How to Improve Your Mindset and Benefit From Positive Thinking

When you look at yourself, what do you see? If your answer makes you happy, you most likely have a positive mindset. If your answer did the opposite, you probably have a negative mindset. All the same, it’s a matter of self-love and knowing your value. Do you struggle with these two things? If you would like to improve your mindset for better physical and mental health, then stay awhile and learn about the benefits of a positive mindset.

Understanding the power of positive thinking

A woman thinking to herself. Behind her is a drawing of a sun on one side, representing positivity, and a thundercloud on the other side, representing negativity.
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I believe there is a misconception about what positive thinking is. People often assume optimistic people ignore their problems and behave as if everything will fall into place. However, this is not the truth. Positive thinking involves recognizing your problems or the cause of your stress, and still approaching the unpleasantness in a positive or productive way.

The way you approach your problems solely depends on the way you talk to yourself. This is known as self-talk. Let’s take the example Steve Harvey made. He mentioned that the brain is like a factory divided into two sections – positive and negative. A million factory workers are on the negative side, while a million factory workers are on the positive side. You are the boss of this factory.

Negative self-talk

Harvey states that if you wake up and the first thing you tell yourself is “Man, I don’t feel myself today. I got up on the wrong side of the bed”, the negative factory workers will work around this thought. They will fill your mind with more negative thoughts to justify your statement. You hate waking up in the morning. You’re fed up with the traffic you have to sit in to get to work. You hate the car you’re driving and wish you had a new one. Moreover, you can’t stand the people in your workplace, and you hate the work you do. So, it goes on, and turns into that terrible day you expected it to be.

Positive self-talk

Alternatively, you could wake up and tell yourself, “Today is going to be a great day. I expect good things to happen for me today.” The positive factory workers now get to work, reminding you of all the good things in life. You may not have the job you want, but at least you have a job. You’re grateful for having a car so you can drive to work. And if you don’t have a car, you’re grateful you can at least walk to the bus stop. You have a cheque coming in. Today is going to be a great day. These thoughts will affect the way you go about your day. Ultimately, it will encourage you to do better and achieve better.

The way you think is the determining factor of where you go in life. This is the power of self-talk.

The benefits of positive thinking

A smiling stick man drawing with a thought bubble above its head, with the words "positive thinking" on it.
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Researchers have found that positive thinking has many effects on health. It can enhance your performance and general well-being. Here are some of the effects positive self-talk may have on your mental and physical health.

Mental health benefits

  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Better psychological well-being
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Physical health benefits

  • Increased lifespan
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

It’s unclear why individuals with more positive self-talk experience these benefits. However, research shows that optimists may have mental skills that help them solve problems and think differently, as well as be more efficient at coping with hardships and challenges. This may reduce the harmful repercussions of stress and anxiety.

Identifying negative self-talk

A man sitting on the floor, deep in thought.
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If you’re questioning whether you have a negative or positive outlook on life, here are key indications of a negative mindset.

  • Personalising. You automatically blame yourself when something goes wrong. For example, a get-together with friends is cancelled, and you automatically assume it’s because no one wants to be around you.
  • Filtering/Magnifying. You magnify all negative aspects of a situation and filter out any and all positive aspects. For example, you do a great job at work and receive a lot of praise for being so efficient and reliable. It was a great day. Yet, you go home and only dwell on the things you don’t believe were good enough, completely ignoring the compliments you’ve received.
  • Catastrophising. You automatically expect the worst, and rarely let logic persuade you otherwise. For example, the coffee shop gets your order wrong, and you automatically believe the rest of your day will be a disaster.
  • Polarising. You see things as only either good or bad. For you, there is no in-between when processing life events. You believe you have to be perfect, or you’re a complete failure.

When you recognize your types of negative thinking, you’ll be able to turn them into positive thinking. Of course, it will be hard at first because it is a new habit you are putting to use. It also requires time and lots of practice, but it is not impossible.

