How to be more positive? I think it’s one of those questions many of us ask ourselves. While everyone is telling us that we should develop a positive mindset, they don’t tell us how that is exactly supposed to work. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important for me to share this with you.
If you ever found yourself dwelling on a negative comment from someone or fixating on your mistakes for hours on end, don’t beat yourself up. We think about 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day and it’s absolutely normal to also have negative thoughts. On top of that, as humans we are subject to the negativity bias which means that your brain values negative events much more greatly than positive ones.
However, we have the power to rewire our brain and if you train it consistently like you would train the muscles on your body, you will soon find yourself having more positive thoughts. Before we dive into the ways how you can be more positive and train your brain to think differently, let’s look at the reason why we often get so immersed in negative thoughts.
Why do negative thoughts tend to creep up so easily?
I have always been wondering why we tend to put ourselves down so much and are basically our own worst critics. Then I found out that it has to do with the chemicals in our brains.
It’s so fascinating how these chemicals basically control your behavior.
On the one hand there’s dopamine. When we experience something positive, it triggers warm feelings and thoughts. This is why we love to check our emails or text messages in the hopes of receiving a positive, encouraging message and this is also what makes social media apps like Instagram so addictive. Every time you receive likes, gain followers or comments, it’s like a reward for your brain and you want more of this warm feeling.
However, there is not only dopamine but also a chemical called cortisol that is connected to your hormones and stress levels.
Your brain loves cortisol and it often flows around inducing negative thoughts
Here is how that happens: When cortisol is released, it works like an alarm system in your body. It’s there to warn you about an imminent danger which can of course be helpful when we experience danger. However, we usually don’t face very dangerous situations in everyday life and cortisol can already be released in minor incidents such as someone talking behind your back, losing your keys or spilling coffee over your blouse.
When something like this happens (let’s take the example of losing your keys), the default reaction – which is easier – is often to feel stressed, anxious and expecting the worst possible outcome. By letting your brain run on autopilot and switch into this mode, you tend to think even more negative thoughts which doesn’t help the situation at all and only makes you feel bad.
Since these situations are so common, they easily trigger cortisol in your brain and this is one of the reasons why negative thoughts come more easily than positive thoughts.
Now let’s look at ways we can rewire our brains for more positivity.
TIPS ON HOW TO BE MORE POSITIVE
1. Try to take on a neutral perspective in stressful situations
A much healthier reaction to negative things happening on the outside is to view things from a neutral perspective. It requires practice but over time you will see that the things that used to bother you can’t mess with your mind anymore.
Whenever you’re in the midst of a stressful situation and feel the negative thoughts creeping up, ask yourself these questions: (Screenshot them right now so you don’t forget)
- Is this situation really worth sacrificing my mental health and happiness by letting myself get drained by these negative thoughts?
- How would I evaluate this situation as an external observer? In which ways would I judge it differently? Taking on a bird’s-eye view often helps seeing things from a different perspective
- What can I still be grateful for in this situation?
Let’s assume the following situation happened: You just had a minor car accident. Some small parts of your car is broken and you now have two options:
1) You can either think of all the negative things: It will require so much time and work to fix it again. Why is this happening to me?
2) You can take on an attitude of gratitude and think about the things you can still be thankful for right in that moment. You could for instance be thankful that you weren’t hurt and that material things like car parts can be replaced.
2. Develop a solution-oriented mindset
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We often go through the day and think about all our problems and about negative things that didn’t even happen yet.
I love Marie Forleo‘s saying:
Everything is figureoutable.
because it truly is. If you really want something, you will always find a way to figure out a solution. So the next time you’re facing a challenge, tell yourself “Everything is figureoutable” which makes you think of possible solutions, not possible problems. This little sentence has been such a game-changer for me. I use it with literally anything I used to be scared of or worried about. Learning about technical stuff for my blog? No problem! Learning how to edit a podcast and invite guests? No problem! Everything is figureoutable!
3. Recall your 3 daily positives
Luckily, we are able to prime our brain for positive thoughts. That’s so empowering, isn’t it? So, every night before you go to sleep, reflect on your day and think about three good things that happened on that day. It could be anything – that you received a genuine compliment or smile, that you had a deep and insightful conversation with someone, that you have worked out on that day and focused on your health, that you made progress in a skill you’re working on. It can literally be anything and you will see that even the smallest things will make you happy.
I also write down a few things I’m grateful for every morning. It’s a game-changer.
When you focus on the good, the good gets better.
4. Practice daily self-care
How many times have you found yourself running through the day like a headless chicken without even checking in with yourself once? I have definitely been there and it’s so important to remind ourselves regularly that we are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. For me personally, my mood often is a direct reflection of the level of attention and self-care I’m giving myself. When I take really good care of my body, meditate, spend time outside and eat well, I always feel 100 times better. Here are some easy self-care ideas you can implement into your life starting today:
- Set screen time limits – for yourself
- Stay hydrated
- Spend enough time outside in nature
- Get enough sleep
- Set boundaries and say “no” to someone
- Do something creative and practice your hobbies
- Move your body
- Do yoga
- Prepare yourself a healthy meal
You might also like: How To Finally Stop Thinking That You Are Not Good Enough
5. Help others
Have you ever helped someone and got a really positive and fuzzy feeling right after that? I definitely did! When we help others, we not only make them happy but also ourselves. My grandma always says something along the lines of “The happiness you give to others will come back into your own heart” It’s hard to translate it directly because she says it in German but you get the gist of it.
So starting today, try to smile at people more, hold doors open for them and simply do something nice. The world needs more of that and as a byproduct, you will also feel better about yourself.
Finally, I want to tell you that you can reclaim your power and that it’s all a matter of practice. I also would like to point out that negative thoughts are completely normal and also an important part of life. How would you be able to truly appreciate the good times if you never experienced bad times? So please don’t beat yourself up when you have negative thoughts and know that the goal is not to eliminate them completely but to reduce the frequency with which they are occurring.
Don’t strive for perfection. It doesn’t exist. Strive for a better you. That’s always in reach.
I’m sending so much love to you and wish you a beautiful day,