How to: Cultivate a positive mindset
Cultivating a positive mindset can make a world of difference to your happiness, resilience and general outlook on life.
When shit happens in our lives; we can view things through different perspectives or lenses. If we’re already in a positive mindset it can make it easier for us to process and tackle issues, rather than a negative mindset which can lead to catastrophic thoughts, additional stress or anxiety making the situation more challenging.
Productive Positivity & Toxic Positivity
I think it’s important to make the distinction between productive positivity and toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity is the “Good Vibes Only” culture; the don’t ever feel bad, find the positive in everything all of the time, dismissing others who are raising or voicing something negative that has happened to them.
Productive positivity is more about yes, something bad has happened or there’s been a knock - okay, lets look at how we deal with this in a positive way, or look for a positive way forwards.
E.g. Your partner has lost their job. You mention this to a friend and they say…
Toxic positivity - It’ll be fine.
Productive positivity - I’m so sorry that must be really stressful. It might be hard at the minute, but they will find something else. Maybe it is a chance to try something new?
See the difference? What we’re talking about is productive positivity.
MY TIPS FOR CULTIVATING A POSITIVE MINDSET
Thoughts = Feelings = Actions
We often don’t consider that our thoughts inform our feelings, and then how we interact with the world.
If we talk to ourselves in a negative way, we’re likely to feel more anxious, stressed and unhappy and that manifests in our actions.
Conversely, if we think and say positive things to ourselves, we’re less stressed, have more emotional capacity and that reflects in our actions too.
Having awareness of this concept is really helpful; because it can help you to identify and dig back to the root cause of whatever is going on and whether it is actually how you feel or if it’s because of a thought pattern.
Awareness of where your thoughts go
Think about the last time you had a challenging situation, and what your initial instinctive thought was.
Was it something positive or negative?
The first step is being aware of where your mind is, and where you are.
I always used to drop into a spiral of negative thoughts if I ended up in a challenging situation and the awareness of that helped me to start to shift my mindset. If that happens now, I can give myself a talking to - and consider what I’m saying to myself.
You can also talk to someone close to you (partner, family, friend) about what they’ve observed and how they've seen you approach issues previously. Sometimes, an outside perspective can really help clarify where you are. You’re looking for objective feedback, to gain a deeper insight into your thought patterns. If you’re feeling sensitive or emotional, I’d avoid this stage and go with your gut thoughts. Chances are you know the answer and family/friends sometimes have the emotional tact of a bull in a china shop.
If you are aware, you are informed. If you are informed you can choose to change things.
Affirmation is basically the idea of talking to yourself in a positive way like you’d talk to someone you love. Affirmation has a lot of supporting literature as to why this works, but essentially it can reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
Some of the things we say to ourselves (especially as women) is just appalling. E.g. My thighs are huge, I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m stupid, I can’t do XYZ.
You’d never say that to someone else. So why say that to yourself?
Place short affirmations in places you can see them - phone lock screen, post it on the bathroom mirror.
Say them out loud to yourself. Look yourself in the eye and say them.
Set an affirmation for yourself in your yoga practice at the start. This doesn’t have to be guided by the teacher, you can just do it yourself.
These can be anything you want. Personal, professional, family led. Here’s a few of my favorites:
I am loved and I am loving
I am enough
I am brave
I am strong
I am clever and capable of anything I set my mind to
You can also get affirmation decks from bookshops, yoga stores or even Amazon, which is quite a nice way to start a practice too.
Allow space for feelings
Life is hard. Shit happens. We feel sad. That is human. That is okay and we should always allow ourselves that space and time if we need it.
It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
I like to give myself a designated amount of time to feel bad about something - case in point, today! I’m trying to write this blog and the internet is just so laggy and crap today I’m having to write this in Google docs (My office software expired…) with a mega lag between what I type appearing on the screen because I can’t get into the backend of my blog to write it there like I would normally. I had a little rant for 10 minutes, went and had a brew and came back and it’s okay!
Reframe your thoughts
I mentioned earlier that being aware and informed of your thoughts means you can make a change.
If you catch yourself slipping into a negative thought pattern, you can catch yourself and reframe that thought into something positive.
E.g. “that will never be me” to “it hasn’t happened for me yet”
Giving it a go in day to day situations where you feel you could be more positive is a great way to get started.
Maybe it’s something like doing gardening (my absolute most hated thing ever) - you start with a small task or thing you sometimes think negative things about and reframe the thoughts you have to positive ones.
So for me it's usually something like this…
“Argh I’m getting ripped to shreds and stung and it still looks a state” to “Every little bit makes a difference, the stings hurt I’ll wear long pants next time”
“I hate gardening” to “I have some outside space that needs looking after. It’s okay I don’t enjoy this bit”
Not saying I’ve got this nailed yet (totally haven’t) but the idea is the process of changing how you think starts to become more and more automatic so you have less negative thoughts and your overall mindset becomes more positive.
That automatic more positive space for your thoughts and how you view the world overall is truly transformative. It helps us feel happier, as we are less affected by things - the small things are like water off a duck’s back and the bigger things we have the space and emotional capacity to really tackle in a productive way.