How to stop negative self-talk

Turning the negatives into positives

Someone is holding a page with the words "I can't do it" on it but they are cutting off the "t" so it says "I can do it".
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Changing the way that you look at life can be very difficult when you’ve spent a long time thinking in one particular way. However, it is necessary when you are trying to work towards a better and happier life. Given that it may be a little difficult, it’s important to take some time out of your day and analyse your thoughts. Are you thinking negatively? Turn it around and change it into something more positive. Here are some examples of how you can do that.

Negative: I failed and embarrassed myself.

Positive: I’m proud of myself for even trying. That took courage.

Negative: I’ll be bad at this because I’ve never done this before.

Positive: This is a great opportunity for me to learn from others and grow.

Negative: There’s no way this will work.

Positive: I can and will give this my all to make it work.

Negative: I’m overweight and out of shape. There’s no point in trying.

Positive: I am strong and capable. I will get healthier for myself.

Negative: I’ll disappoint everyone if I cancel the event.

Positive: I have the power to change my mind. They will understand.

All it takes is to be a little kinder when you speak to yourself. Change your vocabulary to one with more positive words. Simple words like “terrified” changed to “nervous” can shift your perspective and the weight the words carry. Words can have an incredible amount of power over us. It’s up to us to decide how much power the harsh words we use have over us.

Practicing positive thinking

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Here are some more methods you could use to learn to shift your inner dialogue to be more encouraging and uplifting. If you practice them often enough, positive self-talk will become your norm.

Identify negative self-talk traps.

There are certain situations that may increase your self-doubt and lead to more negative self-talk. Thus, you should start small by identifying an area in your life that brings about the most negativity. This way, you can anticipate and be prepared to turn the negativity into positivity when you start to feel stressed again.

Check in with your feelings.

During the day, stop and check in on your feelings regularly. Are your thoughts becoming negative? If they are, think of a way you can turn those thoughts around into something positive.

Be open to humour.

Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Laughter helps to relieve tension and stress. Hence, you should allow yourself to find humour in everyday happenings. At first, it may seem like you’re forcing it (because you are), but gradually you’ll start to feel a lot better when you are smiling or laughing. It will make you feel a lot less stressed. Watching a funny video or stand-up comedy can especially help relieve the tension.

Follow a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise can positively affect your mood and relieve stress. So, take at least 30 minutes out of your day to do some exercise. You can even split them into 10-minute chunks during your day to make it more manageable. A healthy diet may also help fuel your mind and body.

Surround yourself with positive people.

Whether you realise it or not, the people you surround yourself with are the ones who influence you the most. Make sure that those people are positive, supportive people who you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Distance yourself from anyone who doesn’t want the best for you. Only then, will you be able to grow.

Practice positive self-talk.

As mentioned in the previous topic, changing your negative thoughts into positive thoughts helps tremendously to shift your mindset into a more positive one. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to others. Be more encouraging and gentler with yourself. When you have negative thoughts, evaluate them rationally and respond with affirmations of the positive side of the situation.

Give yourself positive affirmations.

Speaking of affirmations, display positive words or inspiring images in your home or office. Seeing these images daily may help to redirect your thoughts into more positive ones. Personally, I display my positive affirmations in the image widgets on the home screen of my phone. This way, whenever I feel stressed or doubt myself, these images reshape my thoughts into a positive outlook on the situation.

10 problem-solving techniques (by Norman Vincent Peale)

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Many of us have goals, desires, wants, and needs that we are constantly working towards. Sometimes, even just creating these goals helps us to add excitement to our lives. These plans give us hope and allow us separation from the worries and stresses of our day-to-day lives. Even so, sometimes these goals have problems that need solutions. This is the perfect opportunity to practice the 10 problem-solving techniques suggested by Norman Vincent Peale. The following techniques will not only help you solve your problems but teach you ways in which you can cope with stress.

For every problem there is a solution.

