Keeping a positive mindset can, at times, be something that is much easier said than done.

However, studies have shown that optimism can have positive effects on stress management, reducing muscle tension, aiding better sleep, and boosting our immune systems.

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What does it mean to be positive?

Firstly it’s important to realise that keeping a positive mindset doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring or avoiding life’s negatives. Instead, what it means is to change our approach to one that is a more productive way of dealing with negativity or difficulties.

An example could be losing a job. While initially the event will present difficulties and worries, having an optimistic outlook may enable someone to channel their thoughts into looking forward to finding a new opportunity. This outlook may then empower their thinking as they approach job searches and interviews with a sense of positivity, which may boost their overall confidence. 

Positive thinking usually begins with positive self-talk, the talk we all give ourselves, and the way that we think about ourselves and the world around us.

Sometimes, self-talk can be tainted with misconceptions. Identifying that this is the case can help to change negative thinking into more positive thinking. Instead of thinking “I’m no good at accounting”, thinking “I’m not where I want to be with accounting because I haven’t learnt enough yet” is a more positive approach. If a person is positive about changing their attitude toward accounting, and is being productive by being willing to learn more, they will therefore be likely to improve their knowledge and understanding of accounting.

Potential health benefits of positive thinking may include:

  • A lowered risk of depression
  • Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
  • Boosted resistance to illnesses like the common cold
  • Improved psychological and physical well-being
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved coping skills during emotional stress

A positive outlook may help to regulate stress. Lower stress levels also have a range of natural impacts on the body which include lowered cholesterol levels and better sleep to aid the body’s rest, repair and recovery system. 

Identifying and changing negative thinking

We all suffer from negative thoughts from time to time, but fleeting moments of negativity are one thing, but constant negative thinking is another.

  • If you filter. Filtering happens when you only focus on the negative aspects of a situation and omit the positive. For example, receiving overall great feedback on a project at work, but instead choosing to focus on suggested changes and viewing these as a question of your competency. 
  • If you personalise. Personalising occurs when we use our own insecurities or anxieties to tell ourselves things that aren’t true about a situation. For example, a friend cancels your evening plans, and you assume it’s because they have had a better offer than meeting you.
  • If you catastrophise. Catastrophising is magnifying a situation to anticipate the very worst. We can all be guilty of this: the car won’t start, so we’re late for work, we won;t get anything done, and this means the rest of the day will be a write-off. 
  • If you polarise. Polarising is seeing things as all or nothing  – there is no middle ground. Perfectionists can polarise their thought processes because they often fear anything less than perfect is a sign of failure.

Keeping a positive mindset with positive thinking 

The good news is that even if you relate to some of the above thought processes, there are ways to try to train yourself to think more positively. These may include:

  • Identifying negative thought areas

We all possess areas of our lives in which we think more negatively than others. If, for example, we aren’t in a fulfilling role at work, it’s easy to harbour feelings of disengagement or stress, which can lead to negative thinking. One way to alter this is to identify the negative area: for example, work, and then change the approach. Write down three things you enjoy about your work, role, or colleagues. If there are areas of your job that you feel less skilled in than others, can you take measures to improve your skill set?

  • Practice positive self-talk

If you notice your self-talk verging into negative territory throughout the day, stop, take a moment and change your thought pattern. Look for the optimistic angle in any negative thoughts. Actively practice talking positively by giving yourself a positive pep-talk. Be kind to yourself, and don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to others.

  • Smile

It may sound like the simplest change, but sometimes seeking the humour or seeing the funny side to a situation can help to change your outlook.

  • Create a healthy lifestyle. 

Exercise is one thing that can boost our endorphins and promote positivity. So if you can, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, or take a twenty-minute brisk walk outside. Complement this by eating a healthy, balanced and colourful diet, and use natural stress management techniques such as meditation or journaling.

  • Keep positive people around you

Surrounding yourself with people who are naturally optimistic may have a knock-on effect to how you approach situations. People who are regularly negative may increase stress levels in other people.

Practice your positive mindset everyday 

Changing our way of thinking and approaching situations differently is not something that will naturally occur overnight. But with a little practice, you can change your self-talk from self-critical to one of self-affirmation.

At Great Minds at Work we encourage positivity into the workplace by training staff to become Mental Health First Aiders. Mental Health First Aiders can help spot patterns of negative self-thinking, and can assist colleagues who may be struggling. To find out more about how our MHFA First Aid Training can help you or your business, click here.