Hearing “stay positive” is very common, but this saying may feel unreal. It is difficult to find the motivation to focus on the positive when positivity seems like such an illusory desire.
Keeping a positive outlook in life is a daily challenge that requires focus and attention. You must be very clear about your intentions to stay positive if you want to overcome the tendency of your brain to focus on threats.
To do this, you can follow these three fundamental paths.
- Separate facts from fiction.
The more you dedicate yourself to thinking only on the negative, the more power you will give it. Most negative thoughts are just that: thoughts, not facts.
If you find yourself believing the negative and only hear the pessimistic things that your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally, stop what you are doing and write what you are thinking.
Once you have taken a moment to stop the negative impulse of your thoughts, you will be much more rational and clear when evaluating their veracity. You can bet that the statements are not true every time you see words like never, always, worse, etc.
Do you really lose the keys all the time? Of course not. You may forget them often, but most days you remember them. Are you never going to find a solution to your problem? If you really are stuck, maybe you have resisted asking for help.
- Identify something positive.
Once you get out of your system all the negative thoughts, it’s time to help your brain to learn what you want it to focus on: The positive.
This will come naturally after some practice, but first you have to give your wandering brain a little help, consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thinking will serve to refocus your brain’s attention.
When things are going well and you’re in a good mood, this is relatively easy. When things go wrong, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge.
At those times, think about your day and identify a positive thing that has happened to you, no matter how small. If you cannot think of something, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or maybe there is an exciting event that is waiting for your attention.
The key is that you must have something positive ready for that moment in which you want to change your attention when the thoughts turn to the negative.
If that is difficult for you, you can repeat the process of writing down negative thoughts to discredit their validity, and then freely enjoy positive thoughts.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Taking time to contemplate what you are grateful for is not simply doing the “right thing”, it is also a healthy practice. A research conducted at the University of California found that people who work daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experience an improved mood; this is due to the low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
You can cultivate an attitude of gratitude by taking some time each day to focus on the positive. Every time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a signal to change course and think of something nice. Over time, the positive attitude will become a way of life.
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