When we think these kinds of thoughts, we assume we’re being objective and unbiased. We assume they’re truths. But we’re not, and they’re not. Rather, these thoughts are simply a different interpretation. A negative perspective that only sinks our mood and makes us feel powerless and paralyzed.
Our brains naturally tend toward the negative, so it’s all-too easy to go there. But that doesn’t mean that we have to live in this pessimistic, powerless place. We can choose another approach. An approach that actually empowers and energizes us.
In the new book The Science of Positivity: Stop Negative Thought Patterns By Changing Your Brain Chemistry, Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D, suggests this helpful practice: Stop and think about something good three times a day for 6 weeks. Specifically, she writes, “spend one minute each time scanning for the positive aspects of situations that are currently on your mind,” and “define ‘good’ however you want.” She shares these excellent examples of shifting our thinking:
- “When someone is on my nerves, I think about the personal power I have that is not controlled by that person.”
- “When I feel underappreciated, I think of how this frees me to develop my own instincts instead of being tempted to do the popular thing to sustain attention.”
- “When I feel conflicted about food, I think about the yummy foods I will choose when I am actually hungry, and how lucky I am to be able to choose these foods.”
- “When I feel separate from the herd, I remind myself that my inner mammal has many different, often-conflicting impulses, and I am lucky to be able to choose my response to each impulse in a way that enhances my long-run well-being.”
Being positive isn’t about denying reality or glossing over the truth. It’s not about being blind. Again, Breuning suggests looking for good things that are relevant to our present reality. As she also notes, “For best results, do not focus on puppies, rainbows and butterflies.” Focus on the thoughts that empower and inspire you. Focus on the thoughts that help you build meaning, thoughts that build a fulfilling life.
What positive aspects can you find in a situation that’s currently on your mind? What good can you see?