Even though I am a hypnotherapist, I still at times find myself engaging in negative thinking. The brain is an amazingly fantastical organ, capable of so much, and when it gets hold of negative thoughts, it can run riot with you, it gathers momentum and can ruin big chunks of your time that could be spent much more enjoyably and beneficially. Equally though, beautiful, positive thoughts can bloom and blossom in truly remarkable and wondrous ways, and that’s what I want to encourage and show here today.
My day’s used to start with me watching the news on the telly. I would also read a daily newspaper and when in the car I’d have the news and sports channel on. It was noticeable how it effected and influenced me. You see, the news needs us to experience fear, shock and disbelief in order to keep us engaged.
The reality is that the news shows us what they believe is important, yet it is not representative of what is really going on around the world in general terms. There is a lot of peaceful happy living going on all around the world, with millions upon millions of people doing good, leading happy, peaceful, satisfying lives with smiles on their faces, but you’d never believe it when you watch lots of news.
Social media feeds the news headlines in at every opportunity now too, because the fear engages people and gets them sharing it on those platforms. Feeds on all platforms get filled with people expressing fear and disillusionment about what is happening around the world.
A while ago I made a conscious decision to stop watching the news in any format. This was because although I like to be informed, I felt that it was not the most healthy way to live and it hindered a positive outlook and perspective on life. I don’t watch the news, I don’t read newspapers, yet just this past week, I have still been exposed to:
– Big cages filled with dogs ready to be butchered.
– Terrorist attacks in several countries.
– A shooting causing several deaths.
– Reports and statistics showing mental health to be worsening.
– Discussion of the re-emergence of the Cold War.
– Mass illness epidemics.
I have suffered from depression, a condition which happens in some for no one singular reason, but due to a set of complex factors such as genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, social conditioning, the mental health of family and close friends, personality type, life experience and our way of thinking.
If you have ever had a depressing episode in life, or if you are prone to depression or anxiety, the way that the news can create and breed fear and dark thoughts is really not ideal. It can be like a cloud hanging precariously over our heads. When you consider that we tend to have tens of thousands of thoughts every day, we really want to be doing our best to make those positive, progressive, healthy and enriching. Our quality of life depends upon it.
If our thoughts are negative all day every day, then we literally wire negativity into our brain through neuroplasticity, and our automatic thoughts are negative ones that give our internal environment a dark tone. Automatic thoughts are often thoughts we accept and do not pay attention to, they get a hold on our lives because our thoughts influence our feelings and mood, in turn that influences our behaviours and actions – heck, life gets dark if we are not careful.
By learning to consciously intercept and change thought patterns, anyone can lower anxiety, ease depression, and train their brain to become more consistently positive and calm. The quickest way to change how you feel is to change how you think. It is probably unrealistic to expect that we think positively all of the time, and I am not prescribing unrelenting sickly sweetness in every way if that is not who you are. You remain congruent.
Importantly, by engaging in positive thinking, you are taking a stand, and making healthy choices for yourself. You choose what you allow to influence you. You choose to take the controls rather be fed thoughts, news and all that other dark stuff that can contaminate every level of our life.
This is living with purpose. Living intentionally instead of reacting to life all of the time. This means that you create your own life. I love the quote by John Wooden:
“Make each day your masterpiece.”
How do we attempt to make each day our masterpiece using our thoughts? Well, we cultivate ways of creating an internal environment of positive, progressive thoughts so that automatic thoughts are habitually healthy and enhance our enjoyment of life, as Aristotle said:
“We are what we repeatedly do.”
We are what we repeatedly think.
Therefore, here are 10 and a half ways of thinking positively even when there is negativity around us, 10.5 ways to make the choice to live on your own terms, to hold the reins of your own thinking.
1. Begin Each New Day Positively:
“When I open my eyes in the morning I am not confronted by a world, but by a million possible worlds.” – Colin Wilson
How do you start each day? Are you awoken by a violent sounding alarm clock? Do you moan at the arrival of another day? Are you stressed about what you have to do? Is the radio DJ or news producer feeding you with their thoughts and agenda?
The way you begin the day will dictate the tone of the entire day ahead of you. Choose carefully how you start your day. Maybe enjoy uplifting conversation with your family, get uplifted with happy music, read motivational, useful or helpful materials – choose something that helps to inspire you or that boosts your mood to positive and which therefore creates a fertile mindset for positive thoughts to grow and develop throughout your day. Positive thoughts, ideas and creativity will find it tough to wade through the treacle like river of negativity.
2. Laugh and Smile:
Look for opportunities to laugh and smile as often as possible, make it a habit. Then also force it to happen. Force a smile onto your face at least three times in a row and notice how good it makes you feel.
