“The greatest discovery of my time is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” –William James
Our thoughts determine how we feel and how we behave. If your internal dialogue consistently sounds something like this- “I am a loser,” “I am not good enough,” or “I can’t be successful”- then chances are you don’t feel so good about yourself and are flooded with lots of uncomfortable emotions. If you change your thinking to focus on what’s strong in your life, rather than what’s wrong, you can have a better life!
Although life is not about feeling good all of the time, it is important to notice the negative beliefs that you have adopted over the years. We all have upsets and setbacks in life. However, if we make it a habit to consistently dwell on the negative and filter out the positive aspects of our life, we will find ourselves consistently feeling discouraged, sad or bitter. If you have a stronger tendency to think negatively, then it is important to make a shift and change your thinking.
- Pay attention to the negative thoughts.
- Ask yourself, “Is this thought helpful?”
- If the answer is NO (and it usually is), then see if you can make mental space for some realistic thoughts.
A beautiful thing about our brain is that it has the ability to change and adapt (a.k.a., neuroplasticity). Neuroscience proves that our thoughts do change the structure and function of our brain. This means that repetitive positive thoughts and positive activity can rewire our brain and strengthen brain areas that stimulate positive feelings. Positive feelings have many benefits, including broadening our intellectual and creative capacities and buffering against physical stress and anxiety.
I encourage you to engage in the practice of daily positive affirmations. Here’s a guide to get you started. You can eventually find what works for you but it is important to have some structure and repetition while forming this new habit.
- Make a list of all of your negative beliefs. Include any criticisms others have made of you such as a teacher, a co-worker, boss or a family member.
- Create your positive affirmations out of those beliefs.
- I am weak becomes I am strong and capable.
- I am unlovable becomes I am worthy of love.
- I am fearful becomes I free myself from fear.
- I am not good enough becomes I am good enough. I love and value myself.
- I am unable to lose weight becomes I am capable of losing weight and making healthy choices
- Be sure your affirmations are in the present tense, as though they are a current reality.
- Begin each day saying your positive affirmation out loud. This ensures that you have a good start to your day.
- Make sure to speak the affirmation out loud throughout the day (at least 3 times) and end your day with that positive affirmation.
- Write down your affirmations and keep them in places visible to you. You can use post-it notes to stick them on a mirror or on your computer. You might decide to keep a journal of positive affirmations. Do what works best for you.
- Practice consistently for at least 21 days to make positive thinking a habit.
Make a commitment to invest in yourself by practicing positive affirmations. If your negative thoughts are intense and you are experiencing anxiety, depression or any other chronic emotional disturbance, make sure to reach out to a mental health professional to get some additional support!