Is your glass half-full or half-empty? The way you answer that can have an impact on your mental and physical well-being. It's human nature to focus on the negative. How many times this winter have you looked out the window and thought, “I hate this weather” or “I’m sick of having to stay indoors”? Between the Covid-19 pandemic and a long winter, it can be easy to slip into negative thinking patterns and neglect to see the positive side of life. But changing your perspective and reframing that negative outlook is possible - and can improve your overall health.

The Benefits Of Positive Thinking

Studies have shown that positive thinking patterns can have an impact on your mental and physical health. Some of the benefits of a positive perspective may include:

Of course, positive thinking isn’t a cure-all and won’t get rid of all your problems. But maintaining a positive outlook will make those problems more manageable and help you approach issues in a productive way.

Reframing Negative Thinking

Changing your perspective and gaining a more positive outlook begins with reframing your negative thinking patterns. Cognitive reframing is a technique of reframing your attitude and thoughts by:

Identifying negative thoughts

Notice the negative thoughts and reactions that come to your mind as they occur. They may be recurrent or follow a similar theme. For example, ignoring all the positives in a situation and instead dwelling on the negatives, or taking a single negative event and seeing it as part of never-ending hardship. Writing these thoughts down can help you identify patterns and themes.

Responding to negative thoughts

Once you identify the negative thought patterns you experience, you can begin replacing them with something more positive and productive. Some strategies include:

  • Identify your strengths: If your thoughts center on a negative view of yourself, come up with a list of your skills, strengths and positive attributes. Focus on what you have to offer.
  • Rephrase your thoughts: Take a negative thought and word it in the positive. If you think, “I can’t do anything right at my job,” instead think, “Here’s a project I really excelled on.”
  • Chunking: If you often feel your circumstances are too overwhelming or difficult, try breaking things down into steps. Having to clean your whole house can become just cleaning one room at a time.
  • Step outside of yourself: Look at a negative thought from someone else’s perspective. If a loved one was having the same thought, what would you say to them to dispel it?

Seeing the Positive

Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean ignoring your issues or pretending you’re happy at all times. It means approaching issues with reason, introspection, and without expecting the worst. It takes time and practice, but these tips can help you shift your perspective and see the positive.

Change your language

The language you use can shape your perspective and the way you perceive the world around you. What words do you use to describe your day? “Boring,” “difficult,” or “busy”? Or would you use “relaxing,” “challenging,” or “lively”? If you describe your day as difficult, you’ll reinforce that perspective and believe it. Notice the difference between using “I have to” and “I get to.” “I have to go grocery shopping” or “I have to clean the house.” Try changing it to “I get to have a fridge full of groceries” or “I get to have a clean house.”

Using more positive language makes things seem less burdensome and more exciting and productive. This is true for the language you use about yourself as well. Negative self-talk causes you to form a negative opinion of yourself. Even a small shift in the way you talk about yourself can impact your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts, and behavior when under stress. Instead of saying, “I’ve never done this before,” try saying, “I get to try something new.” Instead of, “It’s too hard for me to do,” say, “I’ll try it again in a different way.”

Replacing negative language with positive will help you internalize a healthy, positive perception of yourself, your life, and your experiences.

Start a gratitude journal

Practicing gratitude can reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and create resilience in times of stress. Think of the people, experiences, or things that bring you comfort and happiness. Try writing in a gratitude journal or making a list of things you’re grateful for. It can be anything from a coworker helping you with a project to a loved one supporting you. Think about something that made you smile that day, someone who had a positive influence on your mood, or something interesting you noticed in your neighborhood. Try dedicating at least five minutes at the beginning or end of the day to write in your gratitude journal. This practice helps remind you that there is always something to be thankful for, no matter the difficult times you may be going through.

Surround yourself with positive people

Negativity can be contagious. But so can positivity. Have you ever noticed that being around someone in a bad mood can bring your mood down too? Consider the people with whom you’re spending time. Do you laugh, get active, and appreciate each other? Or is your friendship based on complaining about your work, classes, or other friends? Make sure the people around you are positive, supportive people that you can depend on for help and advice. The people who surround us reflect our personality and attitude, and they can also shape our perspective. When you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll hear positive outlooks, positive feedback and positive affirmations - and before you know it, you’ll start feeling and saying the same things.

Practice positive affirmations

How you start the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Create a habit of starting the day with something uplifting and positive. Positive affirmations are simple statements you tell yourself to encourage and empower. Try looking in the mirror and confidently telling yourself phrases like:

  • Today will be a great day
  • I am smart and capable and will excel at work
  • I choose to be happy and cheerful today
  • I am grateful to see my friends, coworkers, and loved ones today

Positive affirmations release serotonin, a chemical that makes you feel happier, calmer, less anxious, more focused, and more emotionally stable. They can also break the patterns of negative thoughts and negative self-talk. It may feel odd to talk to yourself out loud at first, but with practice, it may become an integral - and enjoyable - part of your day.

Focus on the good and the now

Challenges and stress are a part of life. When you encounter such a challenge, focus on the benefits, no matter how small or unimportant they may seem. If you’re stuck in traffic, think about how now you get to listen to music or catch up on a podcast. If someone cancels plans with you, think about how now you get to relax at home. If you look for it, you can always find a silver lining, and through practice, your perception can shift to see the good in any situation.

Likewise, try focusing on the now. Imagine if you’re stuck in traffic, someone just cut you off, and you’re going to be late for work. Now forget about the moment earlier when someone cut you off. Forget about what your boss might say in the future. Focus on the exact, individual moment you’re in. What in that exact moment you’re experiencing is so bad? You’ll often find nothing in that moment is so terrible. A negative outlook often stems from the memory of previous events or imagining a potential future event. You cannot change the past and you cannot predict the future. Staying in the present can help you be more mindful of your behavior and your emotions in that moment. When you focus on what is happening in the now, you have a chance to shift your perspective and change your future behavior.

Life is full of challenges. It can sometimes feel difficult to put things into perspective and see the positive in the day to day. But living that way can impair your mental and physical health, impact those around you, and worsen your quality of life. When you’re able to shift your perspective and gain a more positive outlook, you’re able to better take on - and enjoy - life.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.