– Written by Scott Orth
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude” – William James, Philosopher and Psychologist
Negativity is pervasive. It holds you down and takes others down with it. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four major types of negative thinking:
- Filtering: psychologically screening out the encouraging aspects of complex situations
- Personalizing: Automatically blaming yourself every time something bad happens
- Catastrophizing: Always expecting the worst possible outcome
- Polarizing : type of thinking that defines failure as any result short of perfection
The problem is, these negative thoughts are bad for your health; both mental and physical. Negativity acts like a black cloud. It slows your ability to react, makes you sluggish and often uncaring, can cause additional stress-related issues, and has a high propensity to lead to addictions and even make physical diseases worse.
For instance, it is believed that the extent of severity of physical ailments like eczema, psoriasis, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart disease are all directly related to mental attitude. Put simply, the more negative you are, the worse your health will be.
But negativity also takes a toll on your social life and success (and happiness) at work.
Studies, like those done by Positive Psychology Researcher Barbara Fredrickson, show how negative thoughts and positive thoughts determine contradictory outcomes of our actions, our work, and inevitably our lives.
What it boils down to is that when you are consumed by negative thoughts you tend to close down. You rarely think of things outside of stresses and problems. You often have a give-up attitude and do only enough to get by. And you are less likely to exert any real effort in many normal aspects of life and work. Not exactly a recipe for a happy and productive workplace… or for an ability to excel in business or social settings.
The Other Side
Now let’s look at positive thinkers. Positive thinkers are uplifting and optimistic, and they see a world of potential and opportunity. This way of thinking often propels them forward, giving them far greater opportunities for success in relationships, studies, work, and life in general.
Positive thinkers also enjoy a plethora of health benefits such as increased life span, lower rates of depression, resistance to the common cold, lower levels of distress, reduced risk of heart disease, better and stronger mental health and self-worth and well-being, and better coping skills during hard times.
It seems obvious to me which path to take, positivity or negativity… but then I’m a positive person so it’s pretty easy for me to see that “opportunity”.
But thinking positive isn’t always super easy for everyone. With that in mind, here are 8 tips to becoming more positive and enhancing your relationships, work, and life in general.
1) Start a Positive Morning Routine – My morning routine starts off with a quick must-do… take the dogs out to go to the bathroom. Then I spend about 30 minutes on “me” before I go to work. I start by making my coffee. I enjoy this alone time in the kitchen while my mind starts to ponder what I’ve got coming up for the day.
Once done, I sit on the couch with my coffee. I take 3 slow, deep breaths – and then I just look out the window for a bit. Some mornings its only 20-30 seconds… others it might be 5 minutes or more of just enjoying the nature out my window. I happen to have a nice view, so this has become my happy place. Everyone’s environment may be different. Find what works for you.
The rest of my “me” time is usually spent reading an article of interest or (recently) a little meditation.
2) Be Thankful – You’re alive and you’ve been gifted another day, so be thankful. If you have a tendency to be negative, it may be harder to come up with things to be thankful for. But take a little walk through your life. Your parents, your kids, siblings, friends, neighbors, an upcoming trip, the weather outside… there is always something to be thankful for.
For me, I tie this into my morning routine, in addition to my family, health, and all the big life things – when I’m looking out the window I’m simply thankful for being blessed with a life that many people in the world would love to have (that’s not a brag… pretty much every one of you reading this should feel this way, knowing the turmoil in other parts of the world).
3) Meditation – People who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not. Meditation has many scientifically proven benefits, like increased brain volume, increased cortical thickness, and increased brain grey matter, to name a few (no joke – the list of benefits for overall health is extensive); but just these few benefits improve attention, memory, thought process, self-control, and positive emotions.
But beyond science and testing… have you tried it? It’s amazing! The focus you begin to feel, the relaxation, and the ability to control crazy random thoughts flying through your head (or is that just me?) is greatly improved.
I am new to meditation myself and have only recently decided to make it a daily routine. For more information on meditation, Google it – there’s a world of information on how great it is for your mind, body, and soul… as well as information on how to practice meditation.
4) Write it down – Just like with memory, our minds connect things more powerfully when we write them down. In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, the conclusion showed that people who wrote down positive experiences on a daily basis not only improved their overall mood in comparison to a control group; but they even experienced fewer illnesses than the control group.
I recommend doing this activity on your lunch hour or sometime midday. You should have already started your day well with a morning routine, a little meditation, and/or thankful thoughts. But it’s easy to slide back into a negative pattern throughout the day. So some time midday, spend 10 – 15 minutes writing down positive thoughts or a positive story.
