Investing in yourself can take many forms, and it does not have to be a tangible skill that develops you. Everyone is motivated by something different, but almost everyone has something that they are uncomfortable with or afraid to do because they have negative emotions tied to it. It is easy to tell people to say, “Yes” to everything and to pursue their dreams without fear, but it is no simple task to overcome negative emotions that we have associated with obstacles, change and the potential to fail.
Sometimes it seems like it is so much easier to remember the negative things that have happened to us during our days than the positive. Our brains have a natural tendency to spot the negatives, while it takes more effort to see the positives. Unfortunately, we carry negative emotions in our minds much longer than we do the positives, and it takes longer to build ourselves up than it does to tear us town.
Research shows that positive emotions contribute to essential downstream life outcomes, including social development, satisfaction in your relationships, higher incomes, and better physical health. “Positive emotions temporarily broaden our attention and thinking, allowing us to draw on higher-level connections and a wider range of ideas. These broadened outlooks help us find and build important personal resources which can be cognitive, psychological, social or physical.” (Fredrickson, 2017). People with these resources are more likely to effectively seek out and meet life’s challenges and take advantages of its opportunities.
So how can we rewire our brains to focus on the good things? We can practice actively looking for the positives and over time build a habit of thinking in a different way. Here are seven tips to help us escape the negatives and focus on the positives so that we can overcome whatever it is that is holding us back from becoming the best version of ourselves.
1. Focus on learning.
Don’t get stuck on a negative event or emotion. We are all human and everyone of us has a bad day or makes a mistake. Failing does not make you a failure. Turn your mistakes in to lessons and praise your process for getting it right next time.
2. Listen for and identify negative self-talk.
Try to recognize when you are beating yourself up over something. We are our own biggest critics and our thoughts are very powerful. Put a positive spin on a negative outcome or even try and laugh at yourself. Shrink the problem because it is probably a bigger issue in your mind than it is in reality. Self-image is made by self and not by people.
3. Rehearse the good news.
How common is it to come home from work and vent about the annoying things that happened in your day. Negativity feeds on negativity and your story will likely lead to someone else venting about their bad day. Instead, try and play up the good things that happened, no matter how small they were, and ask about the good in other people’s day.
4. Forgive people for negativity.
We can’t all be positive all the time, but dwelling on someone else’s negativity or holding a grudge can weigh you down. A lot of negativity stems from misinformation or miscommunication. You never know what someone is going through in their personal life, so forgive them and move on. Someone has probably forgiven you along the way too.
5. Surround yourself with a positive community.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people who you respect, share your values and inspire you to do great things.
6. Emphasize the Positives.
Spend a few minutes each day writing about what you are grateful for, whether it was a great day with your family, a good meal, or even a funny joke you heard. Even Oprah does it! She says, “I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.” Be grateful for the mountain.
7. Spread the good.
Words can empower or debilitate someone. We all have the power to spread kindness and positivity, and you never know when someone might really need it to get through their own negativity.
Start today! Be conscious of how you can bring positivity into your day or into someone else’s in a small or big way and make it happen.
Sources and Citations:
- Fredrickson, Barbara L. et al. “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources.” Journal of personality and social psychology 95.5 (2008): 1045–1062. PMC. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.