Perhaps you’ve reached this article because you’re drawn to the idea of its simplicity? I don’t blame you.
A lot is written about positive thinking but it’s often wrapped up with psychological science, philosophy, or spirituality. Actually these are quite important issues, but you are probably looking for something easy and practical in order to form a connection. How about connecting through the use of one word? A single word can act like a key in a lock. Turn the key, and open yourself up to ways which counteract negative thoughts and worries that nag at us throughout the day.
Well, this isn’t something out of a Harry Potter book where we say, Wingardium Leviosa and magic happens: actually that’s two words, but you get the idea. The word you choose has to be simple and has to mean something to you. For example, if you’re the type of person who gets easily irritated and this makes your day stressful, then a word such as ‘chill’ or ‘calm’ or ‘settle’ could be for you.
When you feel those negative moments starting to build, you remember to use your word. You can go about your business of walking, or looking at a screen, or driving, but you take a nice deep breath and bring your word to mind. You repeat your word over and over. You continue your slow breathing exercise, each time breathing out as though you are pushing slightly more air out than you breathed in.
When you get the hang of this it becomes almost a natural reflex to bring your word to mind. If it helps you could try saying it out loud, as in “I’m feeling chilled.” You might also want to experiment with building your word into a what’s called a positive affirmation. An affirmation is simply a self-empowering statement that encourages a belief in what you are doing and, in this case, includes your chosen word. Something like, “my chill word is a powerful force for overcoming my irritation,” or “today I give up feeling irritated because I know how to chill.”
Challenge the Doubter Inside You
Is there a voice inside you saying “what a load of rubbish”? Well, I’m not going into the science of why positive thinking works, but if this is you, I would ask you one question:
What’s your Alternative?
Are you inclined towards the argument that positivity is junk? That you’re being hoodwinked by people who know very little but basically want you to buy their book? I would answer that such people exist wherever you look, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that the effects of positive thinking comes out of hard science. But I promised I wouldn’t go there so here are some alternative thoughts.
To me, positive thinking means thinking in a way that doesn’t trap you in a cycle of negative thinking, no matter what happens to you. Here’s a worst case example:
You visit your doctor who tells you that those headaches you’re experiencing result from a brain tumor, which fortunately, is operable. It’s a blow, no doubt about it, and it may take a while for you to scrape yourself off the floor. Positive thinking in this regard isn’t dreamily placing all your faith in modern medicine, it’s about taking some action. It’s about finding out what this means, what options you have, what it might mean to your life and the adaptations you may need to make. This is a practical application of positive thinking that gives you some mastery over your situation rather than being a victim of it.
If the alternative to positive thinking is negative thinking, surely that’s a non-starter. Negative thinking takes us on a downward spiral that leads to depression and who wants that? If the alternative to positive thinking is ‘do nothing and be fatalistic’ then you’re simply giving control of your life to forces outside of your control.
It’s important therefore to tune your mindset into the idea that positive thinking can be a hard-nosed and entirely practical way of going about things. It’s not about wandering around with a soppy smile on your face, or burning incense, or being vegan. You can do all of these of course, but they are personal choices that, for some people, reinforce personal beliefs. The fact that you wear a uniform, or do dangerous work, or have a working day that involves caring for three young children, doesn’t exclude you from the benefits of positivity.
And you can begin, with a single word.