We’re all guilty of “catastrophizing” from time to time — especially considering the current times of uncertainty, and how the media is only fanning the flames of our crescendoing anxiety levels. But have you noticed that most of the things we worry about don’t even happen?
When the happenings of the world get too much and you’re not sure how to process it, remember the old and ever-relevant stoic way of thinking that although you can’t always control what goes on outside of yourself, you have full authority over what happens within.
In essence, the world may appear to be a frightening place at times, but the key is in how you react and respond to it.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Is your glass half-empty or half-full?
Although perhaps overused, how you answer this age-old question may say a lot about your outlook on life.
Positive thinking doesn’t mean keeping your head buried in the sand, but rather that you approach life’s challenges in a more productive way. You assume that the best is going to happen, though you are prepared for the worst.
Sure, we may have been given a tricky situation right now — with health anxieties and limited social interaction. But what if we see the present circumstances as an enforced social detox and an opportunity for personal development?
Many of us claim that we will spend more time focusing on ourselves, shutting the world out temporarily and taking the time to read and learn. Well, despite the unfortunate circumstances, we have now been given that rare opportunity.
Your inner-monologue is everything
Positive thinking often starts with a positive inner-monologue. If the thoughts that run through your mind are mostly filled with anxiety-inducing negativity, your entire outlook on life and your own self-worth will be tarnished. On the other hand, if your thoughts are more positive, your entire perception of the world and your place in it will be all the better.
If you’re a self-confessed pessimist, though, don’t fret too much — you can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking.
“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”
Make positive thinking your default with these tips:
Surround yourself with positivity. We all need to lend an ear to a suffering friend from time to time, but persistently negative people will drain your energy and motivation levels, only elevating your own levels of stress and self-doubt.
The same goes for the content you consume — everything you expose yourself to has an effect on your overall outlook — so don’t be afraid to take some control over this for your own mental wellbeing.
Positive inner-monologue. To feed this new, positive outlook, try following this simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.
Be gentle, encouraging, and forgiving to yourself as you would be to a dear friend. If a negative thought about yourself enters your mind, consider how you would feel if someone spoke about your best friend in that way?
Practice gratitude. Don’t fall into the toxic habit of solely focusing on what you don’t have or what you can’t do. Try to acknowledge the blessings in your life each day by practicing gratitude.
Just this simple act of recognizing what you can be grateful for — your friends, your family, your relative health; the roof over your head and the food in your fridge — is crucial for maintaining a positive mindset.
Call out your “catastrophizing.” If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative and assuming the very worst, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them. Reassure yourself that whatever comes, you are strong and intelligent, and you can face it.
Repeat these affirmations internally like mantras and you will eventually train yourself to stop spiraling into panic at the sight of any obstacle.
Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek out the humorous side in everyday happenings.
When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed and find the harder moments a little easier to deal with.
Move your body. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day — even if on some days this is simply a brisk walk or at-home yoga session.
Exercise can positively affect a persistent low mood and reduce stress — so it’s important you force yourself to move your body even when you really don’t feel like it!
Feed your body and mind. Also, be sure to follow a mostly healthy diet to fuel your mind and body with the nutrients they need to function at their best. This includes a back-to-basics approach to your lifestyle.
Practice positive thinking every day
With practice, your inner-monologue will eventually become a lot kinder and you will start to be more hopeful about the future, despite any present challenges.
Look around — every single person you know or come across is facing challenges and struggles. However, from the outside, you often can’t tell who is under the most anguish at any given time — because we all process stress and hardship differently.
When your state of mind is generally more optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress more constructively and to look to the future with more positivity. And this ability can have a profound benefit on your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.