Positive thinking works.
At least, it can work, for a while and to a degree. But to turn positive thinking into lasting change–into positive living–we need something more than favorable expectation alone.
But let’s start with the thinking part.
Unfortunately, our thinking often works against us rather than for us. Negative thinking affects all of us on a daily basis, and it dominates the lives of some.
Dr. Daniel Amen, a leading brain researcher, identified nine ‘automatic negative thoughts’ we employ that perpetuate negative emotions, e.g.:
- Focusing on the negative in a situation.
- Predicting the future in a negative way.
- Blaming other people for our problems.
- Believing negative feelings automatically.
It Starts With Positive Thinking
With negative thinking so prevalent in our lives, and with it being so effective at disrupting them, it makes sense that positive thinking should work as well, and it does.
“Negative emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.” (“The Science of Positive Thinking,” The Huffington Post)
Positive thinking begins when we make the deliberate choice to take back control of our internal conversations, when we adamantly declare we will no longer allow negative thoughts to flow unhindered through our consciousness.
The first step is to recognize negative thoughts for what they are, which are often distortions of reality stemming from our insecurities or worries. Many negative thoughts are mere lies, but we too-often choose to believe them anyway.
But, at any moment, we can choose where to focus our thinking. It is as if there are two photographs in front of us, and we have to choose to look at one or the other–which will it be?
Positive Thinking to Positive Living
Are there benefits to positive thinking? Absolutely. But there are other positive things we can do that can help us turn that thinking into reality.
Positive planning – Envision the future as an opportunity, set aspirational goals, and build a plan to get there. We need to do this literally, not just think about it, by writing down a life plan:
- ‘The What’ – Capture what we hope our life can become, a vision for the future, our dreams.
- ‘The Why’ – Visualize the benefits of getting there and use that as motivation for change.
- ‘The How’ – Build a plan and put actions in place to move toward those goals.
Planning is a powerful way to change our lives to help us reach that positive view of our future.
“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” (Dalai Lama)
Positive scheduling – Each of us has our own list of activities that consume much of our time. What if we committed to a new set of habits and set aside time for them each day? And if we declared that, just for today, we would do at least one thing in each of these areas:
- Surrender – Face our fears and turn them over to God, and choose the faith to let them go.
- Transformation – Deal with our mistakes and, by so doing, take steps to move past them.
- Empathy – Care for others more than we do now and encourage or forgive someone.
- Progress – Spend time in prayer and meditation, and think about our priorities.
- Service – Commit to doing things, both planned and unplanned, to serve others.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (attributed to Albert Einstein)
Positive doing – Becoming more intentional in our choices will change our lives: do the next right thing, take a positive step, and get into motion to move in the right direction. Just start!
Positive believing – The supreme form of positive thinking comes from faith, from understanding the reality that God is good, and that we have the assurance of a positive future.
Life is too precious to allow negative thinking to consume us. Positive living can keep that from happening, and it all starts with our very next thought.
Question: Currently, how much does negative thinking play a role in your life?
Action: Pick one of the positive approaches above and commit to work on it for a month.