There are some people that you meet that just make you feel better for having met them. It may be their smile that reaches all of the way up into their eyes. It may be their ability to move quickly past problems and right into solutions. It may be the non-judgemental ease with which they approach life. We have all met those people, and they are so EASY to like.
If you’ve wondered how they do it, how they grasp life’s nuances so easily and seem to thrive through every situation I’ll let you in on their little secret. Those people have built for themselves a POSITIVE MINDSET.
Having a positive mindset means choosing your own reality. Everyone has good and bad moments in life, nobody is immune to life’s ebb and flows. Everyone also has the ability to CHOOSE how to react to those moments.
Those people seem to remain happy no matter what is going on around them, like a breath of fresh air, whilst others constantly moan and complain even when their circumstances are better than most.
The secret to cultivating true inner happiness and living a joyful life is knowing that the way you think determines EVERYTHING.
If you take control of their mind you can change your reality.
The truth is that it cost nothing to build a positive mindset. In fact, it’s a relief to throw off the curmudgeon inside who is always grumpy and moaning in your ear, and finally see the beauty of the world around you. After all, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Nobody but you has to bare the weight of your negative and angry self-talk.
Living a beautiful and peaceful HAPPY life is your birthright.
Isn’t it time to remove the burden of anger, disappointment, and judgementalness and embrace a life worth living? When you smile, the world smiles back.
WHAT IS A POSITIVE MINDSET?
You probably have some notion about what a positive mindset entails, but it’s always best to start together on the same page. So here is a definition we can all agree on.
This definition from Remez Sasson (n.d.):
“Positive thinking is a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life and expects positive results.”
Another, more comprehensive definition comes from Kendra Cherry at Very Well Mind (2017B):
“Positive thinking actually means approaching life’s challenges with a positive outlook. It does not necessarily mean avoiding or ignoring the bad things; instead, it involves making the most of the potentially bad situations, trying to see the best in other people, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.”
Positive mindset then is the tendency to focus on the bright side, expect positive results, and approach challenges with a positive outlook. Having a positive mindset means making positive thinking a habit, continually searching for the silver lining in every situation and making the best out of any situation you find yourself in.
DEVELOPING A TRULY POSITIVE MINDSET AND GAINING THESE BENEFITS IS A FUNCTION OF THE THOUGHTS YOU CULTIVATE.
WHAT TRAITS DOES SOMEONE WITH A POSITIVE MINDSET HAVE?
Let’s take a look at the mental makeup of someone with a positive mindset. Traits you can expect them to have:
Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something including a willingness to make an effort and take a chance instead of assuming efforts won’t pay off.
Acceptance: a willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation and acknowledging that things don’t always turn out how you want them to. The silver lining in every situation? You can always learn from your mistakes.
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, a bouncing back from adversity, disappointment, and failure instead of giving up.
I published an article on enhancing your resiliency. You can find it here:
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness while actively, and continuously appreciating the good things in your life.
Consciousness/Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, by dedicating the mind to conscious awareness and enhancing the ability to focus.
Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The trait of being honorable, righteous, and straightforward, instead of deceitful and self-serving.
The characteristics of a positive mindset work both ways. You develop a positive mindset by striving to achieve these traits. And by actively adopting these traits, in turn, they will help you develop and maintain your positive mindset further.
WHY IS A POSITIVE MINDSET BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVE?
Aside from the obvious release of the burden of having to sustain a pessimistic, blistering and grumpy mindset that weighs you down cognitively, socially and emotionally, actively striving for a positive mindset has a myriad of benefits for every part of your life.
Here are just a few:
A positive mindset can lead to better overall health, better ability to cope with stress, and
greater well-being (Cherry, 2017A).
According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can increase your lifespan, reduce rates of depression and levels of distress, give you greater resistance to the common cold, improve your overall psychological and physical well-being, improve your cardiovascular health and protect you from cardiovascular disease, and help you build coping skills to keep you afloat during challenging times (2017).
HOW TO GROW YOUR POSITIVE MINDSET: MANAGING YOUR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
It’s absolutely natural and even healthy to accept that humans have a full range of emotions and experiencing them is just a part of life. We all experience anger, disappointment, shame, sorrow and more. What is not healthy is to ruminate on negative emotions, turning them over and over in your mind and festering and wallowing in self-pity.
When we deal with negative emotions in a negative way our natural emotions turn toxic. There are healthy ways to deal with negative emotions. Pushing them down, trying to turn them off, or pretending they’re not happening is NOT a healthy way.
To start, let’s look at some healthy ways to handle negative emotions.
GET HONEST WITH YOURSELF, PRACTICE SOME COMPASSION FOR YOURSELF, AND THEN MOVE ON
Most of the time, when we’re in the mental mud of a negative emotion, the best course of action is to acknowledge and embrace the experience.
