Keeping a Positive Mindset
We’ve been talking about mindset and how oftentimes, we need to shift our mindset in order to make real change occur in our lives. And in all honesty, writing about positivity when it feels like the world is beyond fucked up is hard. But it is something I believe in.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had many, many people tell me I’m a cynic. My response is always the same—I’m a realist. That means that I can look at the world and recognize it for the shitshow that it is, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. In order to not give up, you need to have a positive mindset. Even if you struggle to pull it off for yourself, what message are you sending your kids if you allow negativity to rule your life?
What Does it Mean to Have a Positive Mindset?
So I’ve talked about the need for a positive mindset, but what exactly does that mean? Do I expect you to be a perfect ray of sunshine 24/7? Not really. If that were the case, I could never write this post with a straight face. I’m not a ray of sunshine person.
Keeping a positive mindset is when you have a positive mental attitude. Your mindset is simply your collection of beliefs and thoughts about the world around you, and yourself. It is often built up over time through your experiences and also some limiting beliefs.
A positive mindset is one where you try to be more optimistic and put a positive spin on life’s events, both good and bad. It is not forcing yourself to be positive all the time, but simply be more mindful and optimistic about how you view the moments you experience.
Did you get that last part? It’s not about rainbow-farting unicorns. It’s about how you view what happens to you and what you do about it. Sometimes life sucks and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
What a Positive Mindset Looks like
Aside from the general definition of what it means to think positively, it can be hard to really understand what this means in your thought processes and in your life. Here’s a glance at what having a positive mindset might look like:
Being more mindful
Mindfulness is a big part of having a positive mindset because instead of getting caught in a stress spiral about a negative moment in your life, you are able to just sit with it and accept that is only what is happening in that moment. It’s kind of like making sure you live “This too shall pass.” Because it always does. And often, you can choose how things go after. Mindfulness is hard in the moment because you are hurt or stressed or anxious. Take the steps to try. Mindfulness gets easier the more you practice.
Being optimistic is one of the best aspects of having a positive mindset. When you think positively, you tend to be optimistic, where you see the bright side of things, no matter what the worst-case scenario could be. It’s about not dwelling on the negative “what if” but instead thinking about the positive “what if.” For example, if you lose your job, you could get caught in a spiral of misery—I’m going to lose my house, I won’t have money to buy food, etc. Instead, you can focus on the positive of finding an even better job.
On a day-to-day basis, someone with a positive mindset expresses gratitude regularly. This is something that most of us don’t think about regularly. Every day, you should be able to come up with at least a few things you’re grateful for, even if they seem inconsequential at first. For example, hearing your kid giggle uncontrollably or hearing the calming sound of rain against the windows might seem unimportant or at least not something you should be grateful for. But consider this—how much would you miss it if it was gone? Be grateful for those little things because they make your life happier.
Handling challenges with patience:
Resilience is another big part of a positive mindset, so you will notice that you are able to handle unexpected events and various obstacles in your life much more effortlessly. We often hear how resilient kids are, which is true, so we should learn from them. Be fearless in handling life’s obstacles and challenges. Don’t back down. Find a way through or around that obstacle to reach your goal.
Helping others see the bright side:
Finally, you might notice that you also help other people to be more positive. You have a better understanding of what it is like to have a positive mindset, so when someone goes through something difficult, you know how to help them be more optimistic about the situation. This is especially true as a parent. We don’t need our kids to walk through life with rose-colored glasses, but we also don’t want them to feel defeated by everything. You’re the role model. Show them how it’s done.
Benefits of Keeping a Positive Mindset
Why should you work on developing a positive mindset? There are actually many benefits to positive thinking and changing how you view the different experiences you go through in your life. Some of the top benefits of having a more positive mindset include:
- Being resilient
- Challenging your own limiting beliefs
- Increasing your self-esteem and confidence
- Excelling at work
- Improving relationships with friends and loved ones
- Enjoying a more fulfilling life
When you have a positive mindset, you don’t avoid all negative thoughts and situations. That would be impossible. But you are optimistic, you see that the glass is half full, and you understand that it always gets better no matter what.
Use Positive Thinking to Stop Stress Spirals
Another thing to consider about keeping a positive mindset is that you can actually stop those stress and anxiety thought spirals before they get out of hand.
