Whether it’s January 1 or December 31, every day is one in which you can make a resolution to improve your life. Every morning, you can wake up and choose to let negative energy control your life or choose to live with positivity.
When you’ve had a bad day, week, month, or year, you can end up in a negativity spiral. You feel upset and angry, so you project these feelings out to the world and see everything through an upset and angry lens. People respond to your negative energy with their own negative energy, which just makes you feel more terrible. It’s a spiral of awfulness—but it’s possible to end it.
Here are six steps to transform your outlook on life, to stop your negativity, and see life positively.
1. Stop complaining.
When you sit around complaining about how terrible your life is, your life will be terrible. Complaining, wallowing, self-pity: None are creators of an enjoyable, satisfying life. The first thing you need to do to transform your outlook on life is to stop complaining about how bad your life is. Even if you do not yet have the tools to make your life better, you have one that will stop making your life worse.
2. Practice thought-stopping.
Before you can open yourself up to positive thinking, you’ve got to stop your negative thinking. When all of your thoughts are negative, negativity will be all you know. Remember: Energy follows thought.
You can practice thought-stopping by becoming more aware of when your thoughts are based on negativity rather than facts. When you recognize that you are thinking in a negative, rather than factual, way, you stop the thought before it can cloud your perception.
3. End your “Yes, but…” attitude.
“Yes, but…” is a marker phrase of a negative outlook. When you “Yes, but…” life, you see the hole instead of the doughnut. When asked, “Do you like your job?” you respond, “Yes, but it doesn’t pay well.” When someone suggests you look for a better-paying job, you respond, “Yes, but then I might have to move to a different city,” and so on.
Every life has its ups and downs, but when you only see the downs as significant, you miss all the ups. Happiness can be as much a state of mind as a factual situation. Step two of your transformation into a more positive person is to stop “Yes, but…” and try “Yes, and…” instead. “Do you like your job?” “Yes, and I’m working hard to further my career.”
4. Beware the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Sometimes you think you perceive your authentic inner world when you are actually pushing your experience in a particular direction. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. You tell yourself your life is terrible and will never get better, so you do subtle things to makeyour life terrible—and you get stuck in that rut. We do this because it’s good to feel right, even when feeling right also means feeling awful.
In my work, I see patients who feel more comfortable telling a version of their lives that keeps them stuck in victimhood rather than risk exploring why they feel like a victim. Examining their feelings might reveal that they’re the authors of their misfortune.
Mindfully, purposefully, and non-judgmentally examine the ways you see yourself as a victim. When you look at your life through a neutral lens, you may be surprised at how many areas there are in which you have more control than you thought.
5. Replace negative beliefs.
By replacing negative, unhelpful thoughts about yourself with positive, helpful ones, you can become more empowered. If, for example, you use people-pleasing thinking, believing that you’ll only be happy once everyone likes you, concentrate instead on liking yourself. If you think pessimistically that your life will never work out, tell yourself that your life can be whatever you decide to make it.
You can reframe every negative thought you have about yourself in a positive way. This isn’t lying to yourself. It does, however, mean you spend more time looking at the doughnut and less at the hole, and it means that the doughnut has frosting and sprinkles and the hole is just a neutral, unremarkable hole.
6. Take positive action.
Often it’s not enough to change the way you think about yourself and situations. Sometimes you have to do things differently, too. If you once complained about being single and you’ve now changed your negative thought—”I’ll never meet anyone I like”—to a positive one—”I haven’t met anyone I like yet, but I still can”—the next step is to get out there and date. Or if it’s a new job you’re after, it’s not enough to tell yourself, “It’s not that all jobs are chaotic and stressful, it’s just that the one I currently have is,” you’ve got to polish your resume, get out there, and network.
Realize that you do, indeed, have the power to choose a different way. You can see life through a dark, everything-is-terrible-and-will-always-be-terrible lens and have a negative outlook on life, or you can see life through a clear, everything-is-what-it-is-and-life-has-ups-and-downs-and-that’s-ok lens and have a positive outlook on life. The choice is yours to make.
About the author:
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D, MFT is a marriage and family therapist located in Santa Monica, CA. She brings over 35 years of clinical experience to the role of individual family therapist, couples counseling and anger management classes. She is a recognized expert in treating a full range of emotional issues, including anger and aggression; anxiety and depression; aging; relationships; work-life balance; and workplace and women’s issues. For more tips on how to turn negative beliefs into positive ones, visit her website and Psychology Today.
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