There is a myriad of ways that learning to think in a more positive manner can help you start living in the “now”. The very nature of positive thinking lends itself to not waiting for the future or living in the past, but taking advantage of the day you have… today.
Here are three ways to become more positive that may surprise you. Try them, because we think you’ll see they help increase your happiness.
- Meditation: those who meditate daily show more positive emotions than those who don’t. Meditation does a lot more than simply quiet your mind. People who undertake daily meditation experience increased mindfulness, life purpose, greater social support, and fewer symptoms of illness. Isn’t that reason enough to give it a go?
- Writing: a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality tested a group of 90 students, split into two groups. One group wrote about a positive experience every day for three days. The other group wrote about a control topic. Would you believe that three months later, the students who wrote about the positive experience showed elevated moods and fewer illnesses? All of this, after only three days of writing! One has to wonder what the effects would be if you wrote about a positive experience daily, with no time limit! Go buy yourself a special journal that inspires you, and do this experiment on your own – but don’t stop after just three days.
- Fun: In our busy schedules of meetings, daily, weekly, and monthly events, running errands, and living for weekends, we schedule everything… except time to play. Research has shown that even for adults, playing, experimenting, and exploring help keep you in the here and now, increasing mindfulness and overall happiness. Grab your significant other, children, or best friend, and add time to your busy schedule to simply play!
The benefits of positive emotions simply can’t be overstated. There’s so much good that can come from increasing your positive outlook, and diminishing negativity in your life. You’ll not only be more joyful overall, but you’ll be more present in the wonderful moments you experience every day, day in and day out.
An end of life perspective
When you’re at the end of your life, do you think you’ll look back and say, “I’m sure glad I worked so much!” Probably not.
It’s a known fact that the elderly in their last days talk about the regrets they have, and one of those big regrets is usually not taking the time to enjoy life, have fun, and be present with the ones they loved.
Life is not a rehearsal for something more or better (unless you believe otherwise). We each have about 27,000 days on this earth, give or take. So, let’s break this down:
Around a third (9,000 days) will be spent sleeping, leaving 18,000 days. But we have to further deduct childhood and, potentially, old age when you may be infirm. Let’s take a further 8,000 days away. This leaves us with 10,000 days – and I haven’t even factored work in.
I didn’t mean to be gloomy but we do tend to take each day for granted. Realizing how short life is, reminds us to live fully and live presently in the moment! Knowing our time isn’t endless is what makes us value that time so very much. And when we value something, we’re reluctant to waste it.
Minimize time wasted
There are lots of ways to minimize wasted time. Off the top of my head, these include watching too much TV, staying in a dead-end or unfulfilling job. Here are some other common ways we tend to reduce the enjoyment of the time we have:
- Allowing ourselves to become surrounded by toxic people who suck the happiness right out of us. It pays to make the decision to show these people the door. When all of that negative energy isn’t taking up space around us, we have the space to let in so much positive energy!
- Complaining about things we have no control over. There are things we can control, and many, many situations that we can’t. Take control of what we can to make our life better, but we should stop complaining and worrying about those things we simply can’t control.
- Being afraid to ask for help when we need it will increase those feelings of isolation and aloneness. There is no shame in asking for help, and if we do, we allow someone else the amazing feeling of giving that help.
- Letting other people dictate how we live our life. These people who offer friendly (or not so friendly) “advice” are often in no better place about their own situation.
- Chasing money, or happiness of the moment, rather than long-term happiness and the true meaning of life. Money is simply a conduit to those experiences that fulfill us and fill us with joy. Yes, we need to use it for it’s intended purpose, but let’s not chase it just to have more of the stuff.
Healthy Risk Taking
Healthy risk taking is essential for a happy life. What if we never took any risks? Do we want to look back on our life wishing that we’d done things that seem out of the question today?
Young people often have the edge in this regard. Did you engage in drinking, rule-breaking, smoking, or unsafe sex? They are all common ways that kids experiment and they usually don’t result in too much trouble, though they certainly have the potential to.
When you’re an adolescent, it can be difficult to internalize all the new roles you have to take on as an adult. So, you tend to act out and get into trouble.
When you arrive at adulthood, very often you stop taking risks because you feel you have to be responsible. But there is good and bad risk taking. Taking healthy risks has a wide array of benefits for adults of any age.
