Note: The following is a guest post by Ryan Rivera.
Positive thinking is at the heart of happiness. Positive thinking is how you get joy from your accomplishments, look forward to the future, enjoy the present, and relish your past. Happiness is itself a type of positive thinking, because it comes from being content with the world around you.
But we live in a cynical society, and many people start to suffer from negative thinking and a negative mindset. As a result, anyone that hopes to be happier and more stress free needs to find a way to stop negative thinking. It is your responsibility to do this; no one else can change the way you think.
Causes of Negative Thinking
Before we can get into how to think more positively, it’s important to address why people tend to think negatively. After all, unless you identify the causes of negative thinking, you’re bound to keep triggering them and possibly go back to that mindset. The causes include:
- Surrounding Yourself With Negative People – Perhaps the greatest problem is that mindsets are contagious, and negative thinking tends to be more common than positive thinking. That means that when you spend time with negative people, you’re more likely to become a negative person. It can be hard to lose friends, but be aware that if you’re not spending time with people that have the attitude you want to have, it’s much harder to maintain a positive attitude.
- Surrounding Yourself With Negative Things – It’s not just people either. In this increasingly technologically advanced world, there is far more content created for negative emotions than positive ones. So when you’re watching reality TV shows that focus on negative people, dramas about murder, music about sadness and heartbreak – what you’re doing is surrounding yourself with negative things, which in turn makes you have more negative emotions.
- Upbringing – Of course, some negative thinking is simply the result of upbringing. If your parents were negative, you received a lot of bullying, or you had a hard life, it’s not uncommon to start to feel more negative about the world around you.
- Negativity is Easier to Confirm – Finally, negativity is sometimes learned through reinforcement, because negativity itself is easier to confirm. For example, if you believe you’re going to fail at something, chances are you’re going to fail. But if you believe that you’re going to succeed at something, you might succeed but you also might fail. Because one is nearly 100% and the other is not, negative thinking appears easier to confirm, which in turn causes you to think negatively in the future.
These are just some of the causes of negative thinking, and causes that you should be aware of if you hope to start thinking positively in the future.
Not All Negativity is Learned
It should be noted that not all negative thinking is caused by your upbringing or your surroundings. Some negative thinking is actually chemical, as a result of stress and anxiety. Within your brain there are chemicals known as neurotransmitters that affect how you send and receive information. When you have a lot of stress in your life, these neurotransmitter levels may change, which results in changes to the way you think: aka, negative thinking.
Mike’s Note: The foods you eat also effect your neurotransmitters, and by extension, your mood. Boost your mood with these foods.
How Faking Positivity Can Create Positivity
So you want to become a more positive person. But how do you become more positive when cynicism is so much easier? Indeed, most people can’t imagine that they could suddenly become positive people. It should be no surprise that negative thinking creates this feeling.
What’s interesting though is that it is possible to become more positive, and one of the best ways is through something that few people believe works: faking it.
Faking positivity is actually one of the best ways to genuinely become more positive. By faking positivity, we mean pretending as though you’re an incredibly positive person in every aspect of your life, almost like you’re being paid to play the role of a positive person 24 hours a day.
Don’t worry that it doesn’t come naturally. The entire point is to go against how you feel and act like someone that is positive will act. Be outgoing, be friendly all of the time, smile at people, be polite, pretend to brush off negativity and so on. Don’t let up – do this all day, every day, even when no one is around.
Why This Works
The entire exercise may seem silly, and for the first few weeks you’re probably going to feel pretty awkward. But there is actual science that allows this to work.
Cognitive dissonance is when you hold two conflicting beliefs, and then experience negative emotions due to this conflict. Research on cognitive dissonance has shown that your beliefs can change based on the way you act. If you’re acting differently than you feel, your brain gets confused, and will change the way you feel in order to match how you act.
This is why acting positively can have such a dramatic effect on your overall mindset. When you pretend to be positive but feel negative, your brain gets confused. Even though you know that you’re just pretending, your mind pays attention to the way you feel and act, and notices the differences. Over time, you’ll start to feel more positive as your mind tries to match the way you act.
Other Things You Can Do to Augment Positivity
Pretending to be positive for a long period of time and really committing to it can work. You can also add on other tools that are known to improve positive thinking:
- Exercise – Exercise releases neurotransmitters in your brain that improve mood and relaxation, allowing you to easily think more positively.
- Positivity Journaling – Writing out only positive thoughts in a journal every night, challenging yourself to come up with as many as possible and forcing yourself to do it every night can also improve positivity levels.
- Reducing Negative Influences – You should also cut out anything in your life that increases negativity, including activities you do, TV shows you watch and more. With less stress in your life, you’ll find coping with anxiety to be much easier.
Combined, all of these ideas have the potential to make a drastic difference in your positive thinking. Those that think more positively are happier and more stress free, able to brush off any issues that may arise. So if you’re genuinely looking to make a real change in your life, consider committing to faking positivity, and see if after a few weeks you start to notice the difference.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera is a positive thinker and strategist that has developed helpful tools and information for controlling stress and anxiety. Find out more about Ryan Rivera at www.calmclinic.com.