“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
- Abraham Lincoln
When tapping in to the power of positive thinking, the most important step is to create a mindset that allows you to think positively. Once you have pulled the weeds from your mental garden, you can begin to sow the seeds that will anchor your new way of life.
Creating a positive mindset takes training. In much the same manner as runners train their bodies to endure long periods of sustained activity, you can train your mind to sustain positive thought, and naturally defer to pleasant or optimistic paths. At first, thinking positively may feel awkward or ridiculous (particularly if you’re the type of person who believes perky morning people should be shot). Keep in mind, though, that it does get easier the more you do it, and eventually, sustaining a positive mindset will be as natural as breathing.
Like any training program, there are steps you can follow to achieve your optimal results: in this case, a positive mental outlook. You may recall that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (When you make an appointment with an NLP Coach it can be done over a few sessions). Therefore, you should perform each of the steps for at least 21 consecutive days. You can take on one step at a time, or implement the whole program; just be sure you aren’t leaving anything out.
Step up to your mental treadmill, and let the training begin!
Warm-up: Shake Out Negative Kinks
When you think about it, it’s obvious: negative is the opposite of positive, so in order to instil a positive mindset you need to get rid of negative thoughts. Sounds simple enough, right? The process is an easy one, but it takes practice to make it stick.
The first step in clearing negativity from your mind is to really pay attention to your thoughts. Whenever the words can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, won’t, not, or never enter your mind, concentrate on what you’re thinking and turn it around to eliminate the negative wording. For example:
Your spouse and children are gone for a few hours, and you have the place to yourself. You’re indulging in one of your favourite activities. In the midst of your enjoyment, you start to feel guilty. You think: I really shouldn’t be doing this. I could be getting started on the project I promised someone else I’d take care of. Your enjoyment starts to fade, and you stop what you’re doing, resentful that you have to tackle this boring project when you have so little time to yourself...
Does this sound familiar? The moments you hear yourself think shouldn’t, stop right there and change direction. In this scenario, you might instead think I really should be doing this. Taking time for me is important, and when I’m relaxed and satisfied I will be able to do a better job on that project I promised someone else. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do something I enjoy.
Try to do this every time a negative thought creeps in. The more often you banish negative ideas from your mind, the easier positive thinking will become. You will be more relaxed and receptive to positive solutions.
Work Those Mouth Muscles
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a smile is worth a million. The power of a smile is incredible. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, the simple act of lifting the corners of your mouth can help you lift your entire spirit and find something worth smiling about. Some of the greatest self-help advice out there comes from those who advocate “fake it until you make it.” This is especially true when it comes to positive thinking, and faking a smile goes a long way toward producing the genuine thing. You may end up laughing at yourself merely because you know you have nothing to smile about.
Another great thing about smiles- they’re highly contagious. A smile spreads faster than a cold in a daycare. Most people can’t help smiling back when someone casts a happy expression their way. This is a simple and exciting theory that you can test out for yourself. Go to any public place and start smiling at random people, then keep track of how many smile back (even suspicious smirking counts!). You’ll likely find that 9 out of 10 of your targets return your joyful expression to some small degree, and you’ve probably just made their day a little brighter, too.
Learning to smile on demand is an important step in developing a permanently positive mindset. One good technique for summoning smiles is to choose a happy memory that never fails to fill you with good feelings. Keep this memory at the front of your mental catalogue, and access it whenever you feel a case of the blues coming on. It may not solve your problems, but it will at least make you smile- which in turn helps you relax and take an objective look at your situation. Smiling often creates a mental cue for the foundation of positive thinking and helps prime the pumps of happiness.
You should also spend a little time in front of the mirror observing your own expressions. At first this practice may seem uncomfortable or downright silly, but smiling at your own reflection has a positive effect on your psyche. You can even practice different smile variations: the amused smirk; the close-lipped leg-pulling smile; the toothy grin; the laugh-out-loud open-mouthed smile. Think of it as an Olympic event...it’s your personal Smile Marathon, and you’ll win the gold every time!
Do Some Reps
When developing a positive mindset, the importance of repetition cannot be understated. Exercise is the key to building any muscle, so by viewing your optimistic outlook as a muscle, you can develop a reserve of happiness that will carry you through the most gruelling events.
This is not to say you shouldn’t worry about anything. Ignoring troubling events won’t make them go away. It’s important to face your problems while looking at them through a positive lens. The positive mindset itself doesn’t erase your troubles. It is simply a tool to allow you to find a solution without burning yourself out through stress and anxiety. You will find it far easier to solve problems when you can step back and look at the situation in a positive light; and often the solution will present itself with little effort, simply because your mind is clear and open enough to notice it.
The more you practice positive thinking, the more naturally it will come to you। You will find that frustrating everyday occurrences dwindle to minor nuisances, and eventually cease to trouble you altogether. Keep practicing positive thought processes, and you will be well on your way to a low-stress, high-energy lifestyle that will allow you to accomplish anything you desire.
Cool-Down: Feel the Burn
As you come to the end of your daily positive thinking workout, look back and reflect on your progress. Was there anything that seemed easier to you? Were you able to find a faster solution to a problem that would have ordinarily eaten up a lot of time in worrying? Do you feel more relaxed and ready to try again tomorrow?
Congratulate yourself on your victories. By reinforcing your accomplishments, you help to firm the foundation of your new positive mindset and lay the groundwork for your success. Every positive thought brings you one step closer to your ultimate goal. You will soon realize that you can do this, and you will have much greater enthusiasm as you proceed.
Now that you’ve planted the seeds for positive thinking, the next step is to learn how to care for your mental garden. In my next blog you will discover the fuel you need to nurture your seeds and coax new shoots from the soil of your mind. Meanwhile, keep pumping that positive thinking iron!
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