Watch comedy, play something or read something that makes you laugh at regular intervals in your day. I have a folder with all my favourite clips, jokes and sketches in that I reach for and add to throughout each day.
You’ll also find that many of the other items on this list help with this particular point.
3. Have Positive People In Your Cultivated Environment:
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” – Epictetus.
Very often, I’ll refer work related issues to my wife, who I know gives me constructive, and loving feedback. She has a habit of being able to stop things descending into a negative spiral and puts things into some sort of perspective for me. Likewise, when we speak with friends, family or people who can lift us into a better place, even if for a few moments, we are back on track and negative thinking will not result.
Likewise, who are people that you find stimulating, that make you smile and laugh, and that you feel you enjoy being with? Emotions, feelings and attitudes are really contagious so you want to be around people who are positive, who enjoy life, who have a zest for living well and are healthy, for example.
This notion of people having contagious thoughts, attitudes and behaviours is true of both negative and positive. With this in mind, do remember the notion that misery loves company. People are often keen to pull you into their own negativity. Therefore, I recommend you examine the most negative people that you spend time with. You might want to work out ways of spending less time with those people in the nicest possible way, or at least make sure you do not allow them to influence or negatively effect you.
As well as people, what else influences you in your environment? Where do you get your influence and information from? What websites do you spend most time on? What do you read regularly? What type of media do you consume? What are the messages that underpin the TV programmes you watch or the films you engage with? Would you benefit from changing or updating those influences? Consider running an audit of how your environment influences you.
When we want to be positive, the sources of information and influence that are inherent within our environment are vitally important. You want it to elevate you and not pull you into a darker place. Work out how you can spend more time being positively influenced by people and your environment.
4. Filter Your Reality and Reframe Thoughts:
“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” – Dalai Lama
One of the things I do with almost all of my clients in my therapy rooms is reframe ‘problems’ as ‘challenges’ for us to overcome. Reframing negative thoughts into more useful meanings helps us to be more positive.
A great way to reframe any negative thought or situation that we find ourselves in is to ask questions of it: In what way could this be useful? In what context would this be useful? What other meaning could I find for this?
Or even better, is to look for positives by asking; what can I learn from this? What opportunities are there here? What can I find that is positive in this? Actively seek out the optimistic perspective in any negative situation.
Throughout your day and at the end of your day when reflecting upon it, pan for gold. That is, examine and notice what was good about your day. Highlight moments and occurrences and even consider writing them in a journal. Make it a habit to start noticing all that is positive and good in life.
5. Help Others To Be Happy and Positive:
In what ways can you add positivity, enjoyment and happiness to someone else’s life? This is not just important because we tend to get back what we give, but because the very act of giving, helping, supporting and loving feels good and develops the healthy habits of being a positive person.
Write up ways in which you can help others. You might consider some of the following as places to start:
– Doing something for a charity.
– Writing an email to tell someone
– Being there and listening or supporting a friend or family member.
– Lifting someone’s mood by sharing laughter, happiness or just being buoyant.
– Give someone a hug, compliment or vote of support.
– Smile at someone in a genuine fashion.
– Help someone out with a challenge they are facing.
You and the people you help will derive a lot of benefit from reading and sharing this article on how to use your thoughts positively:
Enjoying the Simple Stuff and Why A x B = C
6. Lead a Healthy Lifestyle:
Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise well.
This might seem obvious to you, but we do find it easier to feel good and think positively when we are physically well and healthy. A good sleep can have a profound impact upon us and exercise or physical activity can reduce tension and get fleeced chemicals flowing through our system.
When you take care of the vehicle for your thoughts (your body) it’ll reward you. Feed yourself healthy foods that promote well-being and make you more capable of healthy, positive thinking.
It might not seem all that enlightening, but the effect is really great enough to warrant it’s inclusion here.
7. Enjoy the Great Outdoors:
Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature can help reduce depression and anxiety. There are well documented walking groups run by psychologists here in the UK that have had wonderful results. Breathe the clean, fresh air, connect with nature, enjoy your body moving and good things happen to you.
This is a double-barrelled entry on our list though. As well as enjoying the outdoors more, you are well advised to limit the amount of exposure you have to technology, video, phones and electronics. I’ve already mentioned this in other ways on this list, but being outdoors also means that you are less engaged with negativity that can be promoted from all of your electronic gadgets – so consider putting them down when you are out and about. Make memories for yourself and those you are with, without having to get selfies of every moment, and checking Facebook to see if anyone liked it.
Being outdoors, you get to breathe; and do learn how to breathe effectively. Even if you cannot make it outdoors, consider taking time out to simply sit and breathe. Breathing deeply into your tummy and exhaling slowly to calm you and your nervous system. It aids relaxation and will make you feel good.