You know the ones: when something bad happens, you have one negative thought, and suddenly you are caught up in a whirlwind of bad thoughts that seem to get out of control. But the thing about these thought patterns is that you are in control. You are allowing that single negative thought to change how you view the entire experience.
When you start working on your positive mindset, you will still have negative thoughts and stressful situations in your life. But these spirals don’t happen as often because you are more mindful and in control. It takes practice for this to work. You can’t just try to think a happy thought and get mad that it didn’t work. You need to process the situation and figure out what you can learn from it and how you can change going forward. It’s not about faking happiness.
However, keeping a positive mindset allows you to be happy during every phase of your life, the good and the bad. You learn how to accept challenging circumstances for what they are and find a way to look on the bright side, even when everything feels so dim and dark in your life. The amazing way it transforms your life into something beautiful is what makes it worth it.
What Can Affect Your Mindset (And How to Avoid it)
As you continue on your journey to building and keeping a positive mindset and focusing on positive thinking, there will be times in your life that are a lot more challenging than others. There are certain people and situations that will affect your mindset more drastically and make it harder to maintain the positive mindset you crave.
Here are some situations that might be affecting your mindset, and some tips for resolving them.
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Extreme Levels of Stress
One of the biggest impacts on your positive mindset is dealing with an extremely high level of stress. While stress is normal and not something you can avoid, when it feels heavy and intense, it can do a number on your mindset.
Stress has a way to impact just about every aspect of your life, including work, personal relationships, habits and lifestyle, and definitely mindset.
The best thing you can do if you have stress is to start working on stress relief methods. Habits such as meditation, journaling, affirmations, exercise, and socializing can help tremendously when you have a lot of stress in your life. If you incorporate some of these stress-busting activities into your daily routine, de-stressing will become easier. Less stress means less of a chance for the negative spiral to occur.
Lack of Healthy Habits
Another impact on your mindset might be the lack of healthy habits you have in your life. People often view habits and lifestyle as optional, and only needed to live a certain kind of life or achieve a specific goal. But these habits you choose to add to your daily life can be what keeps you from transforming your mindset or encourages you to improve it.
If you keep things just as they are, never growing or changing, and never focusing on healthy habits, your mind will also stay in the same place. You need to find things to add to your daily routine that not only help your physical state but your emotional and mental state as well. These are what will help encourage you to be more positive. Some of those things are the ones mentioned above: meditation, exercise, journaling, etc.
The Way You Talk to Yourself
Mindset is impacted by how you talk to yourself. No, I’m not talking about mumbling about forgetting where you left your keys. I’m talking about the little voice in the back of your head that more often than not is supercritical. If you tend to have a more negative outlook about yourself, whether it is how you look, your successes or failures, or how you have been living your life, then you are only setting yourself up for a negative mindset.
Think about the thoughts you have about yourself. Do you call yourself stupid for making a mistake? Do you look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re fat or ugly? We dismiss these comments we make about ourselves, especially if we don’t say them aloud. But how would you feel if you heard someone talk to your kid like that? You’d be pissed. You’d do everything in your power to reassure your child that they are smart and kind and beautiful. We need to do this for ourselves too.
You need to start being kinder to yourself. Use positive affirmations to start shifting your subconscious thoughts, use only positive words when thinking about yourself or talking to yourself, and don’t put yourself down when you feel you could have handled a situation differently.
The Way Others Talk to You
It is equally important to consider how other people around you talk to you or treat you. Even if they don’t intend to make you feel bad, sometimes the tone of people or just someone who doesn’t support you the way they should, can have a negative impact on your mindset.
If you have a perpetually negative thought process, then it probably started at a time in your life when others convinced you of these limiting beliefs. These beliefs sit in your subconscious mind, where you are not aware of them except when situations arise that create that negative mindset.
This is a good time to consider the types of people you surround yourself with. To have a positive mindset, you need to have positive people around you. Even if someone isn’t directly hurtful, if their words or actions make you feel bad about yourself in any way, it is a toxic relationship and one that you should reconsider keeping in your life.
What to do When Negative Thoughts Creep in
Having a positive mindset is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but can also be one of the most challenging. As humans, we find it easier to focus on what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. If you don’t have a positive outlet for those negative thoughts and feelings you might be experiencing, it could have a big impact on your mindset. Even if you are trying to reframe your negative thoughts and work on your mindset, they can still creep in and make it more challenging if you don’t have an outlet for them.
