Your real boss is the one who walks around under your hat.
On the surface, it would seem that positive thinking and problems remaining focused don’t really have a lot to do with one another. But many people with trouble staying focused, and staying on-task develop negative thinking patterns because they become frustrated by their challenges and by the frequent feelings of just being overwhelmed. This negative outlook then makes it even tougher to manage those challenges and to make any forward progress.
Practicing positive thinking will help you focus on your strengths and accomplishments, which has the additional benefit of increasing happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows you to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck. Following are some tips that provide practical ways to help shift yourself into more positive thinking patterns.
1. Be good to yourself. Take good care of yourself. It is much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.
2. Be grateful. Remind yourself of the things you are grateful for. Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are consistently reminding yourself of the things that are right in your life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.
3. Take a reality check. Look for the proof instead of making assumptions about people and situations. A fear of not being liked or accepted can sometimes lead you to assume that you know what others are thinking. But your fears are usually not the reality of what’s going on. If you have a fear that a friend or family member’s bad mood is due to something you did, or that your co-workers are gossiping about you when you turn your back, speak up and ask them. Don’t waste your precious time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is actually something for you to worry about.
4. Dump absolutism! Refrain from using absolutes when you are communicating with people. Have you ever told your significant other “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained to a friend “You NEVER call me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ almost always makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering on their promises.
5. Stomp out your negative thinking. Let go of your attachment to your negative thoughts. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, look for the truth, and don’t follow it.
6. Squash the “ANTs” In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts and negative thinking programs that are usually reactionary. These are thoughts like, ”Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It has to be bad news!” When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!
7. Love, Touch & Squeeze your friends and family. You don’t have to be any kind of an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant boost. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch!
8. Be more social. By increasing your social activity, you decrease your sense of loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy and happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!
9. Help someone else. Get out and volunteer for an organization, or help another person. Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, or your resources. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.
10. Interrupt yourself. Use pattern interrupts to combat rumination. If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Ruminating means that you are hyper-focused on something negative. It is never very productive, because it is not truly rational or solution-oriented. It is merely another form of excessive worry. Try changing your physical environment. Go for a walk or sit outside for a few minutes. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.
We seem to live in a society and in an era where people think that everyone does well inside of a pressure cooker. There are those who seem to work well even under pressure, but they are uncommon. Letting the stress get under your skin, or even allowing it to consume you and your life won’t solve your problems. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to admit that we have turned into a nation of workaholics, and stop chiding ourselves that we are not doing our best.
There are many things in life which you cannot control. What you accept as normal stress, how you decide to react to it, and what you make of it as you pass it on to other people, are things that you can impact. You are the boss of your life. Speak up. Choose what is working well and what is not. Then figure out how to make your life first, manageable, and then make it downright enjoyable and fun.