Start by articulating and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing that are weighing you down and don’t serve any useful purpose.
“I sure am a grump today.” Or “I just feel like disappearing for a while.”
Spend less time beating yourself up for feeling the way that you do, and acknowledge how you feel. Follow that up with releasing statements. “It’s okay to feel grumpy right now.” Or “I forgive myself for procrastinating right now, my mind must need a short rest.”
Shortcut your self-abasing judgmental frustration with your negative emotions, embrace how you feel RIGHT NOW and free up some of your emotional resources to move on.
Acceptance is so important because it allows us to validate our emotions. Resistance creates inner tension, which only adds to the stress, exhaustion, and overwhelming feelings. With acceptance comes validation, and with validation comes peace.
If you waste less time feeling bad about feeling bad, and practice a little compassion for yourself, you’ll be able to move back out of that malaise and into productivity again.
GET CHATTY WITH YOURSELF, ASK A FEW QUESTIONS
Our minds are quirky supercomputers, and science has shown that it is often better to ask yourself questions instead of issuing commands if you want to be more effective. Just change the way you speak to yourself, and you’ll see an increase in efficacy.
If you’re prone to shout “Get off your butt!” or “Get to work!” at yourself when you’re feeling down you’ve probably noticed your butt’s new-found love of the couch. Next time you find yourself feeling unmotivated try asking yourself some questions first and see what it takes to get unstuck.
Here are a few examples:
What am I willing to do RIGHT NOW?
What did it take the last time I felt this way to get moving?
What if I (insert some reward options for the desired behavior – FOLLOW THROUGH LATER!)…?
What will it take for me to get this done?
When you engage your brain in a dialogue vs pushing it around you’re actually engaging different parts of your brain. The problem-solving parts of your mind will power-up the creative sections of your brain. The approach vs withdrawal mechanisms in your mind will engage you with solutions. By asking for input from your mind you will turn on the solution-seeking circuits in your neuro circuitry and before you know it you’ll be on your way to solutions and action again.
THE NUMBER ONE INDICATOR OF HAPPINESS
Studies on workers by psychologist out of UC Berkley found the number one predictor of happiness at work was a sense of PROGRESS.
Not wage, not efficacy, not the feeling of success or being needed …progress.
When your pesky negative self-talk starts to make you feel bad, instead of falling down the rabbit’s hole reframe your situation in terms of progress. If you’re striving for more optimism, and find yourself feeling pessimistic about a particular outcome, take a mental step back and look at the bigger picture. Before now you may not have even acknowledged you were being pessimistic. Now you may have the vernacular and outlook to realize what you’re doing. That’s progress! Maybe you’ve gone a step further and told yourself you wanted to respond differently than usual. That’s progress!
Practice the pause when you start to feel your emotions taking a spiral downward and find some way to insert PROGRESS into your inner dialogue. Stop striving for perfection, and instead start striving for progress.
If you only push the needle toward you goal by 1% every day, by the end of the year you’ll have pushed 365%!
Just these few reframing techniques for your negative emotions can go a long way to create major changes in your mindset and improve your productivity and success.
ACTIONABLE STEPS TO BUILD A POSITIVE MINDSET BY GROWING POSITIVE EMOTIONS
So we’ve talked about how to deal with negative emotions. But a positive mindset is more than just being less grumpy, angry or pessimistic. It’s about embracing and building a more positive and optimistic way of seeing the world. Here are some actionable steps you can take to help you do just that:
GET REAL AND PERSONAL
It’s always a good idea to have a foundational understanding of yourself. It helps build compassion and gives direction when you want to improve yourself. Set aside some alone time to get real, deep and try to identify why you have been in a negative mindset. What thoughts do you have when you identify something as bad, instead of neutral or good? Do you have certain beliefs within yourself about your worth, or the worth of others? Do you feel empowered by seeing others as less-than yourself? When you find your answers, get real with yourself.
There’s an old Hindu proverb that says:
“Everyone you meet in life is climbing the mountain. The only one wasting their time is the one running around telling everyone else they’re doing it wrong.”
If you honestly harbor beliefs that create a ‘better than’ vs ‘worse than’ judgmental dichotomy about the people you meet, you may want to address the underlying insecurities about that mislead notion. It’s a great place to start some real personal growth.
The importance and benefit of gratitude in life has been researched and proven ad nauseum. There is enough scientific evidence to the benefits of practicing gratitude to fill entire libraries.
People who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more fulfilled, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
Find some ways to express gratitude for the things in your life, in your personality, and your mind on a DAILY BASIS.
Some practical ways to practice gratitude may include:
Try to write down some things you are grateful for every day. Three is easy, once you get to five or more it starts to take more thought. There’s no hard and fast rules. Being grateful for you dog is as valuable as being grateful for your new car.
