Want to be more positive in your daily life?
Even if you’re not a very optimistic person, you can still train your brain to look at the brighter side of things.
Here are some mental exercises that can help.
Mental Exercises To Rewire Your Brain To Be More Positive
1. Make gratitude a daily practice
Gratitude is a simple way to get into a positive mindset. Even the act of trying to think of something to be grateful for boosts serotonin and dopamine – your brain’s happy chemicals.
Research shows that practicing gratitude can decrease insomnia, increase empathy, reduce aches and pains, boost self-esteem, and bolster mental toughness.
So how do you begin to practice gratitude?
Gratitude doesn’t have to be huge for you to be more positive.
You don’t have to start by thanking the universe for the big bang.
Start with little things.
For example: I am grateful for the laptop I am typing this on – that it allows me to communicate with the whole world.
I am grateful the sun is shining today.
I am grateful for the free coffee in my office this morning.
It’s really about making a habit of finding and recognizing things you can be thankful for in some small way.
And yeah, it’s good to be thankful for the big things, too.
Many studies showing gratitude’s positive effects had participants spend a few minutes a day jotting down things they were grateful for.
Writing by hand is powerful because it involves so much of your brain.
Keep a blank book and pen beside your bed and write what you had to be grateful for during the day.
You’ll actually sleep better as you aim to be more positive.
2. Meditate to be more positive
I can’t think of a single thing you can do that has a more profound effect on your physical and mental health than daily meditation.
Not just a religious or spiritual practice, meditation increases positivity, fights anxiety and depression, decreases pain and inflammation, and increases your ability to regulate your emotions.
I believe every human should meditate daily to be more positive.
There are a wide variety of mobile apps that are great for beginners or even advanced students.
The two that I like the most are Calm and Headspace.
What’s great about each of them is that they are guided and progressive.
This means you plug in your headphones, sit down, and a voice guides you through what to do.
They will each remind you daily that it’s time to meditate.
Most cities will have many meditation classes if you’re not into apps.
Most yoga and martial arts classes will include a period of meditation.
3. Practice witness consciousness
Witness consciousness can be a part of meditation, but it’s a mindfulness practice that can be used throughout the day.
Basically, you identify with the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise within your consciousness.
You merely observe them and allow them to pass like clouds in the sky.
This helps you reach a state of equanimity – where stuff doesn’t bother you.
The more you practice, the easier it gets.
Here are some simple steps to help you experience witness consciousness.
- Ask yourself, “where am I?” This invites your awareness to return to the present moment and center itself behind your eyes.
- Repeat to yourself, “I have sensations, but I am not these sensations.”
- Repeat to yourself, “I have thoughts, but I am not these thoughts.”
- Repeat to yourself, “I have emotions, but I am not these emotions.”
- Just sit in this detached state for a while.
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4. Challenge negative interpretations to be more positive
But it’s how we handle it that matters.
Often, we can put negative interpretations of events or the actions of others.
The brain’s survival mechanisms are wired to place more weight on negative events.
When our ancestors went down to the watering hole, and one of them got eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, they may have called the watering-hole cursed.
Staying away from the forbidden watering hole would have kept them safe from the tiger.
But most of us have no tiger in the grass.
Negativity can be an ingrained habit – it’s really important to catch yourself in the act.
How you are feeling about an event is a good indicator of where your thoughts are.
Big negative feelings follow big negative thoughts.
Take a moment and recognize what you’re feeling.
Honor it, and ask yourself what your thoughts are.
Get curious and ask questions.
Curiosity is an underrated state.
Asking yourself the right questions about an event can help get you out of a funk and be more positive.
For example: let’s say my kids yell at me.
I catch myself thinking that they don’t respect me.
This might make me angry.
I might yell back.
What if there is a different interpretation?
If I get curious about their behavior, it might look something like this: What reason might they have for acting like this?
What positive intention or need are they trying to meet?
What might have happened leading up to this?
My curiosity about the situation forces me out of the “poor me” mindset and into a state of resourcefulness.
I may even help my kids move through this incident positively and make better choices in the future.
5. Stack evidence to build up positive beliefs
Now that we’ve conquered some negative beliefs and thoughts, it’s time to build positivity.
This is simpler than it may seem.
Think about something true for you.
Something simple, like the sun rises in the East every day.
OK, if I ask you how you know this is true, you can probably come up with a list of things easily.
I’ve seen it rise in the East.
I learned in school the Earth rotates from east to West.
Pay close attention to what kind of proof is most convincing for you.
So if we want to reverse-engineer a belief, we simply add criteria that make that belief true for you.
Start with an empowering belief.
If we’re going to create and solidify a belief, we should choose it carefully.
Choose something that empowers you and feels good.
Create a single statement.
We must phrase the statement in the positive.
“I am a good father,” is better than “I am not a lousy father.”
This has to do with how the brain has difficulty processing negatives.
The simpler this statement, the easier it will be to drive home into your subconscious mind and adopt naturally.
Affirmations are a mainstay of personal development, but they have a problem.
Psychological research has shown that unrealistic affirmations can actually make people depressed.
Saying, “I am rich,” repeatedly while your car is getting re-possessed, puts you in a state of internal conflict.
Pick a belief that is within the realm of reality to be more positive.
Things like, “I can get through this moment,” “I am a good husband,” or “I have a lot to offer my friends.”
Ask Yourself This One Powerful Question
Now that you have the new belief you want to adopt, it’s time to empower it with evidence.
You’re going to ask yourself this question:
Assuming this is true, how do I know it’s true?
Let your brain come up with as many answers as it can.
Write them down.
You can repeat this exercise each day until this new belief to be more positive gets cemented into place.