“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. (Phil 4:8)”
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
“Pleasent words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Enstein
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt “The sun will come out, tomorrow, so you got to hold on til tomorrow,”-Annie
So many words of wisdom by so many through history, helping us all to remember that positive thinking helps our moods, attitudes, and lives. At times, all we have to do is just take a deep breath and say a few positive words and we are back on track. But what do we do when that is not enough… when all of your efforts to “be more positive” do not seem to change your thoughts? What skills do you need when you feel you have become a negative person?
Step one: Pay Attention. What I mean by this is to begin to pay attention to all the parts of your life. The big rewards are easy to count. The promotions, the accolades, etc. Work on paying attention to all the small things in your life that are positive. A warm shower, flowers blooming on your drive to work, a sweet hug from your child in the morning, the smell and warmth of your coffee, a comfy chair, a cool breeze… the list could go on and on.
Tshiki Davis Ph.D. from Psychology Today, in her article “The Power of Positivity”, suggests keeping a gratitude journal. Write down the big and little things in your journal. You can then refer back to it when it is difficult to find your positive thoughts. Or you could challenge yourself with writing down five things you can be grateful for daily.
Step Two: Slow Down. This is easier said than done. Work, children, extracurricular, etc can all seem to overwhelm your schedule. At times it is easy to feel you are always running. Work small areas of calm into your daily schedule. Take slow deep breaths while you drive to work, do a mindfulness meditation, take a 5-minute walk before you eat your lunch, listen to your favorite music in the carpool line, or have a daily scripture pop up on your phone to read. Work in just a few minutes daily to help yourself unwind so your thoughts can be calmer and less overwhelmed.
Step Three: Talk Nice to Yourself. It can be easy to forget we need to be kind to ourselves. We can often encourage, forgive, and be kind to others but will judge ourselves and be our own worst critics. If we spoke to our friends the way we often speak to ourselves we wouldn’t have many, if any friends.
There are some strategies to help with changing our self-talk. Mayo Clinic published the article “Positive thinking:
Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress”. It mentions starting by becoming aware of your self-talk. As you begin to take notice you can identify areas you need to change, then work on changing the self-talk to be more positive. Examples of this would be changing, “I’m not going to get any better at this” to “I’ll give it another try.” Changing, “There is no way it will work” to “I can try to make this work.” Change “I am a failure.” to “There are so many things I do well.” Once you try positive self-talk, practice it intentionally daily.
Step Four: Engage with Positive Activities and People. Practice self-care. Find activities that help you feel calm and fulfilled. Reading, having coffee once a month with a friend, exercising, going on a hike, doing a craft, calling a friend or family member, sitting outside and listening to the birds, etc. Also, surround yourself with people who help you feel encouraged and positive. Reduce any negative activities, such as media consumption, staying up too late on television or social media, or negative conversations.
Working on being more positive can be a challenge, but being intentional can lead to better habits. However, if trying these steps does not seem to improve your negative thinking, it may be a good time to seek a professional counselor. You could need a bit of support, or be screened for depression or other issues.
Allena Burbage received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Faulkner University in 1999, where she graduated Cum Laude. She obtained her Masters of Science degree in Counseling and Psychology from Troy University in 2007. Allena has worked with adults, adolescents, and children with varied issues and mental health diagnoses. Her clinical interest and experience for adults include; anxiety, depression, work stress, family stressors, parenting issues, supportive therapy, grief, and marital stress. Her clinical experience for adolescents and children include, ADHD, behavioral issues, anxiety, depression, trauma, school stress and adjustment issues.