Positive thinking can be achieved through a few different techniques that have been proven effective, such as positive self-talk and positive imagery.
Here are some tips that can get you started that can help you train your brain how to think positively.
1. Focus on the good things
Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you’re faced with one, focus on the good things no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem. If you look for it, you can always find the proverbial silver lining in every cloud — even if it’s not immediately obvious. For example, if someone cancels plans, focus on how it frees up time for you to catch up on a TV show or other activity you enjoy.
2. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and foster resilience even in very difficult times. Think of people, moments, or things that bring you some kind of comfort or happiness and try to express your gratitude at least once a day. This can be thanking a co-worker for helping with a project, a loved one for washing the dishes, or your dog for the unconditional love they give you.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
Studies have found that writing down the things you’re grateful for can improve your optimism and sense of well-being. You can do this by writing in a gratitude journal every day, or jotting down a list of things you’re grateful for on days you’re having a hard time.
4. Open yourself up to humor
Studies have found that laughter lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves coping skills, mood, and self-esteem.
Be open to humor in all situations, especially the difficult ones, and give yourself permission to laugh. It instantly lightens the mood and makes things seem a little less difficult. Even if you’re not feeling it; pretending or forcing yourself to laugh can improve your mood and lower stress.
5. Spend time with positive people
Negativity and positivity have been shown to be contagious. Consider the people with whom you’re spending time. Have you noticed how someone in a bad mood can bring down almost everyone in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others.
Being around positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase your chances of reaching goals. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.
6. Practice positive self-talk
We tend to be the hardest on ourselves and be our own worst critic. Over time, this can cause you to form a negative opinion of yourself that can be hard to shake. To stop this, you’ll need to be mindful of the voice in your head and respond with positive messages, also known as positive self-talk.
Research shows that even a small shift in the way you talk to yourself can influence your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts, and behavior under stress.
Here’s an example of positive self-talk: Instead of thinking “I really messed that up,” try “I’ll try it again a different way.”
7. Identify your areas of negativity
Take a good look at the different areas of your life and identify the ones in which you tend to be the most negative. Not sure? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Chances are, they’ll be able to offer some insight. A co-worker might notice that you tend to be negative at work. Your spouse may notice that you get especially negative while driving. Tackle one area at a time.
8. Start every day on a positive note
Create a ritual in which you start off each day with something uplifting and positive. Here are a few ideas:
Tell yourself that it’s going to be a great day or any other positive affirmation.
Listen to a happy and positive song or playlist.
Share some positivity by giving a compliment or doing something nice for someone.
Trying to be positive when you’re grieving or experiencing other serious distress can seem impossible. During these times, it’s important to take the pressure off of yourself to find the silver lining. Instead, channel that energy into getting support from others.
Positive thinking isn’t about burying every negative thought or emotion you have or avoiding difficult feelings. The lowest points in our lives are often the ones that motivate us to move on and make positive changes.
When going through such a time, try to see yourself as if you were a good friend in need of comfort and sound advice. What would you say to her? You’d likely acknowledge her feelings and remind her she has every right to feel sad or angry in her situation, and then offer support with a gentle reminder that things will get better.
The health benefits of positive thinking
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It's also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
Want to learn how to think positive? The first step is realizing it’s all up to you. When you become the master of your emotions, you can always determine your mindset regardless of outside influences. Taking responsibility for how you think, act and feel allows everything in your life to fall into place. Sometimes you can’t control life’s events – but you can control how you react to them. Once you empower yourself to change what’s in your control – you – then you’re ready for these seven ways to embrace the power of positive thinking.
1. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR STATE
Have you noticed that when you’re having a bad day, your body language shows it? You slump over in your chair, you have a hard time making eye contact with others and do things like cross your arms when you’re feeling uncomfortable. You stop being mindful and allow your environment and circumstances to control you. This is not a powerful stance; it tells those around you that you are uneasy, angry or sad and want to be left alone. This creates a feedback loop as your own poor posture reinforces your poor mindset.
Positive thinking is as much about your body as it is about your brain. Take control of your physiology by taking pride in how you present yourself and project positive thinking. Work on your posture to give those around you nonverbal cues that you are feeling strong and positive, and are ready to listen to them. Try to nip nervous habits, like fidgeting or twirling your hair, in the bud. This technique requires you to observe yourself; as soon as you catch yourself giving in to a nervous tic or starting to slump, straighten up. As you hold your body in a power pose, positive thinking will be able to flow more freely.
Those around you will pick up on the physiological signals you’re sending and will respond with positivity. The more you portray positivity and others see you this way, the easier it becomes to think positive, creating a positive feedback loop. You will then be able to focus on others and do things such as asking three vital questions to find out how you can give to the world and others.