When you feel like you are in a bad mood it is the best time to jot down lists of things you’re grateful for. Gratitude is a great way to turn around a negative mood, to short circuit social comparisons and to foster good feelings about life in general.
A simple but effective way to start your day would be to list three things you’re grateful for before you even leave your bed in the morning.
A daily meditative practice is paramount to practices you can put into your life that will have real and long-lasting positive change.
Meditation doesn’t have to be the deep mind-silencing practices the monks in eastern cultures use. Meditation can be creative visualizations, blockage clearing visualizations or the similar.
Meditation is key to help with overthinking. It lowers stress and can help you be more positive.
Meditating for just twenty minutes a day has not only an affect on your mood, but also your body and health.
CLEARING OUT TOXICITY
Cutting out negative and toxic people from your life will make a huge difference. Cutting out businesses that foster toxicity is equally important. Find your own definition of toxicity, and if there’s something in your life that makes you feel bad, that eats away at your positivity, or makes you feel drained and withdrawn, do what you can to remove it.
Life is a choice. This life is your life, so live it under your own terms.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVITY AND STIMULATION
After you cut out toxic people and your negative past you should find more positive things to surround yourself with. This can be more positive people, more positive hobbies, more positive circumstances, community, employment and the like. Find your joy, and fill your life with it as much as possible.
*A great big WORD OF WARNING: Affirmations only work for people already in a positive mindset, and are detrimental to people not there yet. It seems the first thing you hear when talking about positive mindsets is to use daily affirmations that tell your life is good, so you start to believe it. The truth is that if you don’t believe it to begin with, affirmations will actually have a negative effect on your mindset. You will tell yourself that life isn’t great, and then your mind will fill in the gaps of every experience you’ve ever had where life wasn’t great to support your belief that life isn’t great. So if you are just starting out on this positive mindset journey, or don’t like the ideas of affirmations then SKIP THEM. It’s for the best.
However, if you find yourself looking for positive motivation and inspiration to surround yourself with then affirmations are a great tool for you.
Repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life. The constant reminder of the sunshine you’ve found within yourself is powerful and efficacious. Those posters with motivational quotes are a billion dollar business for a reason. They work!
Sometimes the best and easiest way of rewriting your mental narrative is just to repeat positive affirmations as often as you can.
If you tell yourself that “I am strong and successful” enough times, and you honestly believe it or believe that it’s possible, your mind will accept it as true and change will happen in your life.
While positive affirmations are implanted at the surface levels of your consciousness, with your self-talk, there is nothing that says they can’t filter down and be adopted as your new truth if you believe their possibility as being true.
I may not be 100% sure about how strong and successful I am RIGHT NOW, but I may see myself as being strong and successful deep inside. By repeating the affirmation that “I am strong and successful” to myself in front of a mirror, I may pull those traits to the surface. If I walk the strong and successful walk, there will be gas in the tank, and a truth behind each step.
In the meantime, if you’re not 100% sure of the truth of the affirmation you’re using, you may want to reframe how you say it so you don’t cause yourself to feel WORSE in the meantime. If you don’t truly, deeply believe an affirmation at both a cognitive and emotional level try to effectively re-frame your thinking by considering who you are becoming, focusing on your progress–the current track or path you’re on. Maybe your “I am strong and successful” affirmation can sound more like “I am growing stronger and getting more successful EVERY DAY” instead.
RELEASE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS INTO THE PAST
Our lives are simply a narrative we’ve strung together of past events and the emotions we’ve tied to them. If you keep finding yourself reliving, experiencing and ruminating about your past try talking to someone about your experiences, writing them down or drawing them. These are all good ways to release thoughts and emotions.
There is nothing so far away as a minute ago. You can’t change what’s done. So work to find ways that help you release the emotions tied to past events back into the past so they no longer haunt you.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Take deep breaths. Ask yourself, “How can I best be kind to myself right now?” Try to do one act of kindness for yourself, however small, at least once a day. Do your nails, wear your comfy shoes, forgive yourself for your mistake, allow yourself to take a nap, decide not to answer the phone when you’re eating…these are just tiny examples of one big idea.
It is perfectly okay to take a mental health day every now and then.
REST WHEN YOU NEED TO AND GET ENOUGH SLEEP
If you feel tired, rest. Our culture values robotic manic productivity. Which is neither smart nor sustainable. Choose to disconnect from what you think you SHOULD do and connect with what you WANT TO DO instead. If you’re tired, allow yourself some time to rest.
Forcing yourself to work, socialize, or do everyday activities when your mind doesn’t have the stamina will only tire you out further and extend the time you feel tired longer.
