When you think about how to become healthier, the usual habits always come to mind – eat more nutritious foods, make time for exercise, and get in a solid 8 hours of sleep every night.
But what if I told you that a positive mindset could be the secret weapon you’re missing for enhanced health?
Research shows that having a positive mindset comes with a host of health benefits including a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, greater resistance to the common cold, lower rates of depression, better coping skills during times of distress and increased lifespan.
And if all of those benefits weren’t compelling enough, perhaps the best reason to cultivate a positive mindset is the increased levels of happiness that come with it.
Life is too short to be unnecessarily miserable, amirite? However, in today’s hyper-connected world, it is all too easy to become fixated on the negative and the things that we don’t have.
When I say “negativity”, I’m not just referring to someone who is constantly in a bad mood, complaining, bringing everybody down, and/or wallowing in self pity.
A negative mindset, for the sake of this post, refers to being hyperfocused on scarcity, or to put it another way – being in a constant state of “not enough”.
Not rich enough. Not talented enough. Not pretty enough. Not fit enough. The list goes on.
And I think we’ve all felt that way at one time or another.
When you consider…
It’s no wonder that most of us are stuck in a place of feeling constantly inadequate and like we need to do, own and be MORE.
Now, let’s get one thing straight –
Having a positive mindset isn’t about denying reality and acting like everything is all rainbows and unicorns when it isn’t.
Having a positive mindset means:
So, now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s get into the tips!
It’s much harder to develop a positive mindset in a negative environment, so I recommend beginning by doing everything you can to change your surroundings to support the mindset you want to embody. You can begin with the low-hanging fruit and…
What you see day after day is what you begin to internalize, so fill your space with words that uplift and encourage you.
Some ideas for where to post include:
Research shows that living in a messy, disorganized environment is correlated with a lower level of well-being, unhealthier eating, and less efficient thinking.
The state of your mind and the state of your body are intricately connected.
You don’t have to go overboard or get it “right” 100% of the time to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Do your best to make time for exercise, eat nutritious meals, and get adequate amounts of sleep.
Not only will you physically feel better and more energized, but these habits will also positively impact your mood and decision-making ability.
Just like a diet comprised mostly of junk food will result in an unhealthy body, feeding your mind mostly “junk food” will result in an unhealthy, negative mind.
Here are some suggestions for improving your mental diet:
Think about it – most of the headlines have to do with crimes, natural disasters, tragedies, and political fiascos – all of which are overwhelmingly negative.
Turning on the morning news means immediately starting your day by inundating yourself with negativity – 99% of which you are powerless to do anything about. Talk about a downer.
Suffering from FOMO? I feel you – that’s exactly how I felt when I first decided to cut out the news, but trust me when I say that if anything of great importance happens, you’ll hear about it from somebody.
If you can’t fathom not being in-the-know, I recommend signing up for a daily email newsletter that gives you a summary of current events in bite-sized chunks like theSkimm.
Various studies have linked social media use to lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction as well as greater feelings of isolation, envy, unattractiveness, and inadequacy.
This is not to say that social media is ALL bad and that you should completely cut it out of your life, but rather to suggest that it’s worthwhile to think about why and how you use these platforms.
It’s one thing to be inspired by another person’s life and success on social media, it’s quite another to feel jealous or like a failure in comparison.
Unfollow or unfriend anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or negative.
On the contrary, try to fill your social media feeds with more people who inspire and motivate you.
In the beginning of my mindset makeover, I used to play motivational videos every morning while getting ready which helped me start the day primed with the right state of mind. These can be great for pumping you up and providing the “will” you need to get started.
However, while videos like these are helpful for changing your internal dialogue, long-term growth requires greater substance.
Seeking out content (books, videos, podcasts, etc.) where you can learn how people that you admire have created their lifestyles as well as how your mind, body, and happiness work on a biological and energetic level is what will give you the “way”.
The people who you spend time with can have a tremendous impact on your mindset and wellbeing.
Is there anyone who consistently leaves you feeling drained, beaten down or in a negative mood? If so, re-evaluate their place in your life and consider ending the relationship.
When that’s not possible or desired, try to minimize the amount of time that you spend around those individuals and steer clear of sensitive topics.
A less obvious thing to look out for are relationships with people who you care about and enjoy, but whose behaviors don’t match the lifestyle and goals you’re trying to achieve.
One of the first realizations I had when I decided that I was going to take control of my health and happiness, was that my friends at the time weren’t going to change with me, and that I shouldn’t expect them to.
Even though I still cared about all of them, I ended up spending considerably less time hanging out in that social circle because the activity that brought us all together – going out and partying – wasn’t in alignment with my goals or having a positive impact.
Take a moment to reflect on who you spend the most time around and devote the most energy to.
Are the people you spend the most time with bringing you closer to or further away from who you ultimately want to be and what you ultimately want to do?
Are there any people that come to mind who you need to stop giving energy to either by minimizing the amount of contact you have with them or by ending the relationship entirely?
What qualities/characteristics would your ideal friend/romantic partner/coworker have? Do you currently embody those same characteristics? How can you surround yourself with more people who fit this description, whether it’s in real life or online?
Practicing self-care is essential for reducing the negative effects of stress and maintaining a positive mind so don’t forget to make time for it daily, even if you can only spare 5 minutes.
Not sure where to start? Check out this list of 51 self care ideas to kickstart your routine, by Wholefully.
We often talk to ourselves in a way that we would never even DREAM of talking to someone else.
The first step to ending the cycle of self-doubt, belittling, and judgment going down in your mind is simply to notice it.
When you recognize that you are being unkind to yourself, deliberately reframe the negative thoughts so that they are positive, supportive, and encouraging.
For example, “This goal is too big. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to actually do it” becomes “I love a challenge. This goal is simply a bigger version of my past successes and I’m ready to step up.”
Like anything new, it may feel silly and forced at first, but eventually this process will begin to feel authentic and like second nature.
A lot of misery and negativity stems from stressing about things outside of your control and that may never even happen.
When you find yourself worrying, focus your energy on determining what you DO have control over.
You may not be able to prevent an undesirable event from happening or change what’s happened in the past, but you CAN change how you prepare and your reaction to events and circumstances.
Take a few minutes each day to write down 3 things that you’re grateful for. Try to be as specific as possible.
For example, instead of writing “my family” which will get repetitive fast, writing something like “the fact that my mom still texts me ‘I love you’ every night before bed” (true story, love ya mom 🏻).
A daily gratitude practice retrains your brain to be on the lookout for the positive, especially those little things that we so often take for granted.
When you start intentionally looking for the good in your life, you’ll begin to see it everywhere.
Consistent meditation can literally alter the structure of your brain, including the brain cell volume in the amygdala which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress.
A huge part of having a positive mindset is expecting positive results, but it’s really difficult to expect what you can’t see as a potential reality.
Set aside a few minutes each day to really visualize yourself achieving a goal that you’re working towards and to get really concrete about what success looks like. How do you feel? Where are you? What are you doing? Who is with you? It’s a lot easier to aim for and be motivated by something specific that you’re emotionally connected to.
It’s kind of like anti-worrying – instead of visualizing all of the things that could go WRONG, you’re visualizing what it will look like when everything goes RIGHT.
There’s no room for resentment in a positive mind, and so it’s important to get to a place of forgiveness for your OWN wellbeing, even when you may feel that the person on the receiving end doesn’t deserve it.
This also includes forgiving yourself for things that have happened in the past.
However, it’s one thing to KNOW that you need to forgive, and a much more challenging task to actually DO it.
I really love this interactive forgiveness exercise by YouTuber Kalyn Nicholson as a starting point.
There’s something magical that happens when you can transform what felt like an overwhelmingly negative experience into a source of gratitude, so I highly recommend you give this a try!
What has been the biggest challenge for you in cultivating or maintaining a positive mindset? What tips do you have that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!
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