What’s your New Year’s resolution? Year after year, and usually right after a period of excess, we sit ourselves down and promise that this time we will lose weight, stop eating chocolate, be more mindful, take up a fitness class. While on the surface these resolutions appear positive, they are steeped in negativity. They are essentially saying: we’re not good enough as we are right now. Invariably New Year’s resolutions last all of a couple of months before we fall back into old habits. This is because we’ve not changed our mind-set. It remains negative. So this year, let’s choose a radically different path. Let’s make our New Year’s resolution a deeper practice of positive thinking.
What is Positive Thinking?
When you think positive, you focus on the bright side of life. You find the silver lining in any situation. You expect positive outcomes and anticipate happiness. In other words, you see the glass half full, rather than half empty. How do you see your glass?
Let’s take a concrete example. A person smiles at you. Do you think how nice it is to be smiled at, and respond with a grin? Or do you wonder whether that person is making fun of you and rush to check your reflection? When someone pays you a compliment, do you gracefully and joyfully accept it, or do you wonder what the person’s motives are?
Another characteristic of positive thinkers is the belief that obstacles or difficulties can be overcome. On the other hand, someone who has a tendency to think negatively will often believe that things just won’t work out. Positive thinking helps you to approach life with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. Negative thinking has the opposite effect, because the future appears bleak and hopeless (the train is always late, the promotion is always given to someone else, the weight will never come off, etc).
Negative Self Talk
Negative self-talk is damaging—it will suck the joy out of your life. If you always expect and anticipate the worse—from people, places, situations—then you will unconsciously look for proof to support those beliefs. On the other hand, when you expect good, your subconscious will be looking for the positives, the silver linings, the positive in whatever situation you find yourself in.
For example, if you often think or say to yourself “People always cut me off on the road”, your subconscious will magnify all the times that has happened, while conveniently forgetting the journeys that are incident-free, and you’ll feel angry and frustrated every time. But if your thought is “My car journeys are easy, safe and hassle-free”, your subconscious will focus on that, and times when you are cut off will be exceptions you can calmly deal with.
Exercise your Positivity Muscle
Thinking positive is possible even if you’ve got a tendency to view the glass half empty. It’s just like your muscles. If you’re used to thinking negatively, that habit is strong, the reflex to think that way comes easily. But with a little perseverance, you can quickly strengthen your positive thought muscle.
- Help Someone
- No One is Perfect
The first step is awareness. Watch your thoughts. Be aware of your internal reactions and dialogue. Many of us have fallen into negative thought patterns that are so ingrained we don’t even notice, or believe there’s another way to think and react. Notice what thoughts pop up throughout the day, in different situations. By bringing awareness to your thoughts, you can begin to change them.
Reframe your thinking. Once you begin to be aware of your patterns, you can start reframing your thinking. Next time you catch yourself projecting negatively, stop. Mentally say to yourself “enough”, or “no”, or “I choose another way”, and reframe that thought more positively. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve slipped up and had a slice of cake, you may be thinking “I’m a failure, I’ll never reach my ideal weight”. That thought makes you feel guilty and less likely to stick to a healthy diet. But if instead you think to yourself “I’m on my weight loss journey, I am moving towards better health, I forgive myself for slipping up and I will find strategies to avoid that,” you’ll feel good, and much more likely to get back on your healthy eating plan the next day. Anytime you catch a negative thought, practice reframing it. You’ll soon find yourself automatically thinking positive.
Be grateful. Often we forget how lucky we are, how many wonderful things we have in our lives. Running water, a comfortable home, a loving family, supportive friends, being able to spend time with our children, the nutritious food in the fridge—what are you thankful for? Start your day by listing 3 to 5 things you feel grateful for. Do this every day for a week, and see how much more positive you feel. The more grateful we are, the more we focus on the good in our lives, the more positive we feel, and the more goodness we attract into our world.
We are often stuck in our heads, focused on our worries and our problems. One of the best ways to snap out of that is to help someone out. Donate food, clothes or some of your time to a charity. Support a friend or family member through a tough time. Helping others not only takes the focus away from your problems, it makes you feel good too.
Remember that no one is perfect, and that’s ok. If your spouse irritates you, if a driver cuts you off, if a colleague criticizes you, remember that they are also human and going through struggles. Be more ready to forgive and not take things so personally. Practice this and you’ll find it becomes much easier to see the positives in others, as well as yourself.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking is powerful—it has the power to affect our lives deeply. As the saying goes:
“Your thoughts become your words;
your words become your actions;
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your character;
your character becomes your destiny.”
Let your destiny be a positive one, filled with joy, compassion, health, success and happiness. Forget the restrictive New Year’s resolutions and instead focus on creating a positive mind-set, and a 2017 filled with love!