are predominantly negative you can try one of the tips below to help shift your energy. If you regularly practice these habits, it may help reduce the frequency of negative thoughts and shift you into a more positive thinking pattern!
Top 7 Tips To Help You Shift Into More Positive Thinking Patterns
Make Time to Exercise
Regular exercise gets your blood pumping which releases endorphins and can instantly improve your mood (i). Regular exercise also enhances your sleep quality which can be negatively affected by stress (ii). Exercise has even been shown to make you crave a healthier diet (iii). It’s much easier to be positive when you take good care of yourself and are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.
Remind Yourself Of The Things You Are Grateful For
Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.
Refrain From Using Absolutes
Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.
Squash the “ANTs”
In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!
You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick me-up. Positive physical contact, which could even include massage therapy, can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol which can help lower blood pressure and heart rate (iv).
Increase Your Social Activity
Social support from friends and family can help get you through stressful times (v). By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their upbeat energy will affect you in a positive way!
Use Pattern Interrupts To Combat Rumination
If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s not productive, because it isn’t rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry and stress. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.
Building the habit of positive thinking is a practice. And like any other practice, it takes time and patience, and will always be a work in progress.
That said, a more positive mindset has numerous benefits, not just for our mental health, but for our physical health too. By incorporating some of these strategies into your day-to-day life, you’re likely to shift into more positive thinking patterns, and reap all the many benefits!
i. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: A population-based study. M.H.M.De MoorA.L.BeemJ.H.StubbeD.I.BoomsmaE.J.C.De Geus. Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ii. Sleep Med. 2010 Oct;11(9):934-40. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Sep 1. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Reid KJ1, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC.
iii. Wasantha P. Jayawardene, Mohammad R. Torabi & David K. Lohrmann (2016) Exercise in Young Adulthood with Simultaneous and Future Changes in Fruit and Vegetable Intake, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35:1, 59-67, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1022268
iv. Biol Psychiatry. 2009 May 1;65(9):728-31. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.10.011. Epub 2008 Nov 22. Intranasal oxytocin increases positive communication and reduces cortisol levels during couple conflict. Ditzen B1, Schaer M, Gabriel B, Bodenmann G, Ehlert U, Heinrichs M.
v. J Natl Med Assoc. 2009 Mar;101(3):243-50. The association between perceived social support and health among patients at a free urban clinic. Cadzow RB1, Servoss TJ.