“Anything is possible” is an overused phrase, but its essence is meaningful and powerful. Positive thinking creates confidence, focus, diligence, patience and many other attributes that stimulate success. And that success could be anything - gaining a promotion, becoming fitter, finding a partner or simply enjoying life more.
Many great achievers have overcome significant obstacles, including negativity from those around them; positive thinking is capable of not only improving an individual, but those around him. In the most impressive cases, positive thinking can overcome its own worst enemy – a man’s own negative thinking. Even depression can be significantly improved with the right kind of mental approach.
It is all very well saying “be more positive”, but that does not have much affect. Here we will focus on practical steps a person can take to encourage positive thinking.
Set goals for yourself. The most rewarding experiences we have are achieving goals. These goals can be quite obvious, like getting a job, but the reward from goals can spread far and wide. Even if you are on holiday on a beach in the sun, you are enjoying it all the more because you feel it is a reward for the hard work that allowed you to be there.
These goals you set must be small and attainable. If you are a strategic thinker and you like planning, you can put together a plan consisting of short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Writing down a plan will help you stick to these goals.
Start each day with a positive action. If you are not a planner, instead try to set yourself a goal for each day. If you attain your goal within the first hour of the day, then set yourself another to do by the end of the day.
Celebrate every success. Each time you achieve a goal, enjoy the success. This could be something as simple as allowing yourself to smile about it or enjoy a movie in the evening. This is absolutely key to positive thinking. The more you achieve, and recognise that achievement, the more it will reinforce positivity. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. Positivity breeds more positivity.
It does not matter how small or ‘easy’ the goal seems. Once you get into the habit of setting and attaining targets, you will enjoy the rewards and good feelings it provides, then you can adjust your goal-setting and, if you wish, make the goals more difficult to achieve.
Allow yourself to be disappointed. Plenty of people are averse to setting goals because they fear failing. Fear and disappointment are natural, daily human emotions and often a rational response to certain situations or unexpected news. We fail every day of our lives: running just too late to catch the bus, not managing to get a client to return our calls, forgetting to do the washing up etc. As adults we learn to take these failures in our stride and move on because we understand that they are not always within our control. Although, sometimes we convince ourselves that it was not our fault and therefore not our responsibility. Once you start noting down your goals, they become more real and you take responsibility for your actions. This is what is frightening to people. But it is also what allows for measurement of success. Without measuring you can avoid the negativity of failure, but you will also not feel the reward of success.
Allow yourself to be negative. This may sound like the opposite of what should be advised. However, the mind and body ebb and flow in terms of moods, and chemical and hormonal balances. It is not possible to stay positive the whole time. But, one of the ways you can measure your own progress is to see how quickly you are able to recover from a setback and become positive again. At first it may take you a few weeks, but after time you can reduce this days, hours, even minutes and seconds - very useful in a working environment when you have a large workload and negative thinking will make it much more difficult to complete all that needs to be done.
Mental and physical strength and fitness go hand in hand. Performing any kind of exercise stimulates an array of physical processes within the body - increased blood flow and oxygen absorption, improved insulin sensitivity, increased endorphin and serotonin production – all of which allow the body and brain to work better and make you feel good. It is infinitely easier to be outwardly positive when you feel good.
What form of exercise you chose to take is entirely up to you, there is no one particular exercise or sport you need to undertake to become more positive. It may just be a brisk walk at the start of the day, or it may be squash or powerlifting.
Compliment someone every day, and make sure occasionally that someone is you. When you compliment someone it is an unexpected gift and the warmth you see in the receiver will make you feel happier and more positive. It is a cyclical process; being positive towards others makes them positive towards you, which makes you feel more positive.
Complimenting yourself is a conscious recognition of who you are or what you have achieved. Sometimes this can be much harder to do than complimenting others. Referring back to an earlier point about setting goals, if you achieve a goal the reward can simply be to compliment yourself on that achievement. It is all about conscious recognition, which inspires positivity.
React positively to difficult situations. Almost every day we face some kind of challenge. Sometimes this challenge presents itself as an awkward, confrontational or stressful situation, which may involve others. The key to being positive in these situations is to understand that we can always choose our own response to any given situation. We store stress physically, primarily by contracting the muscles of our upper back, shoulders, neck and face. That is why prolonged stress can lead to muscle ache and headaches.
Next time you encounter a stressful situation, how about trying something different? Instead of tensing your muscles, choose to relax them. This usually requires a good deal of practice, so don’t worry if you don’t manage to it first time round. The more relaxed your body is, the more relaxed your mind will also be relaxed, which will enable you to think more rationally and positively about the situation in front of you.
• Small steps - attainable goals
• Start each day with a positive action
• Measure progress – celebrate every success
• Allow yourself to feel down or disappointed
• Physical health is mental health - do some form of physical exercise
• A compliment a day (yourself/others)
• React positively to difficult situations by controlling your body to control your mind