I suppose only the monks can maintain a constant normal state of mind. At least that’s what you see in all the video online.
We all fall in situations where everything seems to fail – like the world is coming to an end kind of things. At these times we can easily forget what we have achieved so far, our progress, background, what skills we possess, and let our negative thoughts consume our minds. Unfortunately, negative perspective is far more contagious than the positive one. The reason for this is simple: hundreds of thousands of years we fought with animals, tribes, kingdoms, other countries to create the world we’re living in right now. The defensive spark, the one that transforms into denial and rejection, is deeply instilled in our minds. That was the only way we, as a species, can survive and thrive for so many years. We were though that we should be constantly aware of our surroundings and consider all possible scenarios – first, of course, the worst possible option should be taken into consideration, which immediately makes us think about bad things.
Negative thinking is destructive in many ways. It forces you to think only about the weak spots, aspects of a given situation. It’s like a process where people tend to find the worst in everything, or reduce their expectations by considering the worst possible scenarios.
The main reason people are adopting this anti-everything behavior is caused by the fact that many people are growing up in a negative environment – bad parenting, lack of money, lack of proper education, fear. All these things add up and they end up embracing a mindset of a victim – a person who constantly thinks that the whole world is against him and only bad things will happen to him. Part of the reason, for our thoughts to automatically directed to the worst possible scenario in a situation, is the fact that our mind is trying to protect us from something. If you were exposed to a lot of violence when you were a little boy or girl, you will probably flinch every time someone raises his hand a bit above his head.
Negativism is destructive in far too many ways imaginable: it destroys creativity, repels people, causes unhappiness and depression, bad health, lack of ambition. To be honest, there is nothing good about negative thinking and that’s a problem. Unfortunately, far too many people suffer from this mindset, which must change.
MEET POSITIVE THINKING
Imagine you’re facing against complex situation – You’re arriving at the office and you find out that you have too many things on your plate for that particular day and your secretary is sick. At this moment, your brain either paralyzes and starts thinking only about, “how you won’t be able to handle all the work”, or, you gather your forces and you prioritize all the tasks without thinking of the high volume of work expecting your attention.
In situations like the one above, our mind should focus on the solution, not so much on the problem. You can do a difficult thing, task, project only with a positive state of mind, never with a negative one.
More and more successful people will tell you that they owe their success to the way they think, to their positive mindset. You will see and hear this mentioned in pretty much every self-help book, course, seminar, video, article ever published about success. Ok, but what’s exactly positive thinking means?
Positive thinking (a.k.a. optimism) is a mental attitude in which you expect good and favorable results. In other words, positive thinking is a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable. A positive mind waits for happiness, health and a happy ending in any situation. A common idiom used to illustrate optimism versus pessimism is a glass with water at the halfway point – the positive person will always see the glass as half full, on the other hand, the pessimist will always see the glass as half empty.
An optimist can be easily spotted in the crowd – they are joyful, friendly, constantly smiling and are seemingly enjoying life. Even though not all of them have bank accounts full of money, if you ask them, they will surely explain that they’re feeling good about what they currently have, earn, posses.
How the hell can someone becomes an optimist?
Many studies have been made in this field and people are telling different things. Some say that we should blame the genes of the person, others, explain that this is related to the environment we are put it, the stories we tell ourselves and the people we interact with daily. From my personal experience, I believe both things matter. I can’t say that I was raised in a highly positive environment, but I perceive myself as a highly optimistic person. I guess there is a note in our DNA, which predisposes us to either positive or negative thought. Later, when we emerge, depending on our surroundings and the situations we’re put in, we take either one or the other path.
There is a lot to be mentioned in favor of the positive way of thinking. People who experience positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, will see more possibilities in their lives. These thoughts broaden the scopes of attention, thinking, cognition, and action, and they build physical, intellectual and social resources.1
In a nutshell – Optimism transforms people for the better and sets them on paths toward flourishing and healthy longevity. It’s not about smiling like a dummy even if you’re broke. It’s about taking control over your life. And the best possible way you can do it, is by first taking control over your thoughts.
