7 tips for becoming more optimistic
You find yourself always thinking of the negative in a situation, and are baffled when other people seem to always be more optimistic. Even if you know things ‘aren’t that bad’ you become so critical of yourself, other people, and life. Pessimism and Optimism are traits that are developed from a range of things: genetics, life experiences, and temperament. But as with all personality traits, they are on a spectrum. And most research supports the idea that optimism can be LEARNED.
Here are 7 tips to becoming more optimistic and thinking more positively:
1. Catch that negative inner critic
“I never thought I was a bully, until I listened to how I spoke to myself”
Positive self talk is the core of optimism. People who think positively about themselves, their life and the world do not simply have better lives. However, they do practice catching their negative inner critic and try not to let it beat them up.
Catch your inner critic simply by tuning in more often. So much of the time when I ask clients about their thoughts, they automatically say “I don’t know”. Tuning in and recognising your negative self talk takes practice, but it is imperative. You cannot change your thoughts if you don’t know what they are to start with!
Take a week and write down any negative thoughts you have throughout the day. Even if it is hard, try to write them down exactly as they are e.g. “Urgh, such fat thighs” “Whats the point” “I suck at my job”. See if you can find any patterns to them, and note how often you have them (what percentage of your thoughts do you think are negative?)
2. Argue back with balanced, positive thoughts
Once you have a good idea of the nature of your negative thinking, we are going to start replacing it with positive and balanced thoughts. Continue the above exercise, but when you write down a negative thought, take a few minutes to write down a challenge to this thoughts next to it. e.g. “I tried my best today” “I am not stupid, everyone makes mistakes” “I can’t read minds, she probably isn’t thinking that”
Here are some tips for challenging negative thoughts:
-What would I say to a friend if she said these thoughts out loud?
-Is there actually any evidence that this thought is true?
-Will this matter in 5yrs time?
-Is this the best way that I could be thinking about myself?
-How could I be kinder in my thoughts?
3. Prioritise yourself and your self care
You know who is really bad at thinking positively and balanced thoughts? Stressed and burnout people. Seriously, have you noticed how much more negative and self critical you are when you are tired? Imagine this, but x10 when you are continually stressed out. Prioritising your emotional, physical, and mental health will ensure that your mind has the space to collect it’s thoughts in a balanced, healthy, and more positive way. This makes it easier to stay in the optimist mindset.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
How much of your negative thinking do you think is reinforced by the people in your life? If you really want to become more optimistic, you need to surround yourself with people who are going to make you feel good and help you with your mindset. There is nothing that puts a dampen on your thoughts quicker than another person complaining all the time.
Now, this isn’t to say you need to get rid of all your friends and family, just consider who inspires you, builds you up, makes you feel good about yourself. Those that don’t, perhaps limit the amount of time you spend with them.
5. Use kind and compassionate self talk
To be an optimist, you don’t need to be super positive all the time. Let’s face it, life can be pretty damn hard sometimes. But the more you can practice kind and compassionate self talk, the easier it will become to get through these hard times. It will also be easier to become more optimistic, and more positive in your mindset and approach to life. Instead of trying to think ‘positive’, start adding some compassionate thinking to your day.
When things don’t go to plan, think “I am a good person and I am allowed to make mistakes.”
When someone is mean to you, think “I deserve respect and kindness”
And if you are criticising yourself, think “I love and forgive myself”
6. Practice regular gratitude
Practicing regular gratitude is an incredibly important part of positive thinking and becoming more optimistic. Not only does expressing gratitude light up parts of the brain that make you feel good, but these effects are actually quite long-lasting and have a self-perpetuating cycle. What this means is that the more gratitude you practice, the more attuned you are to things to be grateful for, and the more benefit you find from it.
This is really important, as it means the means that your gratitude ‘muscle’ can be strengthened through repetition. So, the more you practice gratitude now, the easier is becomes for those feelings to come to you spontaneously in the future. Each day, either write down or say out loud 2-3 things that you are grateful for. Even on the difficult days, try to find something that you are thankful in your life, big or small. It can be your morning coffee, a sunny day, smile from a stranger, or a roof over your head.
7. Allowing negative feelings
(but don’t get stuck in them!)
Remember, even optimists have down days and negative thinking. Being more optimistic does not mean pushing aside negative emotions and pretending everything is great! Remember to be A.W.A.R.E: Allow, Witness, Acknowledge, Release, Ease Up. Allow your negative thoughts, witness and observe them, acknowledge the negative feelings they create, release yourself from your typical narrative and let go, and ease up on yourself, using more kind and compassionate self talk.
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