Keep in mind that there will be a solution to your problem. Believe and have faith that the answer will come to you. Don’t rush yourself and beat yourself up for not finding a solution sooner. And in particular, don’t give up because you don’t believe yourself capable. You are capable and there are solutions. Oftentimes there is more than one.

Try to maintain your serenity when addressing your problems.

Don’t get too anxious or angry at yourself when you don’t understand something. You need to stay calm and hopeful. Only then will the answer come to you. You need to remember that if you are planting seeds of doubt and negativity, you will only get back more of that.

Don’t try to force an answer.

You need to try not to tell yourself things like, “I need to find a solution to this problem by Friday or it will be too late.” When you try to force a solution, not only is there a chance your answer will be irrational, but you may be putting too much pressure on yourself. This will cause even more stress for you. Sometimes you just need time for an answer to reveal itself to you.

Gather all the relevant information.

The best way to do this is to conduct as much research as you can, and you may find your solution through it. There is logical advice and reasonable answers that you can obtain not only from the internet, but also from the people around you. You just need to be open to receiving it.

Write down all the facts about the situation.

You can gain an understanding of the problem just by writing down all the things you know about the situation. Once all the facts are clear, you’ll understand exactly what solutions you’ll need to solve the problem.

Spend time praying/thinking about the situation.

For those who are religious, praying may help tremendously to calm yourself and relieve yourself of stress. It will give you faith that there is a solution and, sure enough, you are strong enough to find that solution. However, of course, the best alternative for the non-religious is to rather think about the situation. Whether it is while you take a walk or you take 15 minutes out of your day for it, spend time thinking about the situation and possible solutions you believe may solve the problem. The key is to believe that you are capable of thinking up a reasonable answer.

Believe in and seek God’s guidance.

This one is more for those who are religious. Remind yourself that God will guide you in the right direction. With time, you will get to where you are supposed to go.

Rely on your insight and intuition.

There are things you believe you should be doing, and there are things you know you should do. For example, you may be staying in a field of work you’re good at simply because you’re good at it – not because you enjoy it. It takes time and maturity to listen to yourself and make the decision you know you should make. If your intuition is telling you to explore the gifts within yourself, go for it.

Find a relaxing environment to think in.

When you find the time, go out for a walk in a peaceful environment. Even if it’s just your backyard. Put some music on and allow your mind to wander. Relax and let your subconscious handle the problem. You may even go to your religious place of worship if it can bring you peace.

The thoughts (or answers) that come to mind are the correct ones.

If you have an idea or thought, write it down. Allow yourself to think about it and the possibilities that may come after if you do do it. Maybe this idea is something you may want to look further into. Take initiative and control of the life you are living. Imagine never going through with it and thinking “what if?” for the rest of your life.

When to seek support

An illustration of a psychologist having a therapy session with their patient.
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Developing a positive mindset can take a long time and requires lots of practice. It may seem impossible along the way, but it is achievable.

If you believe you won’t be successful on your own, speak with a therapist. Mental health experts will be able to identify the source of your negative self-talk and advise ways to shift this mindset.

Significance of a positive mindset in the long-run

A woman forming a heart with her hands around the setting sun.
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With practice, your negative self-talk will consist of less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. This is the ultimate goal. If you’re looking for that kind of growth, then take this opportunity to make it your goal. Once your state of mind is more optimistic, you’ll be able to approach your problems in a more constructive way.

References

Mayo Clinic Staff. (21/01/2020) “Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress” mayoclinic.org

Holland, K. (26/06/2020) “Positive Self-Talk: How Talking to Yourself Is a Good Thing” healthline.com

The Outcome. (02/06/2019) “STOP NEGATIVE SELF TALK – Listen To This Everyday” youtube.com

Motivation2Study. (29/01/2021) “THE POWER OF POSITIVITY – Best Motivational Video For Positive Thinking” youtube.com

BRAINY DOSE. (08/01/2021) “How To Reprogram Your Mind For Positive Thinking” youtube.com

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