2. ADJUSTING YOUR MINDSET
Adjusting your physiology is only one part of the puzzle; it’s critical to catch the other negativity trigger in its opening stages as well. Your mindset governs what thoughts flow through your head and how you feel and react to each one. If your mindset is poor, everything around you is going to seem all the worse.
For example, you’re at the airport and are unnecessarily delayed while going through security. Then the airline attendant checking you in is rude to you. Another airline worker overhears, apologizes and offers to bump your ticket up to business class.
Once you’re in the air, are you fixated on the hassles you faced in the airport, or are you full of gratitude for your spacious seat and free cocktail? Do you think of the delay as wasted time or as a way to take time and reconnect with yourself? Do you automatically revert to the power of positive thinking or do negative thoughts take over?
You can choose to focus on the negatives or the positives of this – and any – scenario, but if you choose to focus on what’s bothering you, it will begin to negatively impact your life. You’ll also attract more negative situations – people won’t be friendly to you when you’re scowling and hostile. You’ll forget that you can empower yourself to tackle any situation and start believing that positive thinking is out of your reach. You may even punish your partner or others for not living up to your expectations, eroding your relationships and adding to more bitterness.
Positive thinking bypasses that rage and inconvenience, allowing you to just enjoy the moment and be fully present. By consciously choosing to focus on positive moments in your life, you’ll begin to reframe your thoughts, cultivating a mindset that is grateful and open rather than negative and closed off.
3. STUDY YOUR HABITS AND FORM NEW ONES
You can’t form new habits and harness the power of positive thinking if you’re unaware of your current ones. Are there things that set you into a negative spiral of self-doubt? Do you react to situations openly or do you utilize defense mechanisms? If so, what are they?
Perhaps you become agitated whenever you start thinking about going after a promotion at work. Your thoughts take you to a dark place and positive thinking goes out the window. You calculate how long you’ve been with the company and start thinking about why you haven’t been promoted already. Do your bosses know something you don’t? Maybe they don’t think you’re capable of doing the job. You begin to question your skill set, and then you wonder if you’ll ever move up in your field. Maybe you should just quit…
Think of all the time you’re wasting by falling back on this negative habit. Self-doubt is almost always rooted in fear – often the fear of failure. Trying something and failing seems like it would be unbearable, so your mind comes up with all sorts of reasons as to why you shouldn’t even make an effort. If you give in to these negative thoughts, you might not fail but you will stagnate, which is worse. As Tony says, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” If you fail, at least you can learn something. If you stagnate, you won’t.
What if, instead of getting swept up in a pattern of negative thoughts, you refocused your energy and developed empowering habits that utilize positive thinking? Stop the spiral of doubt by blocking it with positive thoughts. If you’re able to cut off a negative thought pattern before it gets out of hand, you can shift to recalling positive affirmations instead. By training your mind to block negative thoughts with positive thinking, you’re steadily training yourself to stop thinking in a negative way. Fear won’t rule you anymore: That’s the power of positive thinking.
4. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
One habit that is essential to positive thinking is to transform your vocabulary. The words you choose – both in conversation and in your own mind – have a deep impact on your mindset. Studies have found that positive self-talk improves psychological states, helps people regulate their emotions and more. And the words you choose in conversation affect how others respond to you, again creating a feedback loop that can be either positive or negative.
Before you can choose different words, you need to recognize what words you’re already using. Take note of how you label and describe things in conversation, particularly your own emotions. Are you really “terrified” of that big work presentation, or just a little nervous? Are you truly “angry” at your partner, or mildly annoyed at one of their bad habits? When you dial back your vocabulary and use words that are less emotionally loaded, you’ll find your mindset becomes attuned to more positive thinking.
Many people find it helpful to write down negative words they find themselves using throughout the day. For every negative word, write a positive alternative next to it. Keep the alternatives in the back of your mind to use next time. Find this aspect of positive thinking overwhelming? Start with just one area of your life that causes negative thoughts, like work or your relationship status. Catch yourself in those moments, and build from there.
5. LOOK TO THOSE YOU ADMIRE
Think of someone who’s had a profound impact on your life. It can be a close friend, family member or someone you’ve never met, like a celebrity, professional athlete or renowned entrepreneur. What mottos does that person live by? Have they been able to unlock extraordinary lives due to their positive thinking habits?
Chances are, they use the power of positive thinking to find the success they seek – and you can, too. When you feel yourself falling into negative habits and can’t quite seem to figure out how to think positively, pull up a quotation from someone you respect. Read it and determine how you can best embody it. You can even write it down and post it somewhere you’ll see it often, such as the refrigerator or on the side of your computer screen. If the person you admire is someone you know and think of as a mentor, even better. Get on the phone and ask them to share some positive thoughts.