Whether you have a self-deprecating attitude and constantly put yourself down (even just for laughs), or your anxious thoughts tend to overpower your optimistic ones, it can keep you from living your best life.
This isn’t about toxic positivity, where you force yourself to smile and be happy even when the world is crumbling around you. It is more about staying present, being grateful, and not letting negative thoughts consume you.
Challenge Your Thoughts
The first thing you can do when you notice negative thoughts starting to creep into your mind is to challenge them. This is when you don’t label them good or bad, but consider where they are coming from and whether or not they are practical.
It is easy to have negative thoughts that aren’t realistic, and more based on fears and assumptions than anything concrete. Your thoughts can become distorted because of your own stress or anxiety, or just because it has become a habit to think more negatively than positively.
When challenging your thoughts, try to look at them objectively, as if you are someone else considering them. This allows you to see them from another perspective and ascertain how valid they are.
Another way to combat those feelings is by repeating positive affirmations. When you have a negative thought, turn it into a positive affirmation and repeat it to yourself, preferably in the mirror so your mind can actually see and hear you say the words.
Consider What Triggered Them
Every thought you have is triggered by something, whether you were conscious of it or not. Many times, we are halfway through a spiraling thought pattern and don’t even realize it started from seeing something on social media or being reminded of a bad memory from the past.
When you find yourself stuck in a negative thought spiral, try to get into a mindful state where you stay present and can think logically about how those thoughts began. What were you doing? Did someone say something to you? How did you feel before this thought process began?
You might find that very specific things tend to trigger your negative thoughts, which is great because in the future you might be able to avoid it.
A healthy way to process your thoughts and feelings is with a journal. Just write down how you are feeling, what you are going through, anything that comes into your mind. Make this a daily habit and soon you will notice it is easier to maintain your positive mindset. Oftentimes, we discover what some of those triggers are once we put the situation down in writing. When we know what possible triggers are, we can either avoid them or prepare a strategy to use when we encounter them. Processing your feelings will enable you to prepare for negativity and maintain your positive mindset.
Do Something That Always Makes You Happy
Sometimes all you can do to think more positively is to just distract your mind and focus on what makes you happy. Anything that cheers you up or brings joy and contentment into your mind is great for this practice.
It might just be sitting on the couch and watching Netflix or scrolling through Tik Tok to watch funny videos. Maybe you are happier being outside in nature and you go for a walk or bike ride. You might be someone who is happiest when around other people, so you call up a friend or meet up for drinks. If you are a creative person, maybe you are happiest when you are drawing, painting, or working on crafts at home.
There is no right or wrong here, as long as it is something you truly enjoy. This becomes a good opportunity for some self-care and can stop your negative thoughts in their tracks.
Stop Judging Your Own Thoughts
One of the problems with negative thoughts isn’t the thoughts themselves, but that you are judging them. This is where toxic positivity comes in. You aren’t just trying to never think anything negatively again, because that’s impossible. Nobody is happy and positive 100% of the time.
Instead, be mindful of your thoughts but don’t judge them. Look for the triggers, understand where they came from, figure out why you are feeling this way, challenge your thoughts and consider whether or not it comes from a place of honesty or fear.
Every time a negative thought pattern enters your mind, tell yourself you accept that it is how you feel right now, but why am I feeling this way?
Breathe and Take a Moment to Pause
Lastly, to move past your negative thoughts and not let them consume you, you can just take a moment to pause and breathe. Stop whatever you are doing, don’t think about those negative thought spirals, and just focus on your breathing. Even if you only have 2 minutes to spare, sit quietly, close your eyes, and breathe in deeply. Focus only on your inhales and exhales and keep centering your mind to focus on your breathing.
Some people find it difficult to clear their minds in order to focus on breathing so I suggest the Take 5 method. As you breathe in, run a finger along your thumb, from base to tip. On the exhale, trace down. Inhale, trace up the index finger. Exhale and trace back. Do this for all 5 fingers (twice if you have time). Between the calm breathing and the tactile feeling of tracing your fingers, you should be able to calm your mind.
Many times, all we need is a few minutes of rest to breathe and relax. This can stop negative thoughts that are about to spiral out of control and allow us to calm the anxious thought patterns.
Like everything else we talk about, this takes practice. You won’t have a positive mindset immediately. It takes work and patience. But the rewards are worth the effort.