Are you a person who sees the glass as half-full or half-empty? According to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, your answer to this question may reflect your outlook on life, whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, and your attitude toward yourself. It could even affect your health! Researchers have found that positive thinking include health benefits such as an increased life span, lower rates of depression and distress, better coping skills during hard times, and better psychological and physical well-being overall.
The positive thinking that usually goes hand-in-hand with optimism is key for effective stress management which is associated with various health benefits. Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s challenges. It simply means that you approach unpleasant situations in a more productive and positive way. This often starts with self-talk- the unspoken thoughts that run through your mind. Some may come from logic and reason, while some may arise from misconceptions that you’ve created due to lack of information. Either way, it’s possible to turn things around from being more pessimistic to becoming more optimistic.
Identify negative thinking
If you’re unsure whether your self-talk is more positive or negative, here are some examples of common negative self-talk to help you to start figuring it out:
- Filtering: You end up magnifying the negative aspects of an event or situation and filter out the positive. For example, after a great day at work, rather than focusing on the compliments you’ve received, you choose to focus on your plan to complete more tasks or think about what went wrong throughout the day.
- Personalizing: When something bad happens, you automatically put the blame on yourself. For example, if you hear that a night out with friends has been cancelled, your mind immediately drifts to the assumption that the reason for the cancellation is that no one wants to be around you.
- Catastrophizing: No matter what happens, you anticipate the worst. No matter how small the negativity in the situation, you automatically think the worst. For example, you go to buy yourself a coffee and your order is made incorrectly, so you think that the rest of your day will be a disaster as well.
- Polarizing: You see things as either entirely good or entirely bad, you don’t allow yourself to see that there is middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect, or you’d be a total failure.
Focus on positive thinking
You can teach yourself to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. The process is quite simple, but it does require practice. After all, it would be creating a new habit and that takes time. Here are a few ways to turn negative thinking into positive thinking:
- Identify aspects to change: Identify aspects of your life that you usually think about in a negative light, whether it be work, relationships, your daily commute, or something else. You can start on one small area to approach in a more positive way and then do the same for others.
- Evaluate yourself: Throughout the day, stop and evaluate your thoughts. Are you finding that your thoughts are mainly negative? If so, try to find a way to put a positive spin on things. For example, if you’re polarizing, remind yourself that everyone has flaws and that not everything can be perfect, and you’ve done your best.
- Give yourself a chance to laugh: During difficult times, give yourself a chance to smile or laugh. Seek out the humour whenever you get a chance because when you laugh at life, it lifts your mood, and you can instantly feel less stressed.
- Implement healthy habits: Aim to exercise for approximately 30 minutes every day. This can be done in an entire sitting, or you can break it up into 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Exercise can positively affect your mood and make you feel better. Allow yourself healthy eating choices as well and learn techniques to manage your stress.
- Practice positive self-talk: Try to follow the rule where you don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself and when a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it in a rational way and respond to yourself by affirming what’s going well, what you’re thankful for, or how you can put a positive spin on it. For example, instead of saying ‘It’s too complicated’ and giving up, rather tell yourself ‘I’ll approach this from a different angle’.
Becoming more optimistic doesn’t happen overnight. You need to practise the techniques of implanting positivity into your way of thinking enough so that it becomes a habit. It’s definitely worth the effort, though. When your state of mind becomes more optimistic, your self-talk will include less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You’ll also be better prepared to deal with stress in a more constructive way.
If you’d like to be in a working environment where people think on the bright side of life, join our team! Cromwell Medical is a place where positivity is key, and we do our best to stay optimistic. If it sounds like something you’d want to be around, take a look at the jobs we have available or get in touch to learn more about us!