We all go through some challenging times in life. That’s just life; it will not always feel like a bed of roses. However, life is what you make of it and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel can make difficult times manageable. While it can sometimes seem impossible, focusing on the small things that you are grateful for can make a big difference. And the best thing is, the more you practice feeling gratitude, the easier it becomes!
There are many ways you can develop a more positive outlook on your life. An important thing to remember is that your negative thinking is a habit, an overexercised muscle. The first step to changing your thinking is to become aware of it in the moment. Once you are aware of it, then you can choose to change it.
Changing your attitude and not slipping back into negative thinking may take time, however. Eventually this new outlook will become second nature, but it will take practice. Here are some excellent tips for keeping a positive outlook no matter what’s going around you:
1) Make up your mind to become aware of distressing thoughts (this is way harder than it seems). When you start to feel anxious about the future or a situation, stop, focus on your breathing. Then pay attention to the persistent thoughts you may be experiencing without trying to change them or judge them.
2) Once you have become aware of your negative thoughts you must make a choice to change them. This might seem obvious, but often these thoughts are central to our identities and how we see ourselves and changing them can feel like we are loosing who we are. Not only that, but they are often defense mechanisms that we have developed to deal with trauma. It can be very uncomfortable to change these things, but it will make your life much less stressful and more rewarding.
3) When negative thoughts arise, choose to drop them. Find one thing in the situation that you can control and deal with that. Everything else, all the fears and mental chatter, force yourself to let those thoughts go. This can be very hard and at first you might have to tell yourself to drop it every 30 minutes, but eventually you will be able to drop your negative thoughts more quickly and less frequently.
4) Be patient with yourself. It takes time to change the way you feel.
5) Whatever you are doing in your day-to-day life, always look for the good in it. Although you might be doing something you do not usually enjoy, do your best to find something about the task that turns it into a more positive situation.
6) When negative thoughts arise, find a positive message to replace them with. This could be in the form of a positive affirmation that you like, or something simple like “everything is going to be ok.” You don’t have to believe it at first, and it likely won’t feel genuine, but this is a “fake it till you make it” situation. Just be persistent and keep focusing on the positive thought.
7) Spend as much time as you can with your family and loved ones, do something together which you all enjoy and aim to have a family night at least once a week where you can spend quality time together.
9) Do something that you wouldn’t normally do. Take up a new hobby or sport that you would never have dreamed of doing.
10) Get some exercise, this could be something as simply taking a walk in the fresh air and is totally free or go to the gym or taking part in activities such as yoga.
11) Set yourself goals in order to get ahead and when you accomplish a goal give yourself a small reward for doing so.
12) Learn techniques that allow you to bring your attention and focus back to the task on hand quickly. Meditation is a great one. When meditating it is crucial to breathe properly.
Begin by relaxing your mouth, jaws, neck, chest, and shoulders (which should not move up and down if you are breathing properly). Draw the breath in slowly, deeply, and effortlessly down into the lower abdomen, expanding front, back, sides, all the way around, as though there were a balloon sitting in an empty abdominal cavity, and see that balloon inflating all the way around. If you put the palms of your hands behind your back, you can feel the expansion of the lungs even in your back.
If you continue these breaths, slowly and deeply (to the count of 6 or 7) with just a very short beat in between each breath, you will establish a deeply connected state of being. This type of breathing pattern cleanses and heals the body. Even if you practiced this deep breathing technique for just five minutes, a couple of times a day, it has the potential to change your whole life.
13) Use affirmations throughout the day to instill self-confidence and positive thoughts and feelings.
14) Remember that the circumstance won’t last forever, this is only a temporary stage you are going through and it will change.
You will find over time, that many areas of your life will change just by following a few of these tips. So much of our daily stress is a result of negative mental habits, and reducing them even a little bit will greatly reduce your stress levels. You will soon be able to tackle the tasks you once disliked without them causing you stress and anxiety like they did before. You will find that your self-esteem improves, you feel happier, more peaceful, and in turn your relationships may improve.