Negative risks tend to be impulsive, emotionally driven and might rely heavily on ego. Positive risks are planned, calculated, and anticipated. There’s a very large distinction between the two.
One of the greatest benefits of healthy risk taking is that you challenge yourself to be more or do more than you think you can. You get outside of your comfort zone and are able to prove to yourself that you’re capable. This, in turn, increases your confidence, and your ability to see yourself in a positive light.
Fear, or certainly anxiety, is common to just about anyone who is learning something new. What if it doesn’t turn out right? What if I’ve made a mistake? These are common questions, but we should never let the fear of starting hold us back from actually doing the things we want to do.
One way to handle fear is to think about the benefits of what we want to do in a more global manner. Say I have a fear of heights, but I’d love to go hang-gliding. The benefits of going hang-gliding, for me, might be an increased confidence level, greater self-esteem, and the incredible realization that I really can do anything!
If my fear is crippling then I could seek professional help. Psychologists help people overcome their fears on a daily basis.
Learning to express ourselves through creativity is a great way to learn to live more in the moment than in the past or future. It’s difficult to focus on anything but the present when the brain is actively involved in creating, and this is one of the ways to live a healthier, more balanced, more fulfilling life overall.
There are a so many ways to express ourselves through creativity. Here’s a few, but this list is by no means exhaustive!
- Looking for beauty in everything around us. A forest full of trees holds beauty just like a city street lit up at night does. Beauty is subjective, and just because I find that something is beautiful, someone else may not. That’s okay! The point of the exercise is to hone our abilities to look for and find beauty in all places – beauty that will inspire our own creativity!
- I know some people make a creative home for themselves. It’s not always possible to do an entire property, but usually there’s at least a room that will give itself over to our creative urges. For some people it’s a case of putting posters up, for others it’s lights, plants, fish, furniture, whatever. Maybe it is an art studio away from home, or a garden where we feel safe and unencumbered.
- It can take a few steps in a creative direction before we decided on a form our creativity might take. This never has to be set in stone, and will probably change. For you it might be dance right now, but later it might be drawing, journaling, woodcarving, or cooking. I think creativity is about lifting the limits. We should try things that interest us at the time, and we find them fulfilling, wonderful! Sometimes projects last as long as they last and that’s it – we move on.
Stop worrying start living
Worry can truly suck the joy out of any situation. Worrying, especially worrying about things we cannot control, becomes a negative feedback loop that just keeps going lower and lower until we’re stuck in a hole that we feel we just can’t get back out of.
But what’s the solution? We can’t just stop worrying, can we?
Worrying is actually a choice that we make, and we can therefore learn to stop worrying. But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition! Here are three steps that anyone can take starting right this minute to help lessen the time spent worrying. Remember, worry is simply the illusion of control. Worrying provides a kind of focus for our nervous energy but, in and of itself, is completely useless.
- One of the most effective tactics to use with worrying (or any negative emotion, in fact) is to give it a time limit. Then worrying does not go on endlessly without any self-control. When something has you worried, or a worry pops up into your mind, set a limit of an hour, or whatever you feel comfortable with. But when that time is up, that’s it. You move on. You don’t let the worry stop you from living if it’s past the time you give it. This is a technique that works great for depression, sadness, anger… any of those negative emotions that threaten to take us over if we’re not careful.
- Ask yourself if there is anything you can do about what you’re worried about. Many times, there are things you can do to help stop the worry, but you’re reluctant to do them. Why? Well, it could be that you’re afraid to step outside your comfort zone. It could be that you’re reluctant to take the actions you need to take to stop the situation you’re worried about. Fear plays into this a lot, so you have to ask yourself some hard questions, namely, “Am I willing to do what it takes to stop this worrying by changing my situation?” Whether the answer is yes, or no, you should quit the worrying.
- Take a good look at the stories you tell yourself. You may be worrying about something that is simply not true, or not realistic. Very often, we tell ourselves stories about a situation, and when we tell ourselves the same story over and over, it becomes real to us. But it may, in fact, just be a story. So, take a look at your worries, and examine whether they are based on real facts and situations, or just old stories that you haven’t updated in your mind.