This could be a memory of a vacation, or thoughts of a loved person in your life. Whatever it is, try to spend at least 10 minutes writing down these happy events or positive thoughts. Doing this action signals your brain and begins to change the way you think. If you have the ability to find a quiet place and zone in while you’re writing, you might just find it has a meditation-like result where you come out of it feeling lighter and happier.
5) Take Control for Yourself. No, I didn’t mean “of yourself”. I mean “for yourself”. You have the ability to choose how you perceive the world and those around you. It’s up to you whether or not you allow others’ issues to darken your day, or if you’ll rise above it and seek positivity in every situation. Part of this process is removing blame. Blame of others as well as blame of yourself.
You can only be you. You don’t have the ability to control the thoughts or actions of others. If someone does something or says something, it’s up to you to decide if you’ll get caught up in finger pointing and blaming, or if you’ll just focus on what you can control… you! But what about blaming yourself? A bad decision, a failed diet… maybe letting yourself be negative and then blaming yourself for not stopping it (see how this can be a vicious circle?).
Just as you shouldn’t blame others, don’t blame yourself either. That doesn’t mean don’t accept fault. If something is your fault, accept it fully and completely. But then… Let it be. Let it fade into the past where it belongs. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to fail. Throw away blame, and put your focus on moving forward and being happy. To do so means you are taking control “for” yourself to prosper and be a happier person.
6) Destroy Negative Thoughts – When a negative thought creeps in your mind, replace it with a positive one. Find your “happy place” and push the negative thoughts out.
I am a business owner and an entrepreneur, which comes with a great deal of stress and anxiety. As successful as I’ve been, there are times when I don’t know if one of my businesses will survive another month. There are far too many potential problems and risks in business to list here; but let me tell you, if I let negativity sink in, I would be lost to the darkness forever. There is simply no lack of negativity in running your own businesses. So I’ve gotten very good at taking a deep breath or two, and then focusing on positive thoughts and positive energy.
Your beliefs may differ from my own; but often times if I just can’t find a certain positive thought for replacement, I choose to go into a few minutes of prayer. I’m not hugely religious… but I can tell you that sitting in a quiet place and saying a prayer is very much like meditation… and 100% of the time I come out of that prayer with a better outlook on what problems I am faced with.
It may take some practice. You might even need to think up a couple go-to happy thoughts in advance (maybe write a couple down and keep them with you). Then when you feel negative energy sinking in, or you are taken over by a negative thought – practice replacing those feelings or thoughts with positive ones.
7) Let others Just “be” If Nancy across the office was rude to you earlier, realize she has her own problems. Forgive and have empathy. You’ll be surprised how much happier you feel when you allow others to just be who they are (even when it doesn’t make sense to you).
This one isn’t easy. It’s our nature to think others should feel or act just like us. When they don’t, we tend to get indigent and offended. But our goal in positive thinking should be to realize that every person – is their own person. The way they handle stress may be different than you. The way they handle social situations may be different than you. And the way they act out (or don’t act out) may be different than you… and that’s okay.
When we stop trying to fit everyone into one “type” we start to appreciate the differences in people, which can create some real positive change in ourselves.
8) Spread the Love Positivity is contagious – spread it!! Have you ever been in a bad mood, or just not feeling great? Then you walk into a party, gathering, meeting – whatever it is, and 10 minutes later you’re laughing and having a great time? You caught the positivity bug!
Studies show that positive emotions light up your prefrontal activity which increases creative thinking, information processing, and cognitive flexibility. It may seem obvious, but positive emotions also make us more socially engaging and more productive.
We don’t need a scientific or sociological study to prove this… just think about your own relationships or social settings… Do you truly feel more joy being around a positive person or a negative person? People are typically drawn to positivity because it makes them feel good as well. So be positive and spread the love.
Optimism and positive thinking are a key part of mental well-being and stress management. And good news… if you’re pessimistic by nature, positive thinking can be learned and perfected.
So don’t waste another minute in the dark cloud of negativity. Come to the fun-side and enjoy the positivity-party! You’ll do better at work, you’ll be more successful in business and personal ventures, and you’ll simply live a happier life.
Scott Orth is the Owner of Thrive Business Marketing and an independent contract Consultant focused on the stability and growth of businesses through online marketing efforts. His expertise in online customer acquisition and customer experience strategies has directly created over $100 Million in revenue for his clients in the past 5 years. And by the way – Scott creates success through relentless positive thought and visualization and has even been asked to give motivational speeches for business improvement.
Journal of Research in Personality
Jon Gordon – The Energy bus
Positive Psychology Researcher Barbara Fredrickson