I can’t seem to take hold of my negative thoughts, no matter how hard I try. I think I just don’t know where to start. I want to be more positive, but it’s overwhelming.
How can I think positive thoughts daily?
~ Overwhelmed Olivia in Oakland
Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, has amazing advice for you:
Dear Searching for Happiness,
My first question; do you want to think positive thoughts daily or positive thoughts all day? One is achievable; the other is not. Can you guess which strategy will set you up for failure? If you guessed thinking positive thoughts all day, every day, you are the winner! It’s not only impossible, but it’s also not realistic or healthy.
Recently I sat down with my three-and-a-half-year-old niece and watched Inside Out. My expectations of being entertained were low. It turned out to be a cute movie with an even better message. We need to embrace all the emotions. Happiness does not exist without sadness. Think about that for a minute. How would you know what pure joy felt like if you hadn’t experienced a moment of being down in the dumps? I’m all about being on team Joy, but I have started to see the advantage of sadness.
If you met me, you would say that I seem like a very positive person, and I’ll admit, I was born with an above-average happiness scale. On the flip side, it can be hard for me to show vulnerability and share my challenges with people. If you don’t have that issue, just think, you already have a leg up on me!
Now let’s talk about the daily positive thoughts. They come with a pause. They come with stillness. They come with effort, and lastly, they take time and patience to develop. Switching your mindset is a practice, just like yoga or eating less chocolate (guilty!). You are going to skip a day or be flustered by a situation and your positive practice will disappear in a minute. When this happens, and it inevitably will, be kind to yourself and then resume your practice.
Let’s talk about the pause, breath, and stillness. Can you remember the last time you just sat in total silence? It’s a challenge for me, but my answer would be the shower. I also tend to think of my best ideas in the shower. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I want you to try something. The next time something seemingly insignificant that you would typically classify as ‘negative’ happens (a car cutting you off, missing the light, being late, missing the train, etc.), pause, be still and take a breath. Maybe two. Imagine the significant events in your life and then rank this one (i.e., put it in perspective). Reframing an event can help put a different spin on your thoughts and turn a seemingly negative interaction into a more pleasant one.
Want to take it to the next level? Figure out what good will come out of your situation. Did you miss the light? It might have caused you to miss an accident. Did you miss the train? You might meet someone unexpected and unique on the next one. If you haven’t seen the movie Sliding Doors, check it out. It’s an oldie, but a goodie—Gwyneth before her GOOP days.
Journaling has always helped me reframe situations and simply get the mental vomit on paper, so it’s out of my head. Recently I purchased Sahara Rose’s A Yogic Path Reflection Journal, which outlines my daily intentions, gratitude, and learnings. What I like about it; it’s short, simple, and sweet. Five boxes – two in the morning and three at night. The amount of writing is approachable and organized, and it does create a positive way to start and end my day.
One of my favorite inspirational speakers, Mel Robbins, recently shared a chat about creating an EASY and RESET list. Do you remember the EASY button from Staples? Whenever things are getting a little crazy, you just push it, and bam, life is easy? Sounds incredible, right? What if you had a list of ideas/words/memories that made thinking positively EASY? What if you had a list of ideas/words/memories that you could use to RESET your mind when you felt a dark spiral approaching? You can; you just have to create it. What’s the most accessible way to keep it on hand? A reminders list on your phone? A piece of paper at your desk?
Create an EASY list of words, memories, concepts, even pictures that just make you smile. Mine would include my brother’s poop emoji profile picture on my phone, watching a video of my puppy on the treadmill, and of course, tacos. They can be silly or profound; they just need to make you smile. As for the RESET list, what will make you come back and take a pause or breath? Is it reframing, calling a girlfriend, journaling, getting a sugary coffee drink, etc.? Continue to add to your EASY and RESET list and see what works for you and what does not. Keep it handy at all times. Visit it often.
I hope the tips above make your daily positive thoughts flow freely. Remember, your life is a gift, and no one else on this planet has the same unique characteristics as you do. Embrace it; the joy and the sadness.
Lauren + Ellie