by Jen Milton

These simple techniques will train your mind to think on the bright side and start you on the way to developing a more positive attitude and better health.

Thinking is often an involuntary action. How often do you realize your mind has been rambling in quite the opposite direction to the one you intended? Similarly, it’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking negatively until you find you have established negative thought patterns – and those around you begin to see you as a negative or cynical person.

Stress tends to creep up on us; many people don’t even acknowledge that there is a problem, because they think ‘being stressed’ is for only those with high-powered or life-saving job. If you feel out of control, worried or ‘up against it’, stress is almost certainly affecting you, and it will be affecting your outlook on life. It can start to undermine your confidence and self-esteem and make you see every minor disaster as the end of the world.

However, it’s often difficult to change large sections of your life – whether it’s your job, your family and relationships, money or just the daily grind that is getting you down. This is where a positive mental attitude is invaluable and it is something you can learn and practise whenever you feel things starting to get on top of you.

It’s crucial to remember that, although you may have limited control over outside events, you do have control over your mind and feelings. Your mind may not be accustomed to think this way, but training it to work for you can pay off.

Affirmations

As unlikely as it sounds, repeating a positive phrase about yourself can have an astounding effect on how you feel. Built up your self-belief and you’ll be able to achieve more and more, minus the stress. Think about how you are feeling at the moment (guilty, useless, in a panic, etc.) and try to see it as a temporary state of mind. Think positive phases about yourself; something you are proud of, or goes recognised by others (‘I am hard-working’, ‘I am creative’, ‘I’ve achieved many good things in my life’). Take the statement that makes you feel best about yourself and write it down at least 20 times day. Read it aloud with conviction. Practice saying this phrase in front of a mirror. It will become easier and more convincing the more you do it. Repeat this exercise every day and reassess how you feel after a week. When you notice a change in how you feel, work on another statement.

Visualisation

The more you worry about not being able to do something, the worse it gets and the harder it is to motivate yourself to do it. Just taking the first tentative steps, however small, will show you what you can achieve. Visualise finishing the thing you’re dreading. Sit quietly, where you won’t be disturbed, and imagine the relief and pleasure of getting the job done. Think of the worst thing that could happen and visualise yourself coping with it and going past it. If you feel that that you are not up to the job, or feel unworthy, imagine having no challenges or opportunities and think how dull and monotonous life would be. Return to the positive feeling of ‘conquering a mountain’ before you finish the visualisation.

Realistic Goals

One of the main reasons for stress is that we push ourselves too hard. There’s only so much one person can achieve in a day. Set yourself realistic goals, and try not to feel guilty if you don’t get everything finished on time. Don’t just rush from one task to the next. Instead, mentally knowledge each and every one of your achievements, however mundane, and congratulate yourself for them. Do this at least twice a day. Take five or ten minutes to pat yourself on the back when you get each major chunk of the day, or a difficult job, out of the way. Sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes and concentrate on this positive feeling – don’t allow your next task to creep into your mind.

Past Mistakes

It’s often easier to call to mind times when things went wrong and you were criticised, than when you really did well and everyone acknowledged that. This is perhaps the hardest negative thinking pattern to break. Here’s how to train your mind to be positive. The past has happened and can’t be altered. When you think the disastrous episode in your life, remember that you have learned from your mistake. Sit down and write a list of exactly what you learned when you made your last mistake. Think carefully and don’t rush this exercise. Ask yourself if you would do the same thing again. Invariably, the answer is no, and you’ll be able to acknowledge, hard though it was, that a valuable lesson has been learned and you are more able to cope with difficult situations today. Turn positive to negative.