We all know the power and scientific benefits attached to positive thinking, but the problem that most people have is that they don’t know the techniques and ways to improve positive thinking.
Before we go into those methods, it is important to lay some foundation for success, so that what you read here will stick.
Do you know that negative thinking is also a habit?
If you are a habitual glass half empty kind of person, what I want you to know is that just like most things you do, like wearing your left shoe first, being a predominantly negative person is also a habit.
Over the years, you have reinforced the habit of thinking negatively.
You have become competent in thinking negatively.
To change, and develop the habit of positive thinking will involve doing it consciously, over and over again. And with time, a positive thinking habit will be developed.
This is a powerful truth that is needed to be acknowledged right from the get-go.
It will take time for your brain to re-wire itself to think positive even when something that is perceived as bad happens to you.
The old patterns will want to fight back, pull you back, but just know that it is perfectly normal for these to happen.
The good news is, the moment you decide to start being more positive, you immediately start seeing the difference it makes in your life, and you start reaping the benefits.
The first thing that has to be done, in order to strengthen your positive thinking muscle, is to be able to identify negative thoughts. After you have identified this thought patterns, that is when you can interrupt them, and change them to a train of positive thoughts.
For you to be able to identify negative thought patterns, it is important to know the relationship between your thoughts and your emotions.
How to know what you are thinking: The relationship between your thoughts and your emotions
What are thoughts?
There is still a heated argument on the definition of thoughts among psychologists, but as far as we can tell, thoughts are the by-products of our ability to think.
They are ideas and opinions produced by thinking. Thoughts are mental chatters that go on, and on, in our minds.
It has been estimated that the average person has about 70,000 thoughts per day.
What are emotions?
Emotions are how we are feeling at a particular moment.
Emotions can range from feeling joy to feeling sad, feeling bored, depressed, uplifted, motivated, happy, grateful, angry, anxious, love, kind, fearful, shameful, disgusted, surprised, contempt, contented, and so on.
What is the relationship between your thoughts and your emotions?
For you to feel any kind of way, the first thing that happens is that you have to have a thought first. It is your thoughts that give you your emotions.
For instance, for you to feel happy about the promotion you just got at work, you have to first think about that event and what the consequence of the event will be.
If your promotion meant more money to buy a new car, your brain presents you with the thought — and mental picture — of that new car, and that is when you start feeling happy about the situation.
So, for every emotion you are feeling, there is/are underlying thoughts causing that emotion.
If you want to put this to test, notice how you are feeling RIGHT NOW. Try to identify the emotional state you are currently in.
After you have done that, try to recall what you were thinking about previously. Most of the time, you will notice that your previous thoughts are aligned with your current emotions.
Without exception, your emotions always mirror your thoughts.
If you are thinking negatively, you will be having negative emotions. Also, if you are thinking positively, you will be having positive emotions.
Consequently, if you notice your emotions — because they are easier to notice than thoughts — and find you are feeling positive, that means you currently inhabit positive thoughts. If you are feeling negative, what it means is that you are thinking negatively.
To conclude, if you want to know what your thoughts are, notice how you are feeling. Also, if you want to know what your emotions are, notice your thoughts.
“Your emotions are like radars, which can be used to detect your elusive thoughts”. — Frank DAEMON
Real change is often internal
This article might seem counter-intuitive to some readers. Why this will be the case is because I believe that real change can only occur when the root cause of the problem is weeded out and addressed. In order to get rid of your negative thoughts, you have to know what is causing these thoughts in the first place.
This article could have easily been like one of those articles you read, where I would just make a list of things I think would get you to think more positively.
But in my experience, that is just like putting a band-aid on the injury, without actually treating it. And at the end of the day, you would try some random things, but still, find that you are still a negative person.
Although there are some techniques that can be used, if the core problems are not addressed, those techniques would not work effectively.
Once you are able to notice your thoughts, using your emotions, and your emotions, using your thoughts, what I want you to understand are those 4 reasons WHY negative thoughts pop into our minds every now and then.
What are the causes of negative thoughts and emotions?
At the forefront of the causes of negative thoughts and emotions is fear. Fear has many faces and it comes in different forms.
Might be the fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, fear of being harmed, fear of death, and a lot of other forms of fear we all have from time to time.
