It seems pretty easy to understand that positivity leads to a happier outlook and probably a better life. Yet, people still struggle with incorporating positivity and optimistic practices into their day. Where do you start? Is it going to be worth it? Is it weird if you think it sounds a little bit too simplistic? Let’s find out!
1. Let Go of Thinking that Positive People are Just Pretending To Be Happy
That’s right, I said it. There is a thought that optimistic people are not intelligent. There is a stigma that those who think positively are not “smart enough” to notice the negatives and maybe too ignorant to care. Part of the problem is that we have learned to devalue happiness in our culture.
“Although happiness is a very important goal for most people… they routinely sacrifice it for the sake of other goals”, says Dr. Raj Raghunathan, author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? However, this could not be further from the truth.
Decades of research prove that raising a person’s level of positive emotion, also increases their cognitive ability and eventual success. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, actually activates the learning centers in the brain. So go ahead and make happiness a goal; you’ll definitely reap the rewards.
2. Start with What You Know
If it’s difficult to think optimistic thoughts about the present, start with the past. Studies show that by encouraging a person to think of happy memories, people were able to perform better at work and while doing tasks of spatial memory. This concept is called “priming” and you can practice it by starting the day recalling any memory that makes you happy. Try to think of as many details as possible about the moment. Was your best friend there? Was there music playing? Were you eating something delicious? Positive Psychology expert Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D. says that creating this rich, happy atmosphere in your mind helps to “broaden and build“ connections to success and opportunity.
3. Get Out of Your Own Way
Not everything you think is worth it. Stay with me for a minute on this one. Humans have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. That means you might be having 40-50 thoughts per minute and I assure you, not all of them are important or helpful. Over-contemplation can lead to emotional discomfort, effectively creating a barrier to happiness. The best way to beat this? When thinking too much creates doubt, focus on the more optimistic option and act as if it’s real. This doesn’t mean “think less”, it means “think strategically” and plan for a positive outcome. Could traffic mess up your plans tonight? Believe that you can get to your destination on time, not that the evening will be ruined, and plan to leave earlier.
4. Put on Those Rose Colored Glasses...Sometimes
In order to build positivity, it’s really important to take the time to notice it all around you. If you’re blazing through the day, you might miss the good news you hear on the radio, the flowers growing, an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand, or even the smile from your barista. Pretty soon, something small like noticing the flowers turns into something bigger like noticing that your coworker took extra time to help you solve a problem. However, it’s important to notice the rain, too.
Cultivating positivity means embracing the full range of human emotions and remembering that they move in cycles. With increased focus on positivity, you can strengthen your ability to be resilient and bounce back from the negative. Once you’ve become familiar with positive thoughts, they are easier to come back to.
Positivity Takes Practice. It’s probably harder for you to think about putting aside your own stereotypes about happy thoughts than it is for you to think happy thoughts. Like every important skill, it requires a bit of practice. Don’t be your own obstacle to positivity…give it a try!
Achor, S. (2011). Are Happy People Dumb?. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/03/are-happy-people-dumb Rahunathan, R. (2017). If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? [S.l.]: Portfolio Penguin.
Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226.doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.56.3.218
Jones, M. (2018). Why Deeply Intelligent People Don’t Try to Think Themselves Out of Unhappiness. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/matthew-jones/5-simple-steps-extremely-intelligent-people-take-to-discover-happiness-that-dont-involve-thinking.html
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