Cultivating a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude is something you can learn. Even when things are though, or the world seems bleak, or you’re worried about something, there is a way to hold on to hope.

Finding a different point of view

It’s normal to feel negative emotions – they can actually help you be more rational – but they should not dominate your self-talk. Do you find yourself putting yourself down? Do you often feel like you’re not enough? Any negative beliefs you might have of yourself are not facts. If you feel like you are unlovable, it does not mean that you are unlovable. If you’ve told yourself these things for years, it can be difficult to break the pattern – but not impossible.

Negative self-talk makes it hard for you to see the good things about yourself or your life. If you are in recovery, or receiving any number of behavioral health services, holding these negative beliefs can make your challenges seem even harder – causing you to lose motivation. The good news is, you can start cultivating a positive attitude and learn to love yourself.

You can train yourself to have a more positive outlook. You can change those negative beliefs you hold about yourself into positive ones: I am loved, I am worthy, I belong here, I can do this. We have gathered some tips to get you started on a path to a happier, healthier you.

Learn how you think

Before you can start changing harmful thought patterns, you need to recognize what they are and when you have them. There are a couple of ways you can start learning about how you think:

Let yourself feel. Whatever thoughts might arise, allow them to come. Teach yourself to let go of the negative or unhelpful thoughts – by trying not to think about something, you might end up dwelling on it instead. Realize that you are not your thoughts.

Keep a journal. A journal is a great way to learn more about your own thought patterns. Write down your thought, what emotion it evoked, and what event caused that thought. When something happens, what is the first thing you think about? How do you feel when you have that thought? Are you happy, sad, excited, upset?

Do a fact check. Do your thoughts and emotions match the reality of the situation? Or are your emotions making a situation seem worse than it is? Concentrate on the facts of the situation, and try to look at it from an outsider’s point of view. Ask yourself what you would do if someone else was in your situation.

Cultivate positivity

Now that you know how and when your negative thoughts happen, how do you begin to change? It won’t happen overnight, but there are some steps you can take to make a lasting change.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Maybe you find yourself dwelling in negative thoughts, or you recognize a thought pattern you’re trying to change. Don’t judge yourself for having it. Recognize it’s what you have believed, for whatever reason, and that it’s just that – a belief, not a fact.

Stop the spiral. One negative thought easily flows into the next, which flows into the next, and so on. Realize when this is happening and find a way to stop yourself from spiraling. For some it’s a physical cue like snapping their fingers, for others it might be a mantra. Try simply saying “enough” or “stop” in your mind, or out loud, and see how that makes you feel.

Re-frame your thoughts. Changing your language changes how you feel about things. Try changing a thought like “this will never work out” to “this is difficult” – better yet, add “but I can do it.” Stay away from thinking in absolutes – avoid words like never, always, or none. Use positive affirmations whenever you can.

Think positive. This sounds like non-advice, but our brains tend to frame our experiences with what we think about most. If you are concentrating on not thinking negatively, you may find yourself stuck on those negative thoughts. Try flipping it around – instead of thinking in the therms of don’t or should, shift your self-talk to do, and will. For example, “I do have control over my thoughts” or “I will be more positive.”

Challenge yourself. Once you recognize a negative thought, sit down and write down your thought process. What are the possible outcomes? What’s the worst case scenario? Be specific. After you’ve analyzed the situation, challenge your negative belief – for example, if you’re avoiding going out with friends, go out and see what happens. If you end up having fun, take the experience and extend it to other things in your life – what might you be missing out on because of negative thought patterns?

Practice gratitude. Each day, list things you are grateful for. It can be anything – things that happened that day, things you have in your life, things you are looking forward to. It’s alright if at first it’s difficult to come up with anything. Start with one and work your way up from there. By concentrating on the things that you have, and not worrying about the things you don’t, you can find joy in your life.

And remember.. it’s a journey.

Changing the way you think takes time and patience. You will have good days, and you will have bad days.

The trick is to keep going.