Tuesday 9 January 2018

Think Positive, Be Positive: how positive thinking can improve your outlook and well-being

Emma writes about how positive thinking can improve both your outlook and general well-being.

-Emma Dukes

Before beginning, I would just like to say that it will not be one of those, ‘happiness is a choice’ sort of posts. I am aware that for a lot of us, being happy or positive is extremely difficult and often seemingly impossible. The aim of this post, rather, is to offer strategies to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, thus eventually creating an increasingly positive outlook and making happiness more achievable.

I am probably the worst person when it comes to negative thinking and overthinking. I can make the most normal comment or situation massively negative within seconds. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect, which in itself makes any sort of failure or disappointment a million times worse. But I’ve discovered many different ways to lessen this and make my thought process a lot more positive and manageable.

To begin the journey towards positive thinking, it’s important to first accept the reasons behind your current thought process. Also, remember that you are not expected to be positive all of the time, nor are you going to magically stop overthinking. However, I believe that if you are optimistic and positive, you are more likely to achieve your goals and have a healthier outlook on life.

What does positive thinking actually do?

It is widely believed that positive thinking is a way of life that simultaneously makes us stronger and manifests positive results. The idea is that if you have a positive attitude, this will be broadcast to those around you, making your interactions and relationships stronger and thus encouraging you feeling more confident in yourself. If you go into a situation expecting the worst or thinking negatively, it is likely that you will receive a negative outcome. This is because the stress of overthinking can cause you to not perform to the best of your ability and cause you to lack confidence. Whereas if you tell yourself you will succeed, the positive energy will give you the boost you need to do so. It is also thought that positive thinking has the ability to improve overall health. This is because positive attitudes often allow people to focus on eating well, exercising and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Positive thinking can improve:

· Self esteem
· Confidence
· Relationships
· Education
· Mental illness

So, how do I get there?

Positive thinking can be difficult, especially if you strongly believe you’re not a worthwhile person or that you’re guaranteed to fail. The best way to begin to replace negative thoughts is to notice them, accept them and then replace them with contrasting ones. Contrastingly, dwelling on these thoughts reinforces the negativity, making it much harder to think of and focus on the positive. For example, if you’re thinking ‘I can’t do this’, tell yourself, ‘I can’. There will be difficulty and the negative thoughts may creep back in, but persistence is key. The more you train your mind to adapt to this new way of thinking, the better results you’ll achieve. 

Positive affirmations are also a great technique. My favourite concept is not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Every day, try to tell yourself 5 things you like about yourself or 5 things that you’re proud of. I find this especially useful regarding body image. If I’m having a bad day, I make myself find 5 positive things about my least favourite parts of my body, for example, ‘I may not like my legs but they’re strong, I like my tattoo and they look nice in jeans.’

The most important step is to be self-reliant and to only surround yourself with people who make you feel good. If you rely on others and they disappoint you, you’re likely to blame yourself and fall back into negative thinking. Remind yourself that you do not need others to make you feel important, you are capable of achieving your goals by yourself and that you are your number one priority.

I’m Emma and I’m studying Journalism at the University of Winchester. I’ve suffered with anxiety and anorexia for a long time so thought I’d share my own experiences to hopefully help others on the same journey to recovery.

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