So, whenever this fear creeps in, we start to have thoughts that are based on these fears.
This is the image YOU hold of yourself. The self-image is the habit and behavior generator of every individual.
The truth is that we hardly see things “as they are”, but instead, we see things “as we are”.
It is the picture you hold of yourself that you PROJECT onto the world.
The problem with self-image is, the majority of the images we hold of ourselves are formed based on our fears, beliefs, past experiences, and past conditioning.
Generally, our thoughts about life are aligned with our self-image, and this dictates how we feel about ourselves, and other people.
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It is what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain
Your inner critic
This is the spokesman of your fears and your self-image.
This is the voice in your head that helps to affirm your fears, and at the same time, solidify your self-image, in order to make sure that they manifest themselves in your life.
This is that little voice in your head that has an opinion about everything that is happening to you. Sometimes it motivates you, and sometimes it criticizes you destructively.
It is quicker to remind you of the things you’ve done wrong, rather than those things you’ve done right. It is quick to remind you of how you are not good enough, and how inadequate you are.
When the need arises, everybody has an inner critic. The major difference between positive and negative people is that the former have trained their inner critic to criticize constructively.
External thoughts and emotions
Do you know that NOT all thoughts and emotions you have during the day are yours?
This might seem esoteric, but it’s true. We are creatures that interact with our environment and each other on a quantum level.
At the quantum level, we are all made up of energy, which vibrates at different frequencies (depending on what your thoughts and emotions are, moment by moment).
On this level, there is a transference of energy from one person to another.
Just like a radio, we pick up other people’s thoughts and emotions.
If you are still in doubt, have you noticed some people that when you are around them, you feel joy, happiness, and you just can’t get enough of them?
Also, there are people that just suck the joy out of a room once they enter. Everyone has this type of person around them.
16 processes to improve positive thinking by getting rid of your negative thoughts
The 16 processes that will be mentioned below are designed from the 4-in-4 framework for interrupting and changing a habitual thought pattern. The frameworks are; Recognition, Preparation, Re-appraisal, and Re-affirmation.
These processes, if implemented and embedded in all the stages of the root causes of your negative thoughts (discussed above), are going to get you to understand your thoughts more, and most importantly, why you have these thoughts.
These will, in turn, help you to interrupt these thoughts and change them to more positive ones, whenever required.
Recognize what your fears are (Recognition)
Irrespective of what your fears are, not much can be done about them if you don’t know what they are in the first place.
For some people, their fears are apparent to them, but for the vast majority of people, their fears are deep-seated in their subconscious minds.
For instance, having a phobia for spiders can be a noticeable fear for the individual, compared to a person that has a fear of succeeding.
I suggest writing a list of all the different fears you have. Write those that come to you easily, and also write those that are elusive by taking the time to search the deepest corners of your mind.
Resolve unfinished businesses (Recognition and Preparation)
Fear has a way of paralyzing us and stopping us from taking the required actions that are sometimes needed to be taken. This leads to starting projects and not finishing them.
These unfinished businesses take up our minds and our energy. Whenever they come to mind, they remind us of our inadequacy.
What you can do right now is to try and identify any unresolved issue you have, and try to conclude them.
Examples of these might be a course you abandoned halfway, a debt you owe, somebody that you need to forgive for doing you harm, and so on. It might also be that you need to forgive yourself for some of your inadequacies.
Anything you can think of that when it comes to your mind, every now and then, you get a feeling of sadness, accompanied with a lack of closure, will make this list. Try your possible best to conclude these unresolved businesses. If some of them are out of your reach, let go and move on.
Also, if you have a phobia for something, an unconscious fear you can’t place your finger on, or a debilitating fear about something, you can seek the help of a professional therapist and talk about them.
Fear is biological, fear is there to help you, and you can never get rid of it (Preparation)
What is your relationship with fear?
Do you know that fear is Biological?
At the end of the day, fear will always be, and you can’t completely get rid of all your fears.
Fear is a feedback mechanism from your brain to protect you from dangerous situations. The brain loves being in a comfortable and familiar situation all the time. So, when you try to leave your comfort zone, your fear circuits get triggered, all in the effort of keeping you in your comfort zone.
