Society constantly overwhelms us with pressures. Pressures to be successful, intelligent, and right where we are "supposed to be" at whatever stage of life we fall into. It's easy to feel like we aren't living up to the standards that everyone else feels the need to place on our own lives. We often forget how important it is to take care of ourselves and love ourselves first. Even when we do feel like we are doing well, there will always be that one person who reminds us that we could be doing better in one area or another.
This is known as negativity. Negativity is a virus, and it is highly contagious. Have you ever had a great day ruined by someone who just had to bring up a negative topic? Situations like these can completely ruin a day and change an entire state of mind almost instantly. Negative thoughts, compounded over the course of many weeks, months, or even years can lead to depression at the worst and long term unhappiness at the best. Chronic negativity affects many people. It could be that as you are reading this, you're realizing that you've been a negative person for quite a while. Or, maybe you are realizing that you have close friends or family members who suffer from chronic negativity. Either way, it is crucial to our wellbeing that we are aware of our own negative thought patterns and triggers, as well as the levels of negativity of those we are surrounded by.
Consciously making an effort to change our thought patterns from negative to positive, or making an effort to stay away from negative people can have a profound impact on our quality of life. Research reveals that positive thinking is more about just being happy or showing an upbeat attitude. Positive thinking can create real value and help you build skills that will improve the overall quality of your life. Barbara Fredrickson is one of the leading researchers on this topic. Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina and published a landmark paper that provides insights about the impact of positive thinking.
To sum up her research, the biggest benefit that positive thinking provides is the ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life. For example, people who partake in positive activities like exercise, hanging out with friends, and exploring new areas build longterm capabilities that will help increase their overall physical, social and creative skills. The happiness and positivity that promoted these short term activities pass fairly quickly, but the skills that were built during those positive events remain established over the course of life. Fredrickson refers to this as the “broaden and build” theory because positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build those skills that will provide value in other areas of your life for years to come.
So how can we start thinking more positively?
Learn to be thankful
One good practice is to write down 3 things that you are thankful for each day. You will quickly realize how much you have that you should be grateful for. Doing this will begin to change your perspective and outlook on life in just a brief period of time!
Learn to say no
Prioritze self care. People constantly give their time away to events and situations that they do not really want to take part in. Instead, focus more time on activities that will build value and happiness in your life. If you know that hanging out with that friend, or going to that party is bound to present negativity, then simply avoiding that situation or friendship can keep your headspace protected and positive.
Change your lifestyle
A healthy life = positive thoughts. As amazing as pizza, ice cream and binge watching netflix can feel in the moment, it's likely that over-indulging in unhealthy activities frequently is not going to make you feel the best you can feel! A health balanced diet, along with physical activities like hiking, biking or lifting weights can change your mindset drastically.
Try practicing at least one of these three tips for a week and I am sure you will begin to notice a difference in the overall quality of your life and happiness levels!