I am a realistic, not an optimistic. Have you ever thought it or said it to someone?
Often we look at optimism as the practice of fools. You are so naïve! – you probably said it to a co-worker when they quit their job to follow their dreams or a loved one when they lend money to a friend.
Does it mean they have no regard for reality? Or is there something else they know that we do not? I believe it is none of the above. One can be an optimistic and see things as they are, yet choosing a positive attitude. On the other hand, I highly doubt that there is a hidden secret or magical formula behind optimism, or that you are born an optimistic or you are not.
What usually happens with optimistic people is that they often embrace the power of positive thinking. They choose to think positively in their attitude towards themselves and the world. They consider how to respond to external circumstances, even when the situation does not play in their favor. They move forward with a solution-oriented mindset despite challenges and obstacles.
Let us look at some concrete ways to achieve a positive mindset. Below are 6 strategies to guide you through the process of positive thinking.
1. Start your day with intention: We have talked about this one before, the impact of starting your day by setting an intention. What is your morning ritual? Are you waking up and looking at your phone, scrolling down social media or answering emails? Maybe not the best vibe. You must focus on yourself first thing in the morning, doing something that uplifts you. Create a routine that puts your mind and body in a positive mindset. Go for a morning walk or run, do a yoga or meditation session, take a refreshing shower, turn on your happy playlist, say a positive affirmation aloud, give a compliment to a neighbor or the person at the bakery store, smile at your partner or at a stranger at the traffic light. 2. Focus on the good things: Easier said than done, I know! But guess what, there are no perfect days. Most probably there will be always something happening that has the potential to kill your mood. Maybe it is that grumpy neighbor or an unfriendly colleague, perhaps it is the chaotic traffic to work or a late bus. Your kids throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store or your friend cancelling your plans last minute. Instead of surrendering to these mood killers, think of how you can focus on the bright side no matter how insignificant it may look. Keep smiling at your neighbors, maybe it makes their day better. Use the time sitting on your car or waiting on the bus to listen to your favorite audiobook or podcast. Say something unexpected to your kids shifting their attention from their outburst. Enjoy the free time to relax and catch up on some reading or favorite TV show.
3. Surround yourself with positive people: Think about the people you usually hang out with, notice their overall mood and mindset. Negativity and positivity are equally contagious. Which one would you reckon to be more beneficial? Avoid spending time around people who spread negative vibes. Look for positive people instead. Surround yourself with people – friends, mentors, co-workers – who find the silver lining in every story, people who bounce back from hardships through their resilience and positive thinking. Let their positivity affect you and do your best to let yours spread across. 4. Practice positive self-talk: Another aspect we have talked about before, including during this week dedicated to positive thinking. What you tell yourself and how you do it matters. You believe every word and every story you tell yourself, to a point where it influences what you do and who you are. If all you say to yourself is how bad you are with numbers or how uncreative you are, then this what you believe. You are not giving yourself a chance to improve at something that perhaps is not your strongest suit. Be mindful of your inner dialogue, especially when your chatterbox gets ahold of you. Next time you hear that inner critic getting louder, try to turn your negative self-talk into positive self-talk. Instead of thinking “I am so bad at this” or “I really messed that up”, try “I’ll be better next time once I get more practice” or “I’ll try it again differently”. And practice positive self-talk as much as possible to keep this muscle active. 5. Turn mistakes into lessons learned: You are not perfect, no one is. If you consider yourself a perfectionist (like I do!), chances are you have to work a bit harder on letting things go – which is okay, just requires practice. Making mistakes, failing at something you really wished for is human nature. You will keep making mistakes and experiencing failure in different areas of your life and with multiple people. Doesn’t sound that positive?! Instead of focusing on your failures and how exactly have you failed; think about what you can do different next time. Rather than getting stuck on a past event that you can no longer change, try to focus on what you can influence – your attitude or behavior next time. If you think of it as lessons learned, there are surely concrete examples or rules you can draw and apply them in the future. 6. Practice gratitude: Often we feel as constantly run after something. It could be the next promotion, a better car, a new apartment, that dream job. It can be literally running after your kids or to the nearest grocery store before closing time. In such frenzy, chances are you may get what you are looking for, though not truly appreciating it, before moving to the next thing. Take the time to recognize what and whom you have in your life and be grateful for it. Think of people, moments or things that bring you warmth and happiness and express your gratitude toward them. It can be thanking a friend for supporting you through challenging times, or your children for the joy they bring into your life, or your partner for taking out the trash every evening. Keep a gratitude journal and write down the top 3 things you are grateful for on a daily basis, no matter how small they seem.
We all have been facing challenging times, which often trigger negative thoughts and emotions. Positive thinking is not about shoving your feelings or create a parallel reality where everything seems effortless and painless. It is often in these moments of hardship though that we become more open to reflection and change.
How you choose to think makes all the difference, affecting yourself and the world around you. So, is positive thinking the practice of a fool or a wise?