Positive thinking is the idea that you can change your life by thinking positively about things. This idea can sound a bit soft and fluffy, which is something of a problem for many people who recognise that just thinking good thoughts won’t change the world and therefore discard the whole idea. However, research shows that positive thinking really does have a scientific basis. You can’t change the world, but you can change how you perceive it and how you react to it. And that can change the way that you feel about yourself and others, which can in turn have a huge effect on your well-being.
Quick Tips to Enable Positive Thinking
- Gain Control of Yourself: Do not be critical of yourself to others. Whilst it can be useful to confide your concerns to someone you trust, telling the world is something else. Be kind to yourself. Make a list of your good qualities and believe them, believe in yourself.
- Don't Be A Complainer: By being negative you can isolate yourself from others and cut yourself off from positive solutions to problems.
- Learn to Relax: Allow time for yourself each day, if only for a few minutes it is important to find time to relax and unwind. See our page on Mindfulness for more.
- Boost Your Own Morale: Treat yourself every now and again. Especially if you have overcome a problem or made a personal achievement.
- Congratulate Yourself on a job/task well done and perhaps tell a friend. Justified praise is a good boost to morale.
- Learn to Channel Nerves and Tension Positively: when you are nervous, adrenalin is pumped through the body and you feel more keyed up and alert. This extra energy can be used to good effect; enabling you to communicate with greater enthusiasm and intensity, for example.
- Learn to be Assertive: Stand up for what you believe in and do not be pressured by others. See our section on Assertiveness for more.
Developing Habits of Positive Thinking
If you think about positive thinking as ‘being happy’, it is much easier to work out what you should do to develop habits based on it. For example, what do you like doing? And with whom do you like spending time? Research shows that there are three very good ways to build positive thinking skills:
1. Meditation: People who meditate every day show more positive thinking than those who do not. Is that the meditation causing the positive thinking, or just having time to think? It’s hard to tell, but it’s also hard to argue with the science. People who meditate tend to show more mindfulness, or ability to live in the present, which is also associated with positive thinking.
2. Writing: A group of undergraduates were asked to write about an intensely positive experience every day for three days. Amazingly, they had better moods and better physical health afterwards, and the effect lasted for quite a long time. This is a pretty easy thing to do: you could, for example, write a blog focusing on positive experiences, or keep a diary.
3. Play: It’s important to make time for yourself to have fun. Sometimes you might need to actually put it into your diary to force yourself to make that time, whether it’s to meet a friend for coffee, or go out for a walk or a bike ride.
A Virtuous Circle
Happy people, those with a positive outlook on life, are not just happier, but also seem to achieve much more. While success may lead to happiness, there is very little question that happiness also leads to success. Finding time to be positive about your life, and to do the things that make you feel positive emotions like happiness, is vital to helping you to develop skills and grow as a person.