And the truth in life is that if you are not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you are not growing. And if you are not growing, that means you are dying.
Because change is the only constant thing in nature.
Apart from real physical danger related fears, any other fear you have should be taken as a signal from your brain that you are about to change, you are about to grow.
At this stage, you can begin to prepare yourself by studying what is the reason behind that fear you are feeling. Also, you can reinforce your knowledge so that you will stand a fair chance.
For instance, if you have a fear of public speaking, you can start studying public speaking. You can enroll for courses online, take public speaking seminars, and so on.
Let go of your fear by stepping into your fear (Re-appraisal and Re-affirmation)
When interviewed, Muhammed Ali, the greatest boxer the world has ever seen, was asked if he ever gets nervous before any of his fights.
His reply was that he always gets nervous before every single fight. He said he gets nervous because billions of people are watching all around the world. Billions of people around the world are counting on him to win.
But, he said once he steps into the ring for the fight, the crowd disappears. The billions of people around the world disappear, and with that, the nervousness he is feeling also disappears. At that moment, it is just him and his opponent.
The ONLY way to stop being afraid of something is to confront it. The ONLY way to conquer fear is to step into the fear.
When you step into your fears, fear has the habit of disappearing. It would have no power over you anymore.
The first thing you can do about your fear for a given situation is to Re-appraise the situation. This will give you a much needed mental prep to confront that fear.
For instance, if you have a fear of public speaking, a re-appraisal before a seminar presentation at work will be to tell yourself; “this type of fear I’m feeling right now is normal, it happens to the best in the world”. “I’m fully prepared for this seminar and I’ve done my due diligence”. “Once I start the presentation, the nerves will disappear, and it will be about getting my message across”. “Even if this presentation gets screwed up, it won’t be the end of the world. My life’s BIGGER than a single seminar presentation”.
The second thing you have to be aware of is that you have to bite what you can chew.
Although I told you to step into your fears, if you have a fear of swimming, for instance, don’t go and jump into a lake tomorrow. The best thing that can be done by someone with this type of fear is to take a swimming class, and always make sure a professional instructor is with you anytime you are going near water. Do this over and over again, and as time goes by, you will be able to swim on your own and your fear will dissipate over time.
Take baby steps, and with time victory will be attained.
In order to re-affirm and re-enforce this new habit, consciously do it over and over again at a level you are comfortable with.
What do you think of you? (Recognition)
I want you to take a pen and a notebook and write a one/two-page appraisal of yourself.
The type of person you are, are you a compassionate person, how much do you think you are currently worth, how much do you think you are capable of making, per month, per year, are you a confident person, are you an introvert, did you have a happy childhood, do you think the world you live in is fair to you, where do you see yourself in the next ten years, and a lot more, are all the things you would put into this self-estimation.
Make sure you put all this on paper. And after you are done with it, read it out loud to yourself.
Is your self-image the size of a potato? (Recognition)
If you liked everything you wrote, read, and heard, then good for you. Move to the next step. You have a healthy self-image.
If in any part of your self-appraisal, you see a token of inadequacy, or you see a place you feel unhappy with, about yourself, circle those parts.
Those are the parts that constantly start a chain of negative thoughts for you. Those are the parts of you that need to change.
The truth about self-image is that, due to past experiences and conditioning, most of the pictures you hold of yourself are FALSE.
Who is your ideal person? (Preparation and Re-appraisal)
Earlier you wrote an abridged version of yourself. Now, I want you to write out the version of the person that you want to be.
Who is that person?
It’s time the world meet him.
No matter how true your negative experiences that reinforced your previous image might be, all you need to do is to make a choice to commit to change.
Self-images are like mental softwares, some may have been outdated and cannot serve you in a positive manner anymore.
This is where you delete and upgrade your mental softwares.
Fake it till you make it (Re-affirmation)
Break down who you want to be into several single line affirmations. When you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and read out these affirmations loudly while looking at yourself in the mirror. Do the same whenever you have the chance during the day or before going to bed at night.
Make sure the affirmations are short, simple, stated in the present, and stated positively. When reciting the affirmations, make sure you emotionalize it by picturing yourself being the person you are affirming.
An example of a powerful affirmation is; “I am a confident person”.
