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It’s no secret that life can be tough, and sometimes gets the better of us. But who wants to go through life stuck in a spiral of despair? Here’s how to nix the negativity and start thinking happy thoughts.
Nurture your optimism.
“Even if your natural tendency is to focus on the negative, you can learn to redirect pessimistic thoughts and frame them in a more optimistic light,” says Caroline Adams Miller, author of “Creating Your Best Life.” She says, “Optimists expect good things to happen in their lives, and work toward creating positive change to make those good things come true. Pessimistic people come up with reasons why they shouldn’t even try.”
It takes work, but it’s worth the effort. Miller points to research showing that optimists tend to be happier, live longer and lead healthier lives with stronger relationships.
To become a more optimistic thinker, look inward and listen to what’s playing on your “internal radio station,” says Karen Reivich, Ph.D., co-author of “The Resilience Factor.” Your personal playlist sends you messages when you’re running late for a meeting, deciding whether to go for a run, or struggling to get dinner on the table after work.
Building awareness of what’s playing in your head is a critical first step in learning how to become more optimistic, says Reivich. Figure out if you’re sending