Have you ever tried to ‘think positive’ without getting positive outcomes? Does a concerted effort toward ‘positive thinking’ make you feel better in the short run but exhausted in the long run?
This was my previous experience with trying to develop a consistently positive perspective. While the idea really resonated with me, I still ended up feeling a lot of frustration and disappointment for all my efforts.
And so the angry critics of ‘positive thinking’ would get into my head. It’s just shallow, self-centered, self-delusion, they say!
Yet time and again I was drawn back those ringing voices of positivity who seem to know a thing or two about success and happiness…
‘The greatest story of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.’ – Oprah Winfrey
“The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” – Elon Musk
“It’s amazing what doors can open if you reach out to people with a smile, friendly attitude, and a desire to make a positive impact.’ – Richard Branson
These are not wishy-washy, delusional, or shallow people. And there are plenty more examples like them.
While they do not literally use the words ‘positive thinking’ in their quotes, their underlying philosophy strongly suggests that positive thinking beats negative thinking any day.
But practical positive thinking is a tool, not a magic spell. For any tool to be powerful, it must be used appropriately….
7 Keys to a Practical, Powerful Positive Perspective
So we’re not just talking about thinking happy thoughts here. In order to turn positive thoughts into positive things, you’ve got to lay a little groundwork.
Also, because positive thinking has been mixed up with ‘wishful thinking’, some have taken to using different terms like positive focus or positive mindset.
While each word does have a slightly different nuance, they all come back to the same general idea: an optimistic approach to life that benefits you and all of humankind.
Personally, I prefer the term positive energy because it implies the harmonious use of mind, body, and spirit. Here are 7 keys for creating that harmony:
Release Negative Emotions First
Have you ever been in a bad place mentally when some goofball comes along and says ‘Just think positive’?! Doesn’t it really make you want to scream!?
Trauma, sudden loss, or depression puts positive thinking completely out of reach for normal people.
Trying to suppress negative emotions will only tighten their grip on you. You’ve got to vent those emotions. Write them out. Have a good cry. Rant and rave if you must (in private or with a close friend who can tolerate it).
Just don’t let yourself get stuck in a pity party forever.
If you are truly depressed, please seek professional treatment. I went to a psychotherapist for a couple of years and it was one of the best things I ever did. In those sessions I unleashed a lot of emotional baggage which helped me develop a more positive outlook on life.
When the negative weeds are plucked out on a regular basis, the positive flowers have room to grow.
Nowadays, I release negative thoughts with the Emotional Freedom Technique. It works wonders for me but if I ever feel the need to go back to therapy, I will do so without shame or hesitation.
Do you ever feel peer pressure to be someone you are not? Nothing positive comes out of comparing yourself to others and trying to be more like them.
I used to think that I needed be more extroverted than I naturally was. For some misguided reason, I thought that being super-talkative and ultra-outgoing was the only path to success. But no amount of positive thinking brought me closer to becoming this archetype. In fact, it was downright counter-productive and created more negative emotions.
Finally I realized I could be absolutely positive about who I really am: a complex mixture of introvert and extrovert.
Accepting yourself for who you are gives you way more freedom and energy to reach your full potential.
While you still need to stretch beyond your boundaries from time to time, the most positive focus you can have is to be the greatest, grandest version of YOU, not anybody else.
Let Others Be Themselves
While you should always be treated with dignity and respect by others, expecting anything beyond that is usually an exercise in futility.
Do you like it when somebody tells you that you need to change in order to please them? Neither should you need them to change in order to please you.
There are no positive emotions to be gained from wanting someone to be a certain way and watching them doggedly do the opposite. Do you ever feel good after an argument over politics or religion, even if you think you’ve won?
Let them be and don’t take their bait. They are on their journey, you are on yours. Discuss things you can agree on like gardening or football.
Positive thinking is a personal matter, not something you can inflict on someone else. As one of my favorite teachers, Esther Hicks, would say, mind your business and tend to your own higher vibration. By doing so, you will begin to experience more of the positive aspects of others by default.
In other words, exercise. Some of you may be rolling your eyes while those of you who have experienced the positive effects of exercise are nodding in agreement.
Significant scientific research shows that exercise has an antidepressant effect on the human brain. I once went to a psychiatrist for depression who told me he could either prescribe me some Prozac or I could go out for a good run every day. I tried both and I much prefer the running.
Any exercise is better than no exercise and there are plenty of alternatives to jogging or lifting weights. An excellent option for exercise enthusiasts and newbies alike is yoga.
I have to admit that for a long time I had a ‘that’s nice but not for me’ attitude toward yoga. But that was before I started experimenting with yoga videos at home. Now I’m a yoga junkie because I just plain love the way it makes me feel.
Not even 20 years ago, meditation was considered this far out, woo-woo practice not taken seriously by the western world. Now it’s lauded by mainstream cultural icons and billionaires.
Meditation is also gaining respect in the scientific community. In fact, if there are only two things you do from this list to develop a more positive attitude, I would suggest exercise and meditation.
Meditation may be described in many different ways but it is essentially the practice of allowing yourself to get into a very calm emotional state.
Calmer emotions are fertile soil for positive thought processes. Just about anyone who meditates regularly will tell you that they now have a more positive approach to life’s difficulties than before they meditated.
Meditation has helped me tremendously. Even though I’ve encountered more stressors in my life over the past year than I did in several previous years, I’ve also enjoyed my life more over the last year than I have in a very long time and I attribute a good part of that to meditation.
YouTube has tons of free amateur videos on meditation. Follow the videos you can relate to and go from there. OR…
Talk to Yourself Positively
Now we finally get to the core of positive thinking which is positive self talk, also known as positive affirmations. Notice we didn’t jump right into affirmations because they are a lot more effective once you’ve decreased your negative mind chatter through the first five steps above.
And if you think you don’t have negative mind chatter I would challenge you to take a day to really be conscious of the thoughts you are having. Are you reaffirming the unpleasant ‘realities’ of life or are you putting a positive spin on it?
For example, you can say to yourself “ugh, traffic is bad, traffic sucks, I hate this damn traffic” or you can say “well no surprise traffic is bad but meanwhile I can listen to something positive and when I get home I can relax and have fun. ”Which thought makes you feel better?
When you change the way you feel, you change your reality.
Talk to yourself like a wise friend who is constantly encouraging you, guiding you, loving you, and appreciating you. Also know that all the things you watch, read, listen to, and expose yourself to have a powerful influence on the way you talk to yourself.
We could go on and on about how to talk to yourself positively. Entire books have been written on this topic and the best one I have ever come across by far is You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.
Use a Ladder not a Leap
If you want to get to the top of the positivity ladder, you climb it one step at a time. When you try to jump from the ground to the top rung, you’re going to fall and hurt yourself, which is another reason people give up on positive thinking.
In Ask and It is Given, Esther Hicks refers to this as moving up your Emotional Guidance Scale: go for the feeling that is within your reach.
You can’t go from pessimism to optimism in one step. You can, however, move from pessimism to hopefulness in one step. Once you’ve steadied yourself at hopefulness for awhile, then you can move up the scale step by step.
Keep it in reach and as your confidence builds along with tangible results, then your affirmations can become more ambitious and your audacious dreams closer to full realization.
Thank you for reading this article. It was inspired by many great works including…
- You Can Heal Your Life, the best book ever on the practical application of positive affirmations by Louise Hay
- The Power of Now, a guide to spiritual enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
- Ask and It is Given, on living a joyful, fulfilling life by Esther Hicks
- The Power of Positive Thinking, the quintessential book on maintaining a positive focus by Norman Vincent Peale