8. Express Gratitude:
Make a big long list that has anything and everything you have to be grateful for. At the end of each day, write down (in your journal) 4-5 things from your day that you are grateful for.
Many people spend large sections of their lives wanting things they do not have. This creates a chasm between where they are at and where they want to be. They yearn for something they do not have and are rarely satisfied with what they do have. What a miserable way to live. Expressing gratitude and being grateful helps us to appreciate what we do have, or as the Greek philosopher Epicurus said:
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Many studies show that being grateful for what you have advances satisfaction with life.
9. Consume Positivity:
What do you read? What do you listen to? What do you watch?
Create a bank of your favourite quotes and refer to them often. I have post-it notes with lots of my favourites on, and I read running quotes before I head out on long or tough training runs.
There are wonderful podcasts out there, there are wonderful blogs, there is uplifting music that has meaning, there is inspiration to be read, there are novels, autobiographies, films that will enrich your spirit and lift you. Most importantly, choose what you consume. DO not let yourself be a passive recipient of life.
Do not be a victim of circumstance. Choose the path you take, choose what you permit inside of your own head. Then make choices that will enable you to smile, dance, be happy, feel nurtured and have an enjoyable experience of life.
10. Be Present:
At regular intervals throughout your day, tune into the moment and accept happily that you are ok. Learn to be aware of the ‘now’ – the past was a number of moments that were ‘now’ and the future is a number of moments that will be ‘now.’ So get to know what it means to be in the now. Many of us spend so much time worrying about what is come, or ruminating about what has happened, and we lose track of the moment we have to enjoy, to be productive, to feed our mind with happy, creative, solution-focused thoughts. What’s more, if our imagination is consumed with the past or the future, it will not be focusing on what makes us happy right at this moment, when we need it the most – remember, we only have the moment that is ‘now’ so tend to it.
One way to begin practicing becoming more aware of your thoughts and to tune in to yourself at regular intervals throughout your day is to engage in the ABC of Gestalt, the most basic of awareness experiments mentioned in the 1951 book Gestalt Therapy by Perls and Hefferline. It is as simple as this;
“Try for a few minutes to make up sentences stating what you are at this moment aware of. Begin each sentence with the words “now” or “at this moment” or “here and now.” Engage all your senses and notice what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste, notice the moment in great detail and with patience.
It is incredibly simple, but encourages the individual to start tuning in and being aware of their ongoing experience. You can then build up to more prolonged or sophisticated ways of being mindful. Jon Kabat Zinn defines being mindful in this way:
“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
As you spend more of your time in the present moment, you find more space for positive thoughts and it becomes more natural and easy to access positive, satisfying and happy emotions. When we think positively and feel positive, we take positive actions, and behaving positively continues to flavour our ongoing mood; it becomes a healthy cycle of positivity.
Be mindful throughout your day, reconnect with the moment and you’ll discover why mindfulness has such a strong body of evidence to support it’s effectiveness in creating happier lives. It’ll have a very positive effect upon you.
10.5 Learn self-hypnosis:
You are here on my hypnosis blog, filled as it is with self-hypnosis techniques and strategies – so you knew that I was going to say something about self-hypnosis, didn’t you? It is therefore only half a number rather than a full one.
When you are a skilled self-hypnotist, you get to employ many other wonderful tools for advancing your thoughts and thinking positively. You can simply use your internal dialogue, your self-talk to advance what goes on within you. You can use it to affirm positive statements to yourself regularly. Self-hypnosis adds belief to positive thoughts and aids with them becoming more effective.
Also, self-hypnosis has been shown throughout the research to advance mental imagery and make it more vivid and impressive. You can start to create the environment of your life, see yourself as you’d like to be, see yourself coping effectively with life, seeing yourself being the way you want to be, feeling the healthy, happy emotions you want to experience. You can download the free self-hypnosis track on this website to get started, or you can read any number of the hundreds of articles that teach self-hypnosis on my website, or even better, go read my book The Science of Self-Hypnosis as it’ll give you all the information you need to be an effective self-hypnotist.
Positive thinking is not about ignoring the reality of life. I encourage you to be solution focused and sober at times, so that you can be balanced and not neglect the facts of situations, blinded by positivity. But choose your thoughts, choose your influences; isn’t it the ultimate luxury that we do not have to worry about survival, or fear life, that in fact, we can make a choice to be positive, to think positively, even when fear and negativity is so heavily promoted all around us. These ten and a half things are all simple to integrate into your life and will lead to much more positive thinking, good feelings and a more enjoyable experience of life.
Happy positive thinking!
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.