Learning how to be positive and have a positive mindset is not an easy thing to do. Not to discourage you, because I believe it will change your life for the better. But it does require some effort and willingness to change.
I believe anyone can turn themselves into a positive person, and learn how to think positively. Even when your experience of life hasn’t been all that good lately, or at all, or if you believe you’re a born pessimist. If you’re willing to change, you can.
I went through a very negative phase in my teens. At the time, life wasn’t all sunshine and roses for me, it was more something like thunderstorms and rose thorns. But at a certain point, I think I was about 19 or 20, I decided I didn’t want to be negative anymore.
You see, as a child I was super happy. Hopping and skipping all the time, chatting everyone’s ear off and laughing all day. Faintly, I remembered that feeling of joy. And I decided I wanted it back.
And slowly but surely, I made my way back to that happy girl that got buried somewhere inside me.
I made subtle changes, and didn’t realize how much I’d changed. Until recently, when I was in the company of a very negative person, and realized “I used to be this way. I used to think like that”. So today I want to share with you how I changed, so you too can learn how to have a positive mindset.
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Why you need a positive mindset
I think if you’re reading this, you’re probably already interested in learning how to be positive. But I think having proper reasoning behind a behavioral change is always good, and there is an incredible amount of science on the benefits of being positive that I want to share with you. If you hate science or don’t have much time, just skip ahead.
A negative mindset is proven to turn into some form of tunnel vision. You can probably recognize that when you’re angry, you are only focused on one single thing and it’s hard to think about someone else. That’s how a negative mindset works.
A positive mindset is a more open mindset. You’re open to solutions and different ways of thinking. Your brain sees more possibilities and opportunities. But more importantly, it allows you to think about the future and helps you develop skills.
In a closed mindset, you don’t need to learn new skills because the world is as it is, you’re never going to progress anyway so what’s the point. There are no opportunities, no chances, so no reason to want to improve or develop anything new.
As the positive mindset allows for thinking about the future and future opportunities, it allows you to think about progression and improvement. (*)
How to be positive
Change your media
Get away from the sad songs, the depressing movies, the drama series. Replace it with happy things and comedies. Things that make you feel better. For me, that is pop music, comedies, Disney shows (they always have a happy ending) and a selection of movies. I don’t randomly watch or listen to anything anymore, and neither should you. You cannot be positive if you’re consuming media that promotes violence and drama.
Look back on your kid self.
How were you? Chances are you were very happy. Playing around, feeling good, not having a care in the world. Even though you probably have things to care about now, that doesn’t mean your childlike joy is gone. It’s hidden somewhere. I used a picture of my 4 year old self as the lock screen on my phone, and printed it to put on my desk to be reminded of that joy every day.
You don’t have to beat yourself up when you have negative thoughts. This process is hard and will take time. So whenever you have a negative though, gently correct yourself and replace it with a happy thought. If you can’t come up with a happy thought, think of puppies.
Give yourself time to complain
Assign a time every day to complain for 10-15 minutes. But keep your complaining limited to that time. So the rest of the day, you have to be positive and are not allowed to complain. This will help you complain less and less, and it will teach your brain to think less negative thoughts for most of the day. You can slowly reduce the time set aside as well, if you want.
I like the 5 by 5 rule here: if it doesn’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset about it.
Speak to others
Having a support system is important. You can ask them to remind you of your positivity project when they feel you’re ranting negative things, and they can help you feel better as well. They can also help you keep to your time limit.
Often, when something was really bothering me, I’d call my mom and tell her: I need 5 minutes to get this out of my system, and then I’m done. And it worked, 99% of the time. She’d listen, I’d rant, and often I wouldn’t even need 5 minutes to feel much better.
Pick your battles
99% of the things we get upset or negative over now, don’t matter next week, let alone next year. So is it really worth spending all your energy, time you could spend being happy, on being upset about something? It’s a rhetorical question and the only answer is no.
If you truly feel something is unacceptable, change it. Do whatever you can to change that thing, or accept it.
Do you want to be right, or happy
We often get stuck in negative patterns because we think other people did something to us. Or because we are fighting with other people. We feel like they owe us something, like an apology or a confirmation that we are right.
The truth is, you could wait all your life and it might never come. So really, let it go. This is one of the harder things, but you can do it. Whenever you are fighting with someone or having a conflict that’s making you angry, upset or negative, think: Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?
This is exactly what I wanted
Whenever something ‘bad’ happens, think: this is exactly what I wanted because… and then name all the reasons in which this occasion could be a good thing. That traffic jam you’re in gives you more time to listen to your favorite music, Losing your job gives you the opportunity to find something you really do like. Breaking up with your partner might make you realize that there were so many more things that annoyed you about them, and deep inside you know they weren’t the one for you anyway.
Try to be positive and list all of the good things that may come out of this situation, no matter what they are.
As Marilyn Monroe said: good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
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