Come on, admit it, we all love a good moan every now and again, well at least I know I do! It’s cathartic to sit and wallow in negative thoughts for a while, and sometimes we just need to let it all out (I’m a big fan of clearing the system by having a damn good cry!), but where does it get you in the end? Not very far. If we constantly focus on what’s wrong or what’s stopping us from making progress it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Power of a positive mindset
There’s been much research on the power of a positive mind-set. A mind-set that helps you to focus on your strengths, solutions and possible opportunities, rather than weaknesses, problems and limiting factors. That’s not to say that the problems don’t exist, but perhaps we can think differently about how we go about addressing them in order to reach our goals.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor, found a growth mind-set is an essential ingredient in living a more successful and less stressful life. Her research suggests if you try to think about what’s possible by focusing on your strengths, the opportunities and the possible solutions, you start to feel more positive emotions which in turn open your mind to a range of different choices. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle which leads to more energy boosting feelings and a sense of hope, resulting in a feeling of more power, confidence and higher levels of engagement. Conversely if you choose to think about the limitations, your mind narrows and focuses only on the problems. This can generate negative feelings, a sense of helplessness and self-doubt starts to creep in.
Gravy and spaghetti!
In the middle of cooking a Spaghetti Bolognese, I realised I didn’t have enough tomatoes to make the sauce. Time was against me, as per normal, and a trip to the supermarket was out of the question. I could have lost it, start apportioning blame to the person who last went to the supermarket (not me, obviously!) and drop the half cooked Bolognese in the bin. But, no! Instead, I opened wide the cupboard doors and tried to think creatively about what alternative ingredient might do. I finally decided on gravy. Sincere apologies to any Bolognese purists out there, but it worked. Not one complaint did I get from my family about the gravy tasting Bolognese! Well it was more like cottage pie filling on pasta, but they loved it! I know this example isn’t exactly mind-blowing, but hopefully those busy working parents out there will appreciate the sentiment and I don’t often tend to have all the ‘basics’ in my larder aka Jamie Oliver or Joe Wickes! Now there’s a positive, glass half full kind of chap!
Positivity magnets and buckets!
I appreciate Joe Wickes feasts on positive mood enhancing exercise, but have you ever noticed that those who are positive and confident are like magnets. Good things seem to land in their lap. Lady luck always appears to be on their side. Susan Jeffers, author of the fabulous book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” suggests that as you adopt a more positive approach to life, a “yes and” attitude, your confidence grows. You are automatically drawn to and attract a different kind of person and therefore new opportunities.
Another beautifully simple read is “How Full Is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. What starts out as a harrowing story of the psychological torture experienced by American POWs during the Korean War and associated survival rates of those with a more positive outlook, turns into a more light-hearted way of understanding how you can fill your metaphoric bucket by being positive. As you fill the bucket you start to develop a more optimistic outlook. When we choose to think negatively, we quickly start to empty the bucket.
How can you help yourself?
So, here are 5 tips for developing a more positive outlook:
- Experiment with positive self-talk e.g. “I’ll handle it”
- Get a bucket (or maybe a jam jar!) and every time you have a positive thought, write it down and pop it in the jar. Notice how you feel when it starts to fill!
- Surround yourself with positive people who pump you up rather than drag you down.
- Experiment with pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to experience new possibilities and opportunities.
- Say yes more often and smile!
I’ve started to smile at random people in the street and, apart from those who think I’m slightly odd, for the most part I get one in return! That makes me feel just a little bit more optimistic, a little bit more positive and it starts to fill my bucket.
I’d love to know how you keep positive. Any handy tips, please comment below. You’ll be filling my bucket 😊. Thank you.