Do you ever wonder how some people are so darn positive?
They always seem to be able to turn lemons into lemonade. I bet sometimes, you get annoyed with them. But secretly, you’re a bit jealous because you just don’t know how they do it!
Well, the truth is, some people are naturally optimistic. They just come into the world with that sunny disposition. There’s even brain research to support the fact some people are wired to be more positive than others.
But if we’re not in that small percentage of fortunate recipients, what are the rest of us to do?
We can learn to be more positive! Having been a practicing psychotherapist and executive coach for over 33 years, I always say that “good mental health is not a natural sport, it’s a learned sport.”
I can listen to how a person speaks and tell whether or not they have pursued the path of personal and transformational growth. Some of the telltale signs are:
- They are good listeners
- They accept responsibility for their own behavior
- They are willing to hear another person’s point of view
- They are willing to apologize
- They are good problem solvers
Some of those folks have been fortunate enough to have parents who’ve mastered these behaviors and taught them to their children, but most of us have not.
This leaves the responsibility to each and every one of us to become the best version of ourselves. That means learning and practicing the mental skills that will enable us to be that positive person that everyone admires (secretly or not!)
Without training, our tendency is to operate on automatic pilot. We don’t realize how our thinking affects our mood.
So, in order to change your thinking, you must first become aware of how you’re thinking. Here’s how brain exercises can help.
Brain Exercises 1: Check in with your thoughts.
This is what mindfulness is all about. Mindfulness is checking in with your thoughts in the present moment without judgment. It’s as if you were assessing a situation with just the facts, with “what is.” Become acutely aware of those thoughts that are running through your mind all day and night. It’s very important that you maintain an attitude of curiosity, rather than judgment.
Brain Exercises 2: Reflect on the path of your thoughts.
Once you have noticed your thoughts, ask yourself if your thoughts are taking you to a good place or are they taking you into a downward spiral? Once you have recognized which direction you are going, you can make some choices as to what you want to change, and how you want to change them.
Brain Exercises 3: Acknowledge that you have the power to change your thoughts.
This goes for your mood and experience, too. This is where your power lies. Many people fall into feeling like victims. They think things are happening “to” them. Once you realize that you have the ability to change that experience, you will become more positive and optimistic. How cool is that!
Brain Exercises 4: Choose to create positive thoughts.
I like to use the term “productive” thoughts, because they literally put you in-charge. For example: if you’re sitting in traffic and running late for an appointment, it’s easy to blame the traffic for your tardiness and get stressed out.
But if you aim to be a more responsible person with your thoughts and actions, you might recognize you didn’t leave enough time for the unexpected. So you promise to learn from it and leave earlier next time.
Brain Exercises 5: Believe success is possible.
Resilient and optimistic people believe that setbacks are temporary. They look for the silver lining in challenging situations. They use words like ‘obstacle’ instead of failure, or ‘opportunity’ rather than calamity.
Most people are on autopilot and don’t realize how their thinking affects their mood and the successes or failures in their lives.
With commitment and practice, you can change your worldview and ultimately, your experience of life. Be patient with yourself, as you are building new habits and new neuronal pathways in your brain.
But the good news is that you have this wonderful capacity to change. You will not only feel good about yourself, but you will positively affect everyone you meet. Just practice these brain exercises and you will soon find yourself thinking – and feeling – more optimistic.