If you want to get out of a negative mindset and develop a more positive one you can find inspiration and improvement by making some simple changes to your life. It involves training your brain and becoming more aware of how you think and act.
A positive mindset can make you happier, and it could even save your life, so here are five tips for getting out of that negative cycle.
Get out of a negative mindset – train your brain for positivity
When it comes to a positive mindset, you can train your brain in three key ways: pay more attention to positive things you see and experience, store more of that positive information, and then do useful work with it.
First of all, pay attention to the positive. By consciously focusing on positive experiences you make it more likely that your brain will store and use them. There are many useful techniques out there for doing this, but one I love in particular is a game called Happify.
Second, remember positive experiences. Even though the experience is transient, your memory of it can last forever. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to store what we want, so our memories are cluttered up with useless or negative information. But we can get around this, because research has shown that deliberately memorising positive words and statements helps build wellbeing.
Finally, get better at using positive memories. One technique for doing this is to memorise a short list of positive words, wait an hour and then try to write them down in reverse order. When you get good at that, chop the words up, mix them up and try to match them back up again. This builds your neural networks for handling positive information.
Don’t fear negativity
It may sound weird, but embracing your negative emotions is a good way of becoming less negative. Buddhism encapsulates this idea in its first noble truth: pain is universal and inevitable.
Pretending bad things won’t happen is pointless, and ignoring our negative emotions when the bad things do happen is destructive.
So, face up to your negative feelings, and embrace them as your own unique response to the world. Then ask yourself, is this negative emotion leading to an action that improves your life? If not, then work on changing it.
Identify positive aspects of yourself
One of the biggest traps we can fall into when it comes to a negative mindset is to believe we are helpless and useless. You feel adrift, bobbing about in a flimsy boat on an angry sea; you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there.
Well, here’s a useful fact: You’re already doing something. You have found this advice, and you’re reading it, deciding whether it will help you. This not the action of someone who is helpless.
If you can’t think of anything positive about yourself, ask friends or family for ideas; you might be surprised what they come up with. Then repeat these positive elements to yourself occasionally. It reinforces a positive mindset.
A positive mindset can save your life
Positive thinking isn’t just a way of feeling nice about yourself. This stuff matters on a really fundamental level, and can even save your life, because mental and physical health are not separate.
A study by Dr Lisa Janek, a researcher in cardiovascular disease at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, found that people who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack than those with a more negative outlook.
This makes sense, because your mental state and physical state are tightly intertwined, controlled by the body’s production of different hormones. This is why many emotions are associated with obvious physical phenomena: dry mouth for fear, fluttery stomach for nervousness, shaking hands for excitement.
And we already manipulate this relationship; after all, you can feel positive emotions when you do something physical like eat a favourite food, get a massage or ride a rollercoaster. Dr Janek’s research shows having a more positive mindset can help your physical health.
Be wary of the media and its illusions
Traditional and social media can be powerful tools for entertaining, informing and connecting people, but they often present a false and sanitised view of life. If you’re not careful, this illusion that can trick you into feeling inadequate.
You know your own life intimately, with all its ups and downs, fears and hopes. But on social media you see only a curated view of other people’s lives. Without the context, it’s easy to assume that your life is all wrong, a failure, boring.
Similarly, television and the printed media often present versions of beauty and happiness that are simply not real. From clever editing and digitally adjusted images to the fact that a “normal-looking” actor might spend three hours every day in the gym and has professional make-up, hair and wardrobe people to get them looking perfect.
You should take the same approach to what you see in the media as you do with any other part of life that causes you to feel negative emotions. Be honest with yourself, and decide whether the actions that come from the emotions are useful.
By using these approaches, you can reduce the unnecessary negativity in your life and develop a more positive mindset.
Alessio Bianchi is a lifestyle blogger who is passionate about living his best life and helping others to do the same. Read more at his blog https://www.alessiobianchi.co.uk/