I have done a lot of research in this area and I am certain of the overall life benefits (including health), but I am not here to convince anyone of that, as experience is the true teacher. Truthfully, anyone who experiences the changes cannot deny how beautifully it works. However, if optimism and positivity are not part of your nature, this can be challenging to overcome and it takes repeated practice.
I’d also like to add that positive thinking does not mean that I live in a fluffy world where it only rains gumdrops and I hear fairytale chimes at every turn. I know unpleasant moments and challenges happen (this is LIFE), but I also realize there are lessons that come out of them. Taking a realistic look at situations and myself is also important (I know I will never be an Olympian in any category), however always expecting the doomsday outcome (it’s not likely that I will get hit by a meteorite tomorrow) can be harmful, a good balance of realism and positivity blend very well.
When I became cognizant of needing the change, I became more aware of my thoughts and actions and how they impacted me. One of the first things I began to notice is that I was a news junkie. I had grown to love politics early in my teenage years, and I read newspaper after newspaper, watched daily news and even subscribed to and read Newsweek and U.S. News and World Reports throughout my twenties. Though there is nothing wrong with these publications, I was beginning to notice that I was constantly consumed with the doomsday stories and they took a toll on my emotions and my outlook on life. I began to realize that ultimately I had zero control over any of that stuff, and my reactions were not helping the situations, or me and my family for that matter. I needed changes!
I began by eliminating the news, just to see if I could do it, and after a few months I noticed I didn’t even miss it and I had a lot less anxiety. I then decided to eliminate television altogether. I do occasionally watch documentaries and movies that are positive in nature, but I immediately notice when I watch something that gives me negative emotions. I still love to read, but also try to read things that nourish my mind and spirit.
Next, I found it was important to start checking in with my thoughts. I had found that I would unconsciously get trapped in a revolving door of repetitive, unpleasant, negative thoughts (“stinking thinking”). I had never thought about it, but I guess I assumed there was a lock on this door, but there really was not. I began to look for ways to check my thinking. I began by setting an alarm on my phone titled “check your thoughts”. It takes less than a minute to stop and ask myself what I am thinking and if the thoughts are negative or self-defeating in nature, replace them with something positive. This worked for a while, but as my brain got used to that reminder, and I began to ignore it. Now, I either set random times or change the time on a regular basis. It’s funny how this alarm, when not expected, can interrupt negative thinking. Also, by practicing thinking about the beneficial side of situations, the stinking thinking has become less and less.
Lastly, hanging around negative people can really be a blow to one’s thoughts. Lets face it we are indeed influenced by others. I do realize that sometimes we might be related to those negative people, and completely breaking away is not an easy thing. I do know that it is possible to limit the amount of time you spend around them. As a part of my changes, I began to notice who I was spending time with and how I was feeling when was around them and most importantly when I left those interactions. As a result, some of my relationships changed (and maybe even ended). Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying just end every problematic relationship, as those have much to show us too. I am saying that assessing the influence of those relationships is important. Ask yourself if you participate in gossip or other behaviors that can be deemed as destructive, or are you being treated in a way that is hurtful or harmful. If so, consider how you can change this, and also consider the outcomes from every angle, but bear in mind that repeatedly leaving an interaction feeling depleted and zapped is not a good sign.
One last thing, just because a relationship ends or changes does not mean it has to be a negative thing. You can change relationship in a positive way by explaining that your life has taken a different turn and for now this is what you need. You might even be surprised at how another can change simply by watching your progress (but take on positive thinking for yourself, not with the intent to change another)!
In essence, those three things got me on my initial road to positivity- not watching television, checking in with my thoughts and watching whom I interact with on a regular basis. Taking these steps has taken my life onto a much better path--- I truly love and enjoy life! I do I find it still takes daily practice…and I have friends who keep me in check! That helps too!!! Find what works for you and do that, as experience is the best teacher!
Check out this song by Sister Hazel ("Change Your Mind") that often helps me squash the stinking thinking! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnPn543bXuE