All sounds pretty good to be true, right? But how the heck you can adopt this way of thinking. It’s not like you read a book and you start thinking only about rainbows and unicorns and magically, you become rich, right? Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Like everything else in life, it requires some work to be done.
“You can’t just tell your friend to think positively or to not worry — that’s probably not going to help them,” he explained. “So you need to take another tack and perhaps ask them to think about the problem in a different way, to use different strategies.”
HOW TO INSTALL POSITIVE THINKING
Creating a positive mental attitude reminds of the efforts when you try new food. In the beginning, everything that is offered to you seems too scandalous, too unusual. Over time, however, you may find that it is actually very tasty. Like a baby that first receives food other than milk, you will probably feel an internal resistance at the beginning. However, you will later find that the apple puree, the peas, and the pieces of meat are very delicious.
To be honest, the whole process of installing-positive-way-of-thinking sounds pretty absurd. How can someone change the way you think? The answer is simple, no one can. You, yourself, can only change the way you perceive the world around you. The only way others can help you is by giving you certain directions, steps to follow. They all seem pretty simple, even stupid, at first, yet, they are very powerful when executed over a certain period of time.
Become aware of being negative – Think about how you think in different situations – yeah, sounds really confusing at first. Take notes so you can later observe your behavior. During the day you will certainly face situations where negativism will try to overcome you. Even if you indulge this behavior at that particular moment, observe it later during the day: “What trigger the negative thoughts? How this helped us? What could you have done better?” The next time when such thoughts flood your mind stop for a moment and ask yourself the following question: “Last time when I worried about something it didn’t help me. Let’s try to tackle this task a little differently.”
Fake it – You can’t simply snap with a finger and change the way you think, but you can at least act like you have the situation under control. Simulate, imitate success, and force yourself to think about good things until they become your reality, change your perspective from negative to positive.
Internal voice – Never permit to your mind that you’re unworthy, unlucky, or less fortunate from other human beings. Cut out all thoughts of fear, limitations or doubt. The moment you start thinking that you can’t do something is the moment you fail. Immediately change your opinion to, I can do it.
Look for a solution, don’t focus on the problem – If your monthly expenses are more than your income, blaming your boss for not paying you enough money won’t actually fix the situation. It will make things worse. Instead, search for another type of solution: Find a different job; Learn new skill/language; Start your own thing online/offline.
This is something very simple, yet neglected from a lot of people. You don’t fix a situation by sitting and thinking about the problem, you fix a situation by searching for a different solution. When you spot a problem, immediately start thinking about how you can resolve it, seek for solutions, for alternatives, don’t trap your mind into the problem itself.
Negativeness – One of the main reasons we’re so negative is because we’re surrounded by negative people. This is probably the hardest obstacle. Mainly, because it’s so hard to distance yourself from people who have been your friends, family, for so many years. I am not saying that you should stop seeing all of them, but it will be a good idea to limit your meetings with them.
It will be bad if your partner is overwhelmed by negativism. Then, you have two main options: First, brake up. Second, try slowly to teach him to enjoy life. Spoil him, nurture him, show him that the good things are more than the bad ones.
Other things spraying discouragement are television and different online mediums. No matter how much you love watching the news, you will primarily get a feeling of despair while watching. Read, watch inspiring media, it’s quite easy.
Looks – Start dressing the way you always wanted. You don’t need a lot of cash to create a decent wardrobe. Stores like H&M and Bereshka offer nice looking clothes at an affordable price. When you dress better people will compliment you, which will boost your confidence, thus the way you think of yourself and the way you perceive the world around you.
Feeling good about yourself plays a huge role in regards how you think. That’s exactly why you need to pay attention to your wardrobe and your overall vision. If you haven’t paid much attention to how you look till now, a few changes will be immediately notified by the people around you. Giving you the confidence you need.