Your Inner Critic
Recognize the voice of your inner critic; he’s a nice guy and he means well (Recognition)
Your inner critic means well. If you get to know him, you’ll find out that he is a nice guy. His job is to keep you where you are comfortable. The thing with this guy is, sometimes, his services are not required.
How do you hear the voice of your inner critic?
The ONLY way to do this is to practice the art of being mindful.
Being mindful means listening to your thoughts without reacting. It’s a pity that most people just allow their mind to run free throughout the day. They are constantly in a reactive state to their inner voice.
The best way to quickly get proficient at mindfulness is to practice mindfulness meditation regularly. Other ways include; re-perceiving, focusing on a single thing/task at a time, or deep breathing.
You are not your thoughts; you are not whoever your critic thinks you are (Preparation)
What I want you to know is that; “you are not your thoughts”.
This is what you will realize when you start being mindful of your thoughts. Your thoughts will come, and they will go. When you observe from a non-reactive state, you see that they are not YOU.
Also, your inner critic speaks based on your fears and your faulty self-image. And at this stage, you are a new person with an entirely different story.
What are those things you’ve ever done right? (Re-appraisal)
Time to make a list of your achievements no matter how small.
Make a list of things you’ve excelled at. This list will serve as your re-appraisal you’re your inner critic starts putting thoughts of doubt and inadequacies start creeping into your mind.
This will help you to interrupt those destructive negative thought patterns and give you more confidence at the same time.
Fire your inner critic (Re-affirmation)
When you consciously start to re-appraise, by changing your “can’t” to “can”, you begin to silence your inner critic.
And when you do this over and over again, with time, your inner critic will be out of a job.
If at all his services will be required, he will be there to criticize constructively.
External Thoughts and Emotions
Recognize the energy succubus in your life (Recognition)
Make a list of people in your lives that always try to put you down with their negativity.
Those people that are always blaming everybody but themselves for their misfortunes. Those people that one-word-blast of negativity from their mouth is enough to put you down for the rest of the day.
I’m not talking about people in your life that comes to you with real problems; I’m talking about those people that are always BLUE. And because they are blue, everybody else must be blue.
If you don’t recognize these people, even if you have tried to be more positive with your life, these people will keep dumping their negative energy on you.
So, make that list NOW!!
Your sanity might depend on it.
Play your part by giving, instead of taking (Preparation)
Now that you have identified the chronically negative people around you, it’s time to think about why these people are in your life in the first place.
We get what we give out in the universe.
Start by learning to love yourself. Practice self-compassion by taking it easy on yourself. Cut yourself some slacks.
After that, learn to love your neighbors as yourself. Add value to other people’s lives. Try to be of service to others, whenever you can. Practice the art of building other people up, instead of cutting them down. Make sure you do unto others as you wish it to be done to you.
Becoming a giver will serve two purposes; first, it will attract more positive people into your life and ensure that negative people fall out of your life faster. Secondly, because you are now compassionate with yourself, you are more resistant to external negativity.
Protect yourself from their negative energies (Preparation)
You can’t remove all negative people from your life. You can only trim it down to a manageable amount.
For those remaining in your life and those you come across randomly every day, the best way to protect yourself from this external negativity is through the use of crystals.
Crystals are stones that help to block negative energy. There are different crystals out there. Also, different crystals are more suitable for some people than others.
If you decide to get any type of crystal, I would advice doing extensive research before getting it.
I use a bracelet which is a metallic crystal known as Hematite for the purpose of blocking external negativity during the day.
Build a formidable fortress around you (Preparation, Re-appraisal, and Re-affirmation)
Surround yourself with positive people.
Don’t take one step forward and two steps backward.
When people throw a negative bomb at you, learn to Re-appraise by telling yourself that they don’t know better.
Going forward, Re-affirm and reinforce this habit by making positivity a criterion for admitting new people into your life. Check and make sure he/she is a positive-minded person before getting close to him/her.
Ways to improve positive thinking: Putting it all together
At the heart of all the processes described is re-appraisal.
Re-appraisal is very important and it is what separates a positive person from a negative person.
Positive people are very good at re-appraising negative situations.
With constant practice of the techniques discussed above, with time, a positive mindset will be developed.