The end of a relationship or the failure of your business can make you feel negative. Life can make you feel negative. We all have to persevere through challenging times at some point in our lives. There are times when it seems that all is lost and everything really sucks.
However, happiness can be a choice. It's amazing that you can even practice happiness by reprogramming yourself. It takes work to reprogram how you react to your emotions. To be a more positive person use the following techniques.
The Positive Tetris Effect
I came across this idea from Walter Chen via the Buffer Blog. Chen writes that we can combat negativity bias. By harnessing “the brain’s plasticity by training our brain to make positive patterns more automatic," it is possible.
Mr. Chen adds, that when “we practice looking for and being more aware of positive aspects of life, we fight off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for and spot the negatives. Naturally we bring ourselves into better balance.”
That sounds promising, but what exactly does that have to do with Tetris? If you play a lot of Tetris you become “Tetris-ized.” This is because your brain continues to process activities and events many hours and even days afterward.
The same idea can be applied to happiness. We can retrain the brain to only scan for the good things in life. That’s why when you watched a humorous YouTube clip is stays with you for hours.
You can start to rewire your brain for positivity by:
- Scanning for three daily positives. At the end of the day jot down these positives and reflect on what caused them.
- Give one shout-out to someone (daily). It only takes a minute to thank and recognize the efforts of someone important in your life.
- Do something nice. Whether it’s volunteering, donating to a charity, or buying a stranger a cup of coffee, acts of kindness boost happiness levels.
- Mind your mind. Mindfulness allows you to focus on the present - which can bring balance and positivity back into your life.
Become a realistic optimist.
Spoiler alert: Positive thinkers don’t always see the world through rose-colored glasses. Optimistic people are not completely ignoring negativity.
Andreas von der Heydt is the Head and Director of Kindle Content at Amazon in Germany. Ms von der Heydt wrote, “Being both optimistic and realistic, i.e. combining the two into one behavioral style of realistic optimism creates a special breed of very successful people. Realistic optimists stay positive and upbeat about the future, even – and especially - if and when they recognize the challenges ahead."
Stomp out ANTS.
One key difference between positive and negative people is that those who are positive are more self-aware and resilient. They’re able to identify and stomp out ANTs, or automatic negative thoughts, as soon as appear.
ANTS are subconscious thoughts that a lot of us aren’t aware of until it’s too late. Awareness of those messages can prevent a downward spiral of negativity.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Plenty of research has highlighted the awesomeness of gratitude. Gratitude will improve your mental and physical health. Being thankful helps you sleep better, boost your self-esteem and enhance your resilience and empathy.
Best of all? It doesn’t take much effort to receive these benefits.
Start by writing in a gratitude journal. Write down and reflect on three to five things you are especially grateful during the last day or week. It’s a great way to end the day on a positive note. By focusing on what you have and what you appreciative, you can become a much happier person.
Here’s a list of 31 gratitude exercises that will boost your happiness.
Related: The Four A's of Expressing Gratitude
Recite positive affirmations.
Dr. Mona Lisa Schultz, M.D., PH.D.,a neuroscientist and author of various books on the subject of affirmations and the brain, states;
“We can rewire the patterns in our brain with cognitive behavioral therapy or affirmations. Affirmations change the way our brains are wired and the brain lights up differently. So it’s not just this flow, woo-woo stuff with purple, but it really has bio-chemical, neuro-chemical, neuropharmacological effects just as effective, if not more effective, than Prozac, Zoloft, whatever else you have.
More recently, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found three psychological explanations for why self-affirmation is beneficial. First, it’s enjoyable to dwell on what we value. Second, when we’re emotionally threatened by criticism or failure, the technique reminds us of what we value about ourselves more broadly. Third, broadening the basis of our self-worth helps us regulate our emotions.
To begin creating positive affirmations, follow these steps:
- When you’re alone, think about what you want to improve.
- After some thought, list of the most important improvements that you want to make.
- Jot down several positive statements for each item. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t.
- Finally, post these affirmations where you’ll read them often.
“By cultivating mindfulness, we can learn to identify the negative thoughts that keep us trapped in feelings of self-doubt and shame. Learn instead to embrace the peacefulness that stems from living in the present moment,” writes licensed psychotherapist Courtney Gregory.
Self-defeating negative thoughts result from labeling, catastrophizing and over generalization, according to Gregory.
“The work for anyone struggling with perpetual negative thinking is to recognize that these thoughts are just that — thoughts, and not facts,” Gregory said. “Then, it’s time to challenge these automatic patterns of thinking. This is where mindfulness meditation comes in.”
The first step in becoming mindful is challenging negative thoughts by recognizing them, telling them to stop, ask probing questions, and replace them with rational positive thoughts.
After that, you can become mindful by:
- Connecting to the present. If you’re stuck, imagine how animals and kids act in the real world.
- Practice yoga. This is meditation of the body.
- Eat mindfully, aka actually enjoying the flavor, texture, smell and presentation of your meals.
- Take a mindful shower, such as focusing on the warm water on your skin and scent of your soap and shampoo.
- Practice mindful listening, which is actually listening to others without judgment or interruption.
Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
Negative emotions, such as stress, are contagious. Toxic situations influence your mind to be negative. Positive emotions like happiness are also contagious. To become a more positive person stop hanging with negative people and spend more time with people who are happy and supportive.
Idleness sends the brain down a rabbithole. With nothing else to do, it over-analyzes and over-thinks everything. The best way to avoid resting brain worries is to keep yourself busy, especially with activities you enjoy when you can. Occupy yourself with activities that will increase your happiness or enhance your life, such as exercise, learning a new skill, or reading.