Evolutionary psychologists claim that humans need positive emotions because they help us adapt to our environment—and survival is the name of the game. Having a positive outlook draws relationships into our lives, and having a social support network insulates us from loneliness and depression. Some studies indicate that staying optimistic may even help us to live longer by strengthening our immune system! If you haven’t been feeling as cheerful as you’d like, here are some ways to help you build lasting, positive emotions—and their resulting benefits.
Make Your First Morning Image a Good One
What you do first thing in the morning can affect your whole day. When you wake up with dread about what lies waiting for you at work or at home, that negative feeling will draw more of the same into your day as you move through it. You can reverse negativity, or even prevent it if you make up your mind to allow only a good thought to be your first thought of the day. As an example, what if as soon as you opened your eyes, your first conscious thought was about how beautiful your day can be? Then take your mind through a landscape of wonderful possibilities that can make that declaration come true. Perhaps today you can stop at the bakery and buy yourself your favorite dessert just this once, in place of a lunch break. What about stopping at the florist on your way home and getting yourself some nice fresh flowers to enjoy at the dinner table? Here is another way to make your first morning image a positive one: As soon as you realize you are awake, close your eyes again and take several minutes to imagine the warm sun pouring its healing light all over you, in through your skin and into every cell in your body. Imagine this healing positive energy staying with you throughout the day and touching everything you do with joy.
Do something Nice for Someone
One way to raise your own spirits is to do something for someone else who can use a helping hand. That can mean donating your time, your money or your talents to a person or a cause you believe in. For instance, what about becoming a lunchtime mentor in an inner city school, or giving a free class in something you know how to do for the vets at the local Veteran’s hospital? You can even call an elderly assisted living center in your area and ask if they need volunteers to drive their residents to doctor’s appointments. If you are especially good with animals, why not volunteer to walk the dogs for a couple of hours a week? Giving yourself to someone in need without expecting anything in return is not only a way to build a positive outlook towards life; it is also a way to build character.
Make Yourself Emotionally Intelligent
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to manage your own emotions, and accurately interpret the emotions of others, so you can react appropriately and not get upset so often. It is about refusing to destroy yourself with negativity or letting yourself get sucked into the negativity of others. Emotions like anger and hostility can eat away at you and even cause illness if left unresolved. One way to break the cycle of negative emotions is to do something totally opposite of the negative emotion. If you are sad, catapult yourself into a dozen jumping jacks, whether you feel like it or not. Just start doing it. Because sadness brings a lack of motion, so you want to get the ball rolling again with some physical motion. If you are afraid of what your boss thinks of the project you handed in, counteract your fear with bravery. Make the first move by asking her directly to discuss it with you. You don’t have to be a slave to negative emotions, or even the negative emotions of others. When someone snaps at you after all you’ve said was “Good Morning,” have the confidence to know it is them—not you. Other people have bad days, too, so let it go, and don’t let their bad day ruin yours. Even when unpleasant things happen as a natural part of life, we can retain our positivity, by reframing, or rethinking the situation and thereby dispersing a negative reaction. Okay, so I missed the bus. Instead of reacting as if your whole day is ruined, tell yourself another bus will be coming down the road in 20 minutes, and that everyone will just have to understand when you arrive late. Once you learn to manage your emotions and your moods, you will start to feel happier and more confident with each opportunity to practice.
Take a one-day vacation from negativity
Have you ever made it through an entire day without a single negative thought? That’s right, no complaining, no criticizing, and no expecting the worst about anything or anybody. Of course, it’s harder than you think, but your assignment now is to get through an entire day in which you imagine yourself pulling the plug on all negative thoughts. All of them. You are not even allowed to think “Yuk, this casserole is terrible.” Instead it becomes “This casserole is interesting. It is definitely unique!” Declaring one day just one day a week, in which everything you say, think, and do are positive, leads to more positivity, and eventually the positive habit will begin to shape your mental well-being automatically. You will start to smile more, laugh louder, and enjoy your life and the little things in it. You’ll be open to new experiences, which can lead you to wonderful new things. You will release the burden of negative prejudgment—make no judgment at all, and if anything, expect the best. Although we don’t have control over every thought that pops into our minds, we do have control enough to change them or replace them with more positive thoughts.
Because most people don’t even realize when they’re being negative, it is harder than you think to declare a one-day positivity diet. Try doing this experiment. Start with a baseline. Keep a notebook close by and make two columns—one that says “positive” and the other “negative”. During the day, try to catch yourself thinking or saying, or doing something positive or negative, and make a check mark in one column or the other. Now count them up and see which column you lean towards most. Once you start to become aware of your thoughts and actions, declare a positive only day for one day a week for a month, then try for a two-day positivity diet each week for a month, then three. Your life will absolutely change as you build a new healthy outlook.
Dispute Pessimistic Thoughts
If you think there is nothing you can do when see the glass as half empty, think again. Researchers have found that if we dispute our negative thoughts by arguing with ourselves, we can almost immediately disperse it and start to feel better. Also, it helps to write out the argument. For example think of an unpleasant thought you have and what caused that thought. Then switch your perception and build an argument for seeing the experience in a different, more positive light. For instance, let’s say you are angry because tonight, after a long day’s work, you went shopping for a few grocery items and got stuck in a very long line. As you are standing there someone shoves you from behind with their cart, and that is just about the last straw. You are ready to turn around and tell that person off. But what if you turned around and the person who you think had shoved a cart into you on purpose or through carelessness, was really an elderly person in a wheelchair that they were having a hard time controlling? It’s a whole different story, when you switch perspectives, isn’t it? Likewise you can change your perspective on every negative thought, by disputing it. Example. “I’m fat”. Disputation: I may have a few extra pounds on me, but I am doing what I can to treat my body well, and I will not call myself names. “ At first these disputations might seem awkward, but once they become habit, you will do them without thinking and the effect on your overall positivity level will be profound.
I hope you love these tips as much as I love sharing them with you. Please let me know of you do, and let those you care about know about this blog. mille grazie!