A Guide on How to Think Positive—and Why it Matters
- Negative thoughts are different for everyone, but they often include negative self-talk and ruminating on negative situations or encounters.
- These negative thinking patterns can be detrimental to your overall health and well-being. But with a few simple steps, you can start to adopt a more positive outlook and mindset.
- Journaling, yoga, exercise, positive self-talk and other practices can not only help you become a more positive thinker, but can also help boost your self-confidence.
The next time you find yourself in a negative situation, pay close attention to your thoughts. What does the voice inside your head sound like? What is it saying? Is it upbeat and optimistic, or full of doom and gloom? Sure, having a few random negative thoughts here and there is unavoidable. But if you notice a troublesome pattern of consistently negative thoughts, your thinking habits may start to spill over into other areas of your life, making you feel unhappy, nervous, worried or distracted.
However, you can take steps to combat these negative thoughts and adopt a more positive attitude. Some optimists are just born that way, but others become more optimistic with lots of practice, mindfulness and a belief in the power of positive thinking. Here’s what you need to know about the potential consequences of negative thoughts—and how to stay positive, even during life’s most difficult moments.
The impact of negative thoughts
Between upsetting developments on the nightly news and our own personal struggles at work and at home, it’s no surprise that negative thoughts can easily creep into our brains. From negative self-talk (“I’m not good enough”) to an overall pessimistic outlook on life (“The world is a terrible place”), negative thoughts are different for everyone. And though you may try to just brush them off or ignore them, they can actually have a real impact on your mental health and well-being over time.
In fact, research has found that negative thoughts and rumination can be detrimental to overall health. Repetitive negative thinking has also been linked with an increased risk for developing dementia and cognitive decline.
How to transition out of negative thought patterns
If you start to notice negative thought patterns seeping into areas of your life, don’t fret. You aren’t doomed to thinking these negative thoughts forever or becoming a negative person. Here are a few ways to start transitioning away from negative thoughts and emotions:
- Identify the problem: The first step to addressing any problem is to simply be aware of it. Identifying and even naming the issue at hand—”I’m having negative thoughts”—can help you start to understand how to tackle it.
- Assess bad habits: Take stock of your daily and weekly routine. Are you grappling with habits like substance abuse, a bad diet, lack of exercise or too much time spent at work that may be contributing to negative thoughts? If so, investigate each habit on its own, then develop strategies for slowly reducing or eliminating these practices over time. Take note of how you feel when you start working out or eating a diet full of fresh, whole foods.
- Purge your social circle of negative people/influences: Good or bad, the people we spend our time with often have a huge impact on our self-esteem, confidence levels and coping skills. If you spend time with Negative Nancies, it makes total sense that negative thoughts will also start to permeate your psyche. But if you surround yourself with optimistic people, you’ll be more inclined to look on the bright side, even during sticky situations.
- Eliminate negative self-talk: The next time you have a negative thought about yourself like “I don’t like how I look” or “I’ll never get that promotion because I’m not smart enough,” take a step back and challenge that line of thinking. Eliminating negative self-talk is an important first step toward developing more positivity.
- Ask for help: There’s no shame in asking experts for help. Explore consultations with different therapists and wellness professionals, whose arsenal of tools can help you banish negative self-talk and negative emotions.
Related: 10 Morning Routines Ideas to Level Up Your Day
What is positive thinking and why is it important?
Positive thinking is exactly what the name suggests: It’s the practice of thinking positive thoughts instead of negative ones.
We all have that little voice inside our heads that narrates our thoughts and feelings throughout the day. When this little voice focuses on the positives, rather than the negatives, you’ll likely find yourself feeling happier, lighter, upbeat, energized and motivated. Being more optimistic, rather than pessimistic, can help boost your physical health and mental health.
How to think positive
Wondering how to have a more positive outlook on life? Here are seven simple steps you can take to get positive thoughts and emotions flowing.
1. Practice gratitude
Throughout your day, actively and intentionally take note of everything you’re grateful for. Whether it’s the refreshing feeling of sunshine on your face, a cuddle from one of your pets or an encouraging text message from a friend, nothing is too small or simple. Keeping a daily gratitude journal can help, too, since you can look back through all the positive thoughts and occurrences in your life over time.
2. Recite positive affirmations each morning
Research some positive affirmations that resonate with you and jot them down. Then, every morning, repeat these positive affirmations to yourself a few times to help start your day off on a positive note.
Pro tip: There are several convenient positive affirmation smartphone apps that can help with this. Try downloading ThinkUp, Kwippy, Shine, Grateful or Calm to guide your uplifting journey.
Even just a few minutes of simple breathing exercises can help you re-center yourself and overcome negative thoughts and emotions. Taking a guided meditation or yoga course, whether at a studio or virtually, can help you set aside dedicated time for this practice. You may even want to try a yoga nidra routine, which can help put your body and mind at ease after a long day. Having trouble setting the tone? Bulletproof Zen Mode contains the perfect blend of calm to get you into the yoga zone.
4. Learn to find humor
Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes scrolling through funny videos on TikTok or chuckling at memes on Instagram. On top of that, remember that nobody’s perfect, and sometimes it’s best to laugh off awkward situations or mishaps.
5. File bad experiences as lessons learned
Instead of dwelling on your mistakes or bad experiences, reframe your approach. File these negative moments away as important learning moments, and consider what you can take away from each one.
6. Be kind to yourself
Banish negative self-talk from your brain. Instead of silently criticizing how you look in the mirror at the gym or how you performed during a recent PowerPoint presentation at work, be kind and gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself as if you were speaking to a dear friend or family member. Practicing positive self-talk—using positive words when thinking about yourself—can have a huge impact on boosting your positive psychology.
7. Surround yourself with positive people
Your friends, family members, coworkers and even pets can have a huge impact on how positive or negative you feel throughout the week. Surround yourself with positive people, and though it may be difficult at first, consider ending toxic or negative relationships.
The benefits of positive thinking
Positive thinking isn’t just some mumbo jumbo health practice. It can actually have a measurable effect on your well-being.
Research has found that positive thinking can help reduce anxiety and worry. It’s also been linked with a longer lifespan and greater success in life (and who doesn’t want that?!). 
Having a positive mindset may also help reduce the risk of health problems and lead to a quicker recovery after major life events, such as the death of a family member.
The bottom line: Positive thinking is a research-backed way to improve your mental health and your physical health. With incremental changes, you can train yourself into being more of a positive thinker. Soon enough, you’ll notice positive changes to many aspects of your life, from work to relationships.
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