For many of us, thinking negatively is second nature. We get down on ourselves when things don't go as planned, get depressed easily and can't seem to look on the bright side. If this sounds like you, you're not alone. "Some people are born with a naturally positive disposition, but that's the anomaly," explains Dr. Lori Dennis, a psychotherapist in Toronto.
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Being negative won't get you anywhere and the more negative you are, the worse you end up feeling -- quite a vicious cycle.
"We need to learn how to be more aware of our thoughts and the language we use," explains Dennis. "We need to catch ourselves in the act of being, taking or thinking negative thoughts about ourselves." If you're a "glass half empty" type of person, there are some simple ways to help adjust your attitude.
1. Live more in the moment
Thinking about the past or the future is what we get anxious about. Rarely do we panic about the present moment. If you find yourself dwelling on something that either has already happened or has yet to occur, remind yourself that the only thing you have control over is the present. That's really the only thing that counts. Be proactive and avoid seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance, Dennis says. "You can't sit around waiting for someone to do something good for you. If you want something out of life you need to get out and get it."
2. Practise positive affirmation
Tell yourself you are strong, says Dennis. Practise saying positive things about yourself over and over and over. In the morning, wake up and say something positive. Have that be your very first thought of the day. Even if you don't believe it, or if it's a harried Monday morning and you've woken up late for work, starting your day off with a positive affirmation will help set up your day on a good note.
3. Believe in the power of positive thinking
This one may seem pretty obvious, but it's one that many people overlook. If you think positively, positive things will happen. "It's a universal law, just like gravity," Dennis says. Alternatively, if you are constantly thinking negative thoughts, don't be surprised when negative things happen. It takes a tremendous amount of work to change our thinking to a positive frame of mind, but it's worth all the effort, she says. "If you tell yourself your life is bad, it will be. It's that simple."
Page 1 of 2 – Learn how exercise can help boost your outlook on page 2.
4. Don't dwell
Look at what's upsetting you, fix it and move on. If it's already happened, you unfortunately can't go back and change it, so dwelling on it and lamenting about what could or should have been is a waste of time and energy and just makes you feel worse about yourself. Accept whatever it is that happened and then move forward, Dennis says. It's amazing how light you will feel after dropping some of your emotional baggage.
5. Focus on the positive
Start a gratitude journal, Dennis suggests. Whether in the morning or at night -- or both -- jot down five or six things you are grateful for. They can be big or small or something as simple as "It was sunny out today" or "I had a great lunch." As long you do it on a regular, consistent basis it can help shift your negative thinking to positive. Whenever you're feeling low, go back and read your journal to reaffirm all the great things you have in your life. When we feel negative we have a tendency to forget all about what we already have and focus instead on what we don't.
6. Get moving
Exercise is paramount for feeling good because it releases endorphins, Dennis says. Whether its a walk around the block or a 10-kilometre run, activity makes us feel good in spite of ourselves. Chances are, if you're feeling low and you do even 15 minutes of activity, you'll feel better afterwards.
7. Face the fear
Negativity comes from fear, Dennis explains. "The more afraid of life you are, the more negative you tend to be." If you fear something, do it anyway. Fear is a part of life, whether we like it or not, but we all have a choice as to whether to let it stop us. Facing our fears helps to build self-esteem.
8. Try new things
Being open to trying new things also helps to build self-esteem, Dennis explains. By saying yes to life you are giving yourself more opportunity to grow and learn. Avoid the "yes, but" mentality. New experiences, big or small, help make life more exciting and provide fulfilment.
9. Shift your perspective
When something doesn't go well, find a way to reframe it in a more positive perspective. "In every challenge there's a gift, and in every gift there's a challenge," Dennis explains. Even though it can be very difficult, try to look at the good that can come from challenges. Otherwise, it's very easy to sink into despair or sadness. Do whatever you can to stay positive when times are tough.
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