By Mark Stibich, PhD
To live a happier, healthier life, it’s important to learn how to accentuate the positive. Commit to following the simple steps outlined below for one week and you’re sure to bring more positivity and happiness into your life. Consider it a one-week experiment.
How to Become More Positive
What You’ll Do: You can boost your happiness by focusing on positive things and reducing your negative thinking. This week, following every negative thought with a positive one. This practice will help to retrain your habitual thought patterns to bring more positive thoughts into your life.
How It Works: The ratio of positive to negative thoughts is a major factor in overall happiness. Your brain is constantly monitoring the emotional tone of your thoughts—too many negative thoughts and your brain respond by creating stress and sadness in your body. When you add more positive thoughts, your brain will create relaxation and happiness. By training yourself to follow or negate negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll improve your positive/negative thought ratio and be happier.
Get Motivated: After you’re aware of your negative thoughts and feelings and have worked to counteract them for a few days, they will gradually begin to lessen. You’ll be able to concentrate more on what you want to do without experiencing distracting emotions and stress. This will make you more productive and energetic. Best of all, it will make you happier.
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Note: Keep practicing the smiling technique. It will help reinforce and strengthen the effects of this skill.
The Steps of Becoming More Positive
- List happy thoughts. Take 30 minutes and list all the happy thoughts you can think of. Just use a piece of paper and make a long list. Give yourself a good 30 minutes. List the people and places that make you happy: good friends, favorite vacation spots, childhood memories and more. List things that make you happy: puppies, babies, the smell of a new car, a lobster dinner, a day of relaxing by a pool. List anything and everything you can think of that makes you happy.
- Be aware of negative thoughts and feelings. For the entire week, pay attention to your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about or feeling anything negative, sad or stressful, label that thought “unhappy.” Don’t worry if you have a lot of unhappy thoughts and feelings throughout the day. It’s perfectly normal. Just pay attention and label them.
- Follow with a happy item. After you label an unhappy thought or feeling, follow it immediately with a happy item from your Happy List. You might pick one item to use all day long, or choose different ones each time you need them. Just bring that the happy thing to mind for a second or two.
This Week’s Commitment: This week I will label my negative or stressful thoughts and feelings and follow them with a happy thought.
After a few days, the number of negative thoughts and feelings often decreases. It’s almost as if the brain gets bored being negative because you replace the thoughts so quickly with positive ones.
Tips for Increasing Positivity and Happiness
Don’t just wait for the negative thoughts to come along to think about something positive. Add to this skill by making a conscious and planned effort to think positive thoughts throughout the day. Decide that you will think only positive thoughts for your entire lunch hour or during one of your breaks. Decide that you will only think positive thoughts while driving in your car. Create time throughout your day when you will be “positive only.”
Some more tips for accentuating the positive: