Mind Health Editorial

Improve Your Outlook with Positive Thinking

Improve your outlook with positive thinking

When we spend too much of our time worrying or having negative thoughts, our brain gets tricked into thinking there is an immediate threat, and that puts a “fight or flight” response into motion, which results in STRESS. Learning to control negative thoughts can have a real impact on your stress level, and on your general happiness and outlook on life.

Long-term negative thinking is one of the biggest concerns. Once long-term, a negative outlook can become chronic and your natural disposition. This type of negative thinking has been known to have an impact on health, resulting in issues such as an upset stomach, heart problems and depression. A 2009 study by Circulation, found that women with a more cynical, negative outlook on life vs. their more positive counterparts, were more likely to develop heart disease.  

Learning to forgive and let go of a past situation, is another important aspect of managing pro-longed negative thinking. Forgiving means to fully except that a negative situation has happened, and then to fully release negative feelings about the circumstances. The Stanford Forgiveness Program trained 260 adults over six weeks, on how to learn to forgive. After the program’s completion, participants felt less hurt and anger, and experience reduced physical pain.

It is important to manage your negative self-talk and turn it around before it becomes chronic. Here are some tips to help you control these thoughts, and change your outlook.

1.  Write It Down Negative Thoughts

For one week, grab a notebook or journal and write down a few words every time you find yourself having a negative thought. Such as “had a fight with my mom – I must be a bad daughter” or “late for a meeting – I’m going to lose my job” or “haven’t finished that project in two years – I’m too lazy” – whatever it is.  This will do two things, help you recognize when you have a negative thought, and track how many times it happens. Once you recognize the issue, you can start to take steps to improve.

2.  Give Your Inner Critic A Silly Name

Yes, this sounds funny, but that is the point. Usually the issues or problems creating the negative thoughts are not as bad as we think. Giving your inner critic a name, adds some levity that can help to reduce the anxiety. It also allows you to speak up and talk back to that negative voice. So, give her a name – “Old Hag,” “Nag,” “Bitty” – whatever strikes your fancy!

3.  Share Your Worries with Someone You Trust

Share your worries and negative thoughts with someone you trust. If you leave a meeting and fret about what you said, pick up the phone and call your trusted colleague, or if you think you can’t do something or messed something up, call your best friend, brother, sister, husband, mother and tell them. After they smile or laugh, and help you look at the situation from another perspective, most of the worry will dissipate; or at least you will have a perspective that will allow you to start to address the situation.

4.  Question Your Inner Critic

Practice responding with a question to your inner critic as soon as you start to have negative thoughts. For example, if you leave a group luncheon and you believe you said the wrong things, as soon as you start thinking “they will never invite me again, I really messed that up,” say: “was it really that bad?” “What is the worst that could happen.” This practice will help you to dilute the situation and put it in perspective.

5.  Practice Positive Thoughts

Once you recognize the issue and start talking back to your inner critic, you can begin to practice the power of positive (or at least neutral) thoughts. As soon as you start having a negative thought, you replace it with a positive one – “I’m never going to finish this project because I am lazy,” turns into “I’m going to work on that project for ten minutes a day until I’m done.” Another way to practice positive thoughts is to keep a journal, and before bed write down three positive things that happened that day. When positive thoughts are practiced over time, they can help you to broaden our view of the world, and build up emotional resilience to negativity.

For more information on negative thoughts and ways to manage it, visit:

Health.com: Can Negative Thinking Make You Sick

Huffingtonpost.com: Negative Self Talk: 9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

To take a positivity self-test and read more on managing negative thoughts, visit:

Takingcharge.csh.umn.edu: Think and Feel Healthy

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