Thinking Positive

Author- Don Stratton

A recent study found that the average person has 50 to 60 thousand thoughts each day. This confirms what we all know, our minds are very busy. A surprise from the study was that 70 or 80 percent of the thoughts are negative. A negative attitude is very stressful and makes our daily lives difficult. So to have a happier life, it is important that we change our thoughts from negative to positive. But the big question is how?

First, we need to understand what those negative thoughts consist of. I think there are three categories:

  • Memories in the past – we can’t stop thinking about a traumatic event. The mind continually returns to this trauma, sometimes for years. This obsession brings emotions of fear, anger, sadness and more.
  • Concerns for the future – we cannot stop worrying about an event in the future. The mind develops all of the worst things that may happen. This leads to fear and often paralysis to act.
  • The inner voice criticizes. – We have an internal voice that observes and comments on our actions. Unfortunately it is most often a critical voice, a negative voice. This leads to low self-esteem and a fear of trying new activities.

All of these negative thoughts are stressful and stress causes health problems, both mental and physical. So for a happier and more healthful life it is important to replace negative thoughts with a positive attitude.

To think positive we have to live in the present and stop obsessing about things in the past or worrying about activities that we cannot control in the future. We need to practice mindfulness and be in the moment. And of course we have to eliminate our negative thoughts. The question is how? Below are a number of activities that will help. They can be done in combination, but you don’t need to do them all. They combine mental and physical activities because it is important to remember that the mind and body are one, and they influence each other.  

Breathing: We all breathe. If not, we die in minutes. But most people don’t breathe well. Deep, slow breaths are best. We should practice deep breathing every day. At first, breathe for a few minutes and then build up to 10 minutes or more. Focus on your breath entering and leaving your body and don’t think about anything else.

Meditation: Focus your mind on something and do the slow deep breathing. When thoughts enter your mind, and they will, let them go and keep your focus. Do this gently without judging.

Life force: It is called Prana in Yoga; Chi in China; and Ki in Japan. It is the energy that gives us life. Energy needs to flow or move. A good analogy is with water: Imagine a mountain stream: When it’s moving it’s fresh and healthy. When the water is in a pond, full of algae and odors, it is not healthy. So keep your energy moving. During the breathing practice imagine the Prana flowing out and expanding with each exhalation.

Relax the body: A common stress reaction is tension in the muscles. So it’s important to relax. We need to understand the difference between limpness and relaxation. With limpness the muscles have no tension but they also have no energy or Prana. With true relaxation the muscles do not have tension but they do have Life force. This is a very important distinction. While doing the breathing exercise imagine all your muscles are relaxing.

Gratitude and appreciation: During the day try to think 4 or 5 things that you like and that you appreciate or are grateful for. They don’t need to be big things. Sometimes simple things are better. This is an excellent way to develop positive thinking.

Smile: Several scientific studies show that a smile has an affect on the mind. A smile calms the mind and generates feelings of happiness. During the day, try to keep a smile on your face.

Stop the critical voice: This is a bad habit that we have developed since we were young. We cannot change it immediately, but we can change it little by little over time. It takes a conscious effort. Instead of thinking “I can’t”, think “I can”. Instead of thinking “I failed again”, think “That I will do better next time.” It is difficult but possible. Be patient and dedicated.

Awareness: We need to pay attention to what is happening during our daily lives, especially in every moment. And when we pay attention, we find more new things to be thankful for.

The Journey of Life: We need to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. For many people the goals are the destination. But it is difficult or impossible to achieve big goals. So when we measure our progress, we always fall short. This is another negative result. It is better to live day by day, step by step. Then we must do our daily activities with dedication and persistence and improve little by little. And when you need to measure your progress, look at how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.

We need to realize that changing our attitudes and habits takes time. Choose some of these activities and practice them every day for a few minutes. Over time add more minutes. This requires dedication and persistence, but over time they can make your glass half full.