Smile more often – Often the simple act of smiling is neglected. A simple, genuine smile is contagious, spreading around the people and making them mimic your move, turning into a moment of pure joy. Like nice clothes, smiling is something people will notice and like about you. Actually, it’s scientifically proven that smiling makes you genuinely happier. People rarely accept that fact, mainly because it’s so simple. “Something that simple can be the solution to such a fundamental problem” – of course, this is something only a person who generally thinks of bad things will say.
Face your fears – No matter what your fears are, at some point in your life, you have to face them. Start small. Today, touch a spider with your index finger. Tomorrow, put it in your hand. This way, the next time you see a bug, your brain will tell you that a few days ago you held a spider in your hand, which would automatically lead to a positive thought.
The first most important thing you have to do, if you really want to become a positive person, is to distant yourself, your mind, from other people who are constantly negative. It’s probably the hardest step because often, such people are members of our family or belong to our circle of friends. Even though you can stop seeing, avoid interacting, completely end a relationship with people who talk constantly crap about, well, everything. It’s really hard to do the same with people who are your own blood.
Still, there is a solution. Simply, when your mom or your best friend acts like the world is about to end just because the local grocery store run out of milk, don’t sink a word of what they say out loud. If needed, agree with them on the surface but internally tell yourself that this person is wrong and you don’t need to accept his point of view. Of course, this might lead to the following thought: “Doesn’t this make me a hypocrite?” In a way, yes. But do you really think that arguing with such people will make a difference? I don’t. I’ve tried and it’s only making things worse.
Telling someone that he is wrong is the worst thing you can do. At ninety-nine percent of all cases, people do not criticize themselves for anything, even if they know that they’re mistaking. Criticism is useless because it makes the other person defend himself, and provoke him to assert his uprightness.2
Instead, spend your time with intelegent people who make you smile and grow as a person. Quality, in this case, is much more important than quantity. You can have only one fried worth spending your time with, but that in a lot of occasions is enough.
Your second action towards clearing your head from all the poison is filtering what you read and watch, both offline and online. There’s a lot of crap out there and you definitely don’t need to sink it any of it. This one is much more easier to execute. Press the “X”, or the “Off” button every time you see someone talking nonsense.
I personally take a pair of headphone everywhere I go. I allows me to block the outside world when necessary. For example, my girl watches a lot of television, and instead of staying in separate rooms all the time, I read, write, think, with my headphone standing right next to hear.
My third and final recommendations will be to smile and to always look for the positive alternative. Bad things happen, tragic events occur, it’s inevitable. We can’t change things that already happened. Instead of embracing the consequences, try to search for alternative solutions that can soften the impact. When you notice your mind thinking about bad things, stop, and think about how you can benefit from that situation or what you can do to potentially fix the problem. Repeating the problem over and over again won’t magically solve it.
The reason negative thoughts keep coming up all the time in our heads is because at some point in our lives, we gave those thoughts more attention than necessarily any other thought. We learned our mind to consider these thoughts as more important than anything else. That’s why they appear over and over again and even last more than they should be. At some point, we can’t control our mind and it will automatically pull up a negative thing for every situation.
The same rule can be applied for acquiring a positive way of thinking. Give a lot of importance to the good things, nice things, optimistic future outcomes. Seal that in your head and the next time you face a situation which is seemingly hard to handle, you will immediately start searching for solutions.
Just start paying attention to what you’re thinking about. The sooner you realize this small life-hack, the sooner you will direct your mind to other, much more positive thoughts.
- Barbara Fredrickson tested the impact of positive emotions on the brain by setting up a little experiment. During this experiment, she divided her research subjects into 5 groups and realized that people exposed to joyful images are becoming more confident in themselves. Here is a link to the full study – LINK.
- I learned this the hard way. Later, when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People, I found that this is one of the rules for becoming a better interlocutor.