Ever heard the phrase “the power of positive thinking?” Well, as it turns out, positivity is pretty powerful. According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of positive thinking can include an increased life span, decreased rates of depression, better coping skills and improved psychological and physical well-being. Good stuff, right?
That brings me to the topic at hand – optimism. Optimism is about having hope and believing that favorable developments are ahead. Even when things are difficult, you can still see a potential upside, or find a silver lining. Choosing positivity, an outcome of optimism, can help you get unstuck and thrive. It has certainly made a difference in my life, helping me overcome personal and professional challenges.
I want to be clear that I’m talking about genuine positive thinking – not the “toxic positivity” that is about fake reassurances that dismisses difficult emotions. The truth is that anyone can learn to become more authentically optimistic if that’s what they desire.
Here are 3 ways to embrace authentic positivity:
Make a conscious decision.
Intentionally embracing optimism can wonders for your well-being. “Consciously choosing a positive attitude is huge because all the research shows that if you do, it is going to make a huge difference in your relationships, in your health and in your life in general,” noted Susan Peppercorn, the author of Ditch Your Inner Critic at Work: Evidence-Based Strategies To Thrive In Your Career. “But people have to practice it; positivity doesn’t just happen.”
A born worrier, Peppercorn herself worked on becoming more positive by practicing a happiness exercise called “Three Good Things” popularized by leading positive psychology expert Dr. Martin Seligman. The premise is simple. Just write down three positive things that happened to you during the day and reflect on those items at night. Repeat every day for at least a month. Researchers found that the longer you do this, the better.
“The three good things that you list don’t have to be earth-shattering,” continued Peppercorn. “It could be a conversation you have with a friend, what you ate for lunch of walking outside and noticing beautiful flowers blooming in the spring.”
After doing this regularly for six months, Peppercorn didn’t have to write things down anymore. The practice helped her create a new neural pathway where positive things were more in her consciousness than before. Bottom-line, the process helps people train their brain to focus on positives rather than negatives.
Visualize the best outcomes.
Seeing is believing; when you visualize positive outcomes it can help things go even better than planned. Just picturing positive results in your mind can make a difference.
Researchers from Kings College in London conducted a study with more than one hundred people diagnosed with anxiety disorder. One group was told to visualize an image of a positive outcome to each of the three challenging issues they’d experienced in the previous week, another group was asked to think of verbal positive outcomes, and the last group was asked to visualize any positive image whenever they started to worry.
The two groups that visualized positive images—whether related to specific worries or not—reported greater happiness and restfulness, and decreased anxiety.
Make a contingency plan for positive results.
Although most people think of contingency planning for when things go wrong, you can increase your positive resonance by planning for the best possible scenarios to take place.
Let’s say you start a side hustle making jewelry that is sold online. Crafting beautiful necklaces and earrings brings you tremendous joy. In fact, you wish that this hobby could produce enough income to become your full-time gig.
With that intention set, detail what it looks like when everything falls into place—like sending samples to celebrity stylists for use with their high-profile clients, having luminaries like Beyoncé or Ariana Grande post social media photos of themselves wearing the pieces as a result (generating more than 100,000 likes), and how you plan to handle your production needs when all of the jewelry you’ve posted on craft sites sells out within days.
Think about what your ultimate success story looks like, with you designing a new line of jewelry each season, having full production capabilities in place, and raking in millions of profits. Planning these detailed steps helps make the best possible results more feasible.
How have you learned to become more optimistic? What have you gained personally or professionally from choosing a more positive outlook?