Getting enough sleep isn’t a suggestion, it’s a prescription. The importance of good sleep for your physical and mental wellbeing has been beaten to death. You need sleep. Your body needs sleep. If you get enough sleep you’ll be happier and healthier. So aim for 8 hours.
Turn off the phone before you get into bed. Wear comfy pajamas or nothing at all. Invest in a great pillow, a comfy mattress and pay your life the service it merits. Good sleep leads to good living.
TALK TO YOURSELF
Although a surprisingly stigmatized gesture, talking aloud to yourself is actually incredibly healing. There is something about vocalizing your grievances that helps you process difficult emotions on a bad day.
LESS PHONE TIME
Saying no to screen time means saying yes to something else. It allows you to be more intentional with your time, keeps you focused, and pushes you to face things rather than avoiding them. We’ve devolved into a species consumed by electronics. Remind yourself that living is done in the moment, not on the internet, and put your phone (or tablet) away.
GET OUTSIDE MORE
In Japan they refer to a walk in the woods as ‘forest bathing’. We are an animal that evolved in nature, and whether we understand the necessity and nuance of it or not, we NEED to have moments in nature as often as possible for our overall wellbeing.
There are so many benefits to getting outside including reduced stress, improved memory, sharper thinking, mental clarity, and improved mental health.
DECLUTTER YOUR LIFE
There is an old adage that the state of your office, or desk, or bedroom reflects the state of your mind. If you have heaps and piles of stuff all over the place it’s a safe bet that your mind needs a good cleaning as well.
Decluttering relieves your mind of responsibility, makes room for growth and expansion and is generally stress-relieving.
You can find great resources online on how and why to declutter.
Decluttering doesn’t just happen in your closet. You also need to declutter relationships, beliefs, habits, and thought patterns.
Set aside some time to focus on a solid decluttering of your home, office, car and life. Then reap the rewards of a calm mind and environment.
SOCIAL COMPARISONS ARE SOUL KILLERS
We do it every day and don’t even realize we’re doing it. Our minds are indiscriminate in their comparisons as well. Meaning that our minds are comparing us to the people we see on the television, as well as the people we work with, and the people we see online all in the same way.
There’s a reason that social media is the number one cause for depression among people who use it.
Comparison destroys your sense of identity. It destroys your feelings of self-worth. You will rarely stack up against the people your mind is comparing you to, because that’s not what social comparison is designed to do.
Social comparison makes you no longer feel that you’re good enough. It will stop you from creating, striving, thriving, and living.
How do we stop social comparison? The best way to defeat it is with gratitude. Seriously being grateful for what you have and who you are will defeat social comparisons every time.
The next best bet is to invest in experiences and not material items.
The third best method for fighting social comparisons is being discriminating about what you allow into your mind. Turn off the Kardashian shows. Turn off your social media. Socialize with people who value experiences and have positive mindsets. If you allow crap into your mind, you’ll feel crappy.
MAKE A LIFE YOU ENJOY
Your life is what YOU MAKE IT. You may want to blame circumstances, your past, or other people for the way that your life is. Unfortunately that’s all excuses.
You will enjoy your life better and others will enjoy being around you more if you consciously create a life you actually enjoy living. This rubs off on other people and it has an overwhelmingly positive effect on all aspects of your life.
“YOU CHOOSE WHO AND WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE WITH EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY.”
I published an article that can help you find your life’s true north and forge a life with intention. You can find the article here:
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
This is a common phrase that you may have heard before. “Fake it till you make it” implies that if you pretend to be a certain way, it will eventually become a reality. As you’re working your way to building a more positive mindset and outlook, fake it.
The simple act of having a smile on your face actually leads to feelings of happiness.
The moment you consciously decide you’d rather be more optimistic or positive in a situation – celebrate! You made PROGRESS!
If you push toward your goals of a positive mindset in even tiny ways, by “faking it”, you WILL achieve success.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
It’s important to set goals and aim high; however, it’s just as important to keep your expectations manageable for yourself.
Remember we already talked about progress. If you’re setting goals so big that you can’t celebrate any progress for the next 3 years, you will fail to achieve them.
So break down your goals into manageable levels, and keep a rein on your expectations. If you are more accepting of outcomes, instead of dictatorial about them, you’ll be a lot less disappointed. Life has a way of working out how it’s meant too, and not exactly how we expect it to.
EXPECTATIONS ARE THE BANE TO A HAPPY EXISTENCE.
The beautiful thing about building a positive mindset is how good it feels inside while you’re doing it. It may be hard to imagine what optimism feels like, or finding daily joy in simple things, but when it starts happening for you, it will blow your mind.
A positive mindset will set you up for greater success in business, in love and in life. So make a commitment to yourself to start taking the steps that will get you there today.
In six months you’ll be glad you started today.
© 2018 Vital.Living.Life