There’s power in positivity. You already believe that or you wouldn’t have tuned in to a podcast about positive affirmations! But I’m a firm believer that we speak things into existence. If we’re always negative, telling ourselves we can’t do this, or we’ll never be able to do that, then that’s exactly what the outcome of our lives will be. It’s hard for me to support when someone says, “He’s not going to amount to much in life,” or “She’ll never be able to move past that situation” because essentially, we’re setting in motion the sequence of events that will lead them to where we said they would go. And yeah, I get it. We wouldn’t have said that about them if they weren’t already exhibiting the behaviors of that eventual outcome, but who are we to make that prediction, that prophesy?
On the other hand, if we’re always positive, telling ourselves that we can do this and that we’re going to become that, I feel that through those words, we’re setting into motion the sequence of events that will lead us to those (positive) places. And even when our behaviors are exhibiting the opposite, we should call things that are not as though they are.
And we’re not just talking about where in life our decisions will take us. The Mayo Clinic says that there are many health benefits of positive thinking, including lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physiological well-being, better cardiovascular health, and better coping skills during hardships and times of distress.
So today we’re going to dive into why it’s so hard for people to be positive thinkers, followed by ways we can train our minds to think positively.
People have a difficult time with positive thinking for any number of reasons – too many to count, really. But today, we’ll only cover three: their circumstances, fear and because negativity is often the default state for our brains. Let’s dive in.
Some people have hard lives. It appears as though they were born in tough circumstances and that they’ll die in those same tough circumstances. There are people out there who are born with drug-addicted parents, who grow up living in crime-infested neighborhoods and who have been raped, beaten and even gone to jail, all before the age of 16. They grow up thinking this life is normal, that this is all there is because this is all they’re exposed to. So imagine how it sounds to them when you try to convince them to speak life and opportunity when all they’re surrounded by is death and destruction. This is just one example, everyone’s circumstance is different, and what is defined as a “tough circumstance” varies. You can live in a safe neighborhood, in a 5,000 square-foot home with both parents making six figure salaries and still have to deal with rape and incest. The point is, some people can’t (understandably) see past their current horrific circumstances to even consider something positive being on the other side.
In many of my podcasts, I talk about how fear holds us back. Well, I’m mentioning it again today, as fear can also keep people from being positive thinkers. You see, some fear that things won’t ever work out in their favor, that things will never get better. So they don’t even attempt to think positively. They don’t want to get their hopes up just to be let down. Instead, they opt to live in the negative mental space, accepting that things will remain the same. That way, they won’t have to deal with the hurt and disappointment that comes when what they were hoping for never comes to fruition.
According to Lifehack.org, there is a neurological explanation as to why some people end up being so negative. It has to do with the part of the brain called the amygdala, which functions as an alarm and is always on the lookout for danger, fear and bad news. Scientists believe this to be the brain’s default position. So if this is true, it takes work to move from a negative to a positive mindset. That’s work that some people are not willing to put in, and so they opt to live in this default position.
I am a positive thinker
Perhaps surprisingly, becoming a positive thinker only has little to do with how we think, but a lot to do with what we’re doing. Because while I do believe that we have the power to speak things into existence, those things that we’re speaking should motivate us to do something that will catapult us to where we want to go. As such, some ways that we can train our minds into being positive thinkers include allowing ourselves to feel our feelings, be honest with ourselves and focus on incremental progress over instant perfection.
I am allowing myself to feel my feelings
Believe it or not, there is a concept out there known as “toxic positivity.” It’s when being positive at all costs doesn’t take into account the underlying reasons for people’s negative feelings. For example, if you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, then simply saying, “I’m enough” repeatedly won’t help anything. You can’t just replace those feelings of inadequacy with a positive affirmation. This argument has some validity, as I never simply suggest positive affirmation chants. I always provide some ways to get us where we want to go, and then use those positive affirmations to help us along the way. So in this situation, I advise you to feel those feelings. It’s okay to feel inadequate or whatever else you may be feeling. Just don’t decide to live in those feelings. Let yourself feel those feelings for a period of time and then move on. Get to work. Because while simply chanting positive affirmations won’t work, dwelling in that negative space won’t help anything either.
I am honest with myself
Once you’ve decided to move out of that negative space. It’s time to be honest with yourself. Why are you feeling inadequate? What makes you feel this way? When do you feel this way the most? Is there someone – a person – who makes you feel this way? If so, how? What do they do to make you feel this way? But you have to be honest. You have to ask yourself the hard questions and come face to face with the hard truths. How can you be positive that you will make it out of your situation if you’re not positive regarding what is causing it? How can you convince yourself that you’re enough if you don’t address what is causing you to feel otherwise? Being honest with yourself can be a tough process. That’s when you repeat your positive affirmations. This helps remind you what this is all for, and helps you feel motivated to keep going.
I am focusing on progress over perfection
In the same way that we can’t expect to change our situation simply by repeating positive affirmations, we can’t expect that we will move from where we are now to perfection overnight. If we’re feeling mediocre today, and start chanting that we’re successful tonight, we can’t expect to be exactly what we hope to be by tomorrow night. Instead, we should focus on the incremental progress we’re making. Because little by little, if we stay the course, we’ll become our positive affirmation – enough, successful, a positive thinker. Maybe your initial progress means that when you feel those negative feelings creep in, that you immediately replace them with your positive affirmation – but not just for the sake of being positive, but because you know that you have faced the source of the problem and have a plan in place to move past it. Because you’ve already decided not to dwell in that space and that you’re en route to someplace new.
Being a positive thinker doesn’t come naturally to most. We take a good look at what’s going on around us and we make predictions for how things will turn out. We let our fear that things won’t turn out in our favor keep us from believing there’s another alternative. We decide to live in a negative space that feels natural to us. But I believe that if we will open ourselves to the idea that our mindset often has a lot to do with what we’re doing and allow ourselves to feel our feelings, be honest with ourselves regarding the source of negative thoughts and focus on progress over perfection, then our words will align with our actions and we will become what we affirm ourselves to be.
Here are your positive affirmations to ponder on this week:
- I am a positive thinker.
- I am not going to place limits on myself based on my current circumstances.
- I am not letting fear keep me from thinking positively about my future.
- I am making a decision to not live in my brain’s default position of negativity.
- I am allowing myself to feel my feelings.
- I am being honest with myself.
- I am focusing on progress over perfection.