How to Build a Positive Thinking Mindset
A mindset is essentially your emotional response to normal daily activities. This is important for health and quality of life.You may be unable to change your job, your family, where you live, or other major constraints that may underlie negative thinking. But you can approach life’s frustrations with positivity by challenging negative thoughts and improving your outlook on life.
Challenging Negative Thoughts
Identify your negative thoughts.Cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners believe that we have the ability to change our behavior by changing our thoughts. Thoughts are the catalyst that lead to behaviors. The first step in controlling your thoughts is awareness.
Keep a thought journal.If you have trouble identifying your negative thoughts, consider keeping a thought journal. In this journal, write down the way that you perceive different things: yourself, your work or school, your parents, politics, the environment, and so on.
- This will force you to pay attention to the critical voice in your head and listen to what it’s saying.
- Take a few minutes every day to recall times when you thought something negative.
Quiet your inner critic by focusing on the positive.When you hear the voice in your head say something negative, take a pause and substitute the negative for something positive.
- For example, if your mind keeps saying how much you hate your principal, you can say, “This is a tough job and he’s doing the best he can.”
Keep a gratitude journal.Record instances that occur in your life that you are grateful for. Express them in a journal, letter, or other kind of writing. Write down some of the things that you’re thankful for. Write in this journal a couple of times every week.
- Research shows that a gratitude journal is more effective when the person writes about a handful of instances in depth, rather than a laundry list. Spend a few minutes reliving and savoring these moments that you write about.
- The gratitude journal will help you remember the positive things in your life.
Practice positive imagery.Imagine yourself in successful scenarios with as much detail as possible.Keep the negative thoughts like “I can’t do this” at bay. Instead, focus on how you can do something: “I can finish this project. I will ask for a little help and it will get done.”
- When you strive to be confident in your activities and outlook, you will increase your potential for actually achieving your goals.
Improving Your Outlook
Find the positive side of life’s challenges.Keep moving forward and don’t focus on how difficult life can be. Think of the adventures you’re having in life because of these challenges. If things were straight and smooth, your life might be pretty uninteresting. Think about the ways you’ve overcome challenges and become a better person because of them.
- For example, if you’re mad that you were laid off, think about how you have been able to spend valuable time with your children.
Alter your reactions to life’s frustrations.We can often feel like we’re surrounded by life’s frustrations. Perhaps you lost weight and gained it back, or it rained at your neighborhood barbecue. When we get bogged down by frustrating events, we start to notice and get frustrated by minor things, like not finding a parking spot or hitting all the red lights in traffic. But if you alter your reaction to these frustrations, they won’t have such a strong hold over you.
- Compare the current frustration to similar ones in the past. Will this frustration make a difference in the long run, or are you wasting your energy getting worked up over nothing?
- For example, let’s say you are unhappy making sandwiches for a job. Put some artfulness into it, arranging the meats colorfully with the vegetables. Think of something nice to say to the customer. Ask the manager if there is something else you can control about the environment, like the music.
- If you hate traffic, plan ahead and listen to your favorite music in your car.
- Take action to change the frustrating event. If you hate going to work, you might think this way because you want to have a different career. Make a change to fix the situation.
Take time to relax.Oftentimes, we get wrapped up in negativity because we are stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or angry. When we allow ourselves time to relax and recoup, we can find space to tackle problems with a positive attitude. Set aside time every day for yourself to do something relaxing, whether that’s reading a book, watching your favorite TV show, or talking on the phone with a friend.
Do activities you’re good at.Frustration and negativity often occur because we feel a lack of efficacy, or a lack of success for our efforts. A productive response is to do something you are good at. When you feel good about your abilities, your mindset will improve in the positive direction. Increase how often you do your favorite activities.
- For example, if you like knitting, take a break and work on a knitting project. You will get positive energy from this activity because you can see your progress. This positive energy will then influence how you feel about other projects.
Avoid media that causes negative thinking.Research shows that negative thinking is supported by media with negative comparisons.If you notice media making you feel negative, one approach is to avoid that media. If you found yourself frequently comparing yourself to a certain model or athlete, avoid magazines, shows, or games that feature them.
- Even temporary exposure to media depicting ideal images has been shown to negatively impact self-esteem and self-image.
Try humor.Having fun and laughing can boost your mood and increase your positive reactions to things and people.
- Attend a comedy show, watch comedy television, or read a book of jokes. This will help build a sense of humor that is associated with playfulness and positivity.
Interacting With Others
Surround yourself with positive people.When a friend is negative, his negativity can have the tendency of rubbing off on you. For example, if this person always talks negatively about your school, you might start to think negatively too. This is because this is all you focus on. If you think about the positive aspects of your school, you’ll start to see those more clearly.
- Build a network of people who approach life with positivity. Spend less time with those who bring you down.
Be positive about other people.Sometimes feeling negative is pervasive and affects all our interactions. Negativity can make people not want to spend time with you, adding to a cycle of feeling negative. A way to break out of this cycle and build a positive mindset is to practice social support. Expanding positive comments towards others can help you build a positive thinking mindset.
- For example, you can help someone feel good about themselves by recognizing him and pointing out something positive.Compliment him on how well he can sing, for example.
- Being nice to others is associated with positive outcomes in family, health and career,which will help build your positive-thinking mindset.
Show interest and pride in others.When you interact with others, you can help them feel positively. This will, in turn, increase your own positive mindset. Increase positive thinking in others by showing interest and reinforcing the pride you feel.
- When you get together with a friend, spend the time talking about what’s new with her. Steer the conversation away from yourself and focus on listening to her.
Take note of when you help others.Write down the ways that you have helped someone else and contributed to his or her wellbeing. It sounds somewhat gratuitous or self-serving. But research shows this kind of behavior can help you feel like you’re making a difference by staying positive.
Join a social group.Belonging to a social group can help reduce negative thinking. Religious affiliation can, for many people, cultivate a positive mindset.
Having a Healthy Lifestyle
Get enough sleep.It is much easier to handle life’s frustrations and stay positive when you’re not running on empty. Your body needs rest to recover, which will help your mind work more productively and positively. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
- If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try dimming the lights a little while before bed. Turn off all screens (computer, TV, phone) at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. This will help your mind settle down for sleep.
Eat well.Feed your body with good fuel that will help you maintain a positive attitude. Avoid processed and fried foods. Eat lots of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole-grains.
- Eat foods rich in vitamins that are known for their mood-boosting qualities. These include selenium, such as grains, beans, seafood and lean meats; omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and walnuts; and folate, such as leafy greens and legumes.
Drink plenty of water.Negative moods have been linked to dehydration. Make sure you are getting enough water throughout the day. Aim for 72 ounces of fluids (for women) or 104 ounces of fluids (for men).
- Some of your daily fluid intake does occur through the foods you eat. It’s a good idea to shoot for about 8 eight-ounce cups of water every day.
Exercise regularly.As you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals linked to positive feelings. Regular exercise can ward off stress, depression, and other ailments.
- Get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise three times a week.
QuestionWhat should I do if I think too much about past bad experiences?
M.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingM.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingExpert AnswerIf you have experienced abuse, neglect, or even witnessed a tragic event, I suggest that you seek counseling with a counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders or PTSD. Even if you do not have an anxiety disorder, a counselor can help you manage your thoughts and responses.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop feeling nostalgic?
M.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingM.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingExpert AnswerNostalgia is an interesting mix of longing and favorable remembering. Nostalgia is a completely normal experience and I wouldn’t focus so much an ridding yourself of these memories.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do if I know someone who is considering suicide?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRemind them of this: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. No matter how dark and nasty it is, the world will be there tomorrow. The sun rises and sets equally on everyone. Sometimes people need to be reminded that life is a challenge, and that some are easy challenges, and some are harder. Look at the example of those that survived tough situations, like Nelson Mandela or Ghandi. They found inner peace, inner strength, and faith. Encourage your friend to talk to a mental health professional.Thanks!
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Sources and Citations
- Gilbert, Stephanie; Kelloway, E. Kevin. “Positive psychology and the healthy workplace.” In Day, Arla [Ed]; Kelloway, E. Kevin [Ed]; Hurrell, Joseph J Jr. [Ed]. (2014). Workplace well-being: How to build psychologically healthy workplaces. (pp. 50-71). xviii, 338 pp.Wiley-Blackwell.
- Langens, Thomas A; Morth, Sascha. “Repressive coping and the use of passive and active coping strategies.” Personality and Individual Differences. Vol.35(2), Jul 2003, pp. 461-473.
- Mulgrew, K. E; Volcevski-Kostas, D. “Short term exposure to attractive and muscular singers in music video clips negatively affects men's body image and mood.” Body Image. Vol.9(4), Sep 2012, pp. 543-546.
- Turner, S., Hamilton, H., Jacobs, M., Angood, L., & Hovde Dwyer, D. (1997). The influence of fashion magazines on the body image satisfaction of college women: An exploratory analysis. Adolescence, 32(127), 603-614.
- Proyer, Rene T. “A psycho-linguistic approach for studying adult playfulness: A replication and extension toward relations with humor.” The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied. Vol.148(6), Nov 2014, pp. 717-735.
- Lind, Annemette Bondo; Risoer, Mette Bech; Nielsen, Klaus; Delmar, Charlotte; Christensen, Morten Bondo; Lomborg, Kirsten. “Longing for existential recognition: A qualitative study of everyday concerns for people with somatoform disorders.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Vol.76(2), Feb 2014, pp. 99-104.
- Jensen-Campbell, Lauri A; Knack, Jennifer M; Gomez, Haylie L. “The psychology of nice people.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass. Vol.4(11), Nov 2010, pp. 1042-1056.
- Hu, Xiaoxiao; Kaplan, Seth. “Is "feeling good" good enough? Differentiating discrete positive emotions at work.” Journal of Organizational Behavior. Vol.36(1), Jan 2015, pp. 39-58.
- Kaczmarek, Lukasz D; Kashdan, Todd B; Drazkowski, Dariusz; Enko, Jolanta; Kosakowski, Michal; Szaefer, Agata; Bujacz, Aleksandra. “Why do people prefer gratitude journaling over gratitude letters? The influence of individual differences in motivation and personality on web-based interventions.” Personality and Individual Differences. Vol.75 Mar 2015, pp. 1-6.
- Burris, Christopher T; Petrican, Raluca. “Religion, negative emotions, and regulation. In Saroglou, Vassilis [Ed]. (2014). Religion, personality, and social behavior. (pp. 96-122). x, 430 pp. New York, NY, US: Psychology Press; US.
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