What is positive thinking?
It is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good things. It is essentially training yourself to adopt a mindset that anticipates happiness and cultivates gratitude. Our thoughts affect our actions so a positive mindset can literally transform your life.
People don’t realise that this is not so much a personality trait, rather a skill that is learnt. This was a huge factor for me when I gave up drinking. What is the most common reason for drinking excessively? To escape negative thoughts and emotions. The same goes for relapse triggers. In order to avoid needing that crutch and live on life’s terms, thought patterns need to change.
This doesn’t mean ignoring reality, or making light of genuine problems. It’s approaching the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well.
Firstly, it’s a good idea to look at your thought patterns now.
Do you overlook the good things about a situation and get wrapped up in the negatives?
Do you predict the future and expect the worst?
Are you a ‘Black or White Thinker’? (Only good or bad, no middle ground)
Do you use mental filtering? (Noticing only failures but not your success)
Do you mind read? (Assuming you know what others are thinking)
Do you catastrophise? (Blowing things out of proportion)
We are often unaware that we use these unhelpful thinking styles as they are automatic. People often ask: ‘Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?’ Your answer will relate to whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life. Do you believe in the saying ‘Mind over Matter?’ I do. The best example of this is Stephen Hawking, who used his mental strength and positive attitude to help beat the odds of motor neurone disease.
He became one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time. If he had focused only on his disease this would not have been the case. His positive attitude, gratitude and passion for life inspired the world. A person’s mindset is more powerful than we could ever imagine. A big part of understanding negative thought patterns is recognising that these are not the everyday irritations that we experience but the masked issues that are deeply ingrained.
We inherit negative belief systems in childhood and later on in life as well. Experiences are absorbed by us and have an effect that we may be unaware of. Negative thoughts tend to either be about the past, future, ourselves or others. Whatever the cause of these thoughts, we do have the power to change them by recognising them for what they are.
We should not be overriding our negative thoughts and masking them, but instead observing and learning how to control them. We can do this by replacing the negative thought with a positive. In simple terms looking on the bright side. This is by far one of the most powerful tools in sobriety. It is never what happens to you but how you react to it, so having the ability to maintain a positive mindset will mean facing a better outcome.
The Law of Attraction means what you think is what you attract. If you focus on happiness and success, you will attract those things. On the other hand, focusing on fear and failure will attract that instead. Empowering yourself mentally will give you the best chance of achieving your goals.
Negative thoughts are also exacerbated when we compare ourselves to others. Regarding giving up drinking this is something that can really hinder you. Looking at someone else who is drinking and comparing them to yourself is unhelpful and pointless. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is you. How far you have come and your personal reasons for not drinking. Your life is uniquely your own. When you stop comparing you begin to journey inwardly and focus on yourself.
Self-acceptance is at the core of positive thinking. If you are always hard on yourself and concentrate on your flaws and failures, you will be full of negative emotion. This means embracing all your traits without attaching negative judgements to who you are. We have all made mistakes. We are human. The definition of self-acceptance is understanding that your value is separate from your actions and qualities.
Our mistakes do not define us. It’s important to be objective about your strengths and weaknesses and never compromise on your self-worth. Having a high self-acceptance increases positive emotions. We need to show ourselves some compassion. I always tell my clients to treat themselves as they would treat their closest friend.
Think of your past self as a different person and remember you can only control your present self. Take ownership of your past self without beating yourself up about mistakes that have been made. Forgive and move forward. Once you have accomplished this you can work on retraining your thought patterns. Negative thoughts will come automatically, so we need to acknowledge them and then replace them with a positive.
When we are optimistic our day seems brighter, tasks more manageable and we have more faith in ourselves. Your inner thoughts will always be reflected in your outer circumstances and every action proceeds from thought. As far as the brain goes, every thought releases chemicals. Positive thinking produces serotonin which creates a sense of well-being.
The thing to remember is when we focus and dwell on a negative thought it will not only make us feel worse but it will change absolutely nothing about the situation. When we are facing a problem, we can choose to look at the worst-case scenario or look at the most positive outcome. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed with a situation or really stressed about something that is going on. One way to deal with this effectively is to be solution focused.
First of all, you need to establish whether the problem is something you can do something about. Things will happen in life that are out of our control and cannot be fixed. This means accepting the situation and letting go. If there are solutions, write those solutions down. When things are on paper everything feels more organised and makes more sense.
Focusing your energy on doing what you can to improve the situation will encourage positivity. We always feel better when we are being productive. Always focus on the solution, not the problem. Staying fixed on what the answer could be, rather than what went wrong or whose fault it was. This way you will prevent the negative emotions from sneaking in.
Talk yourself to a better place. I do this often. Conversations with ourselves can be really powerful. The other option is getting it all down in a journal. This helps you own and release your inner thoughts and feelings. Affirmations also have the power to transform your thinking by saying them over and over in your mind. They begin to create an effect by being repeated and empowering the mind.
I am always recommending gratitude as a key tool to use for switching a negative mind set. Early in the morning and before bed, simply think about all the things you are grateful for. This can erase any negativity in an instant.
It’s never too late to change what the future looks like. We must remember life can bring as many joyful moments as it does downfalls, that is life!
Every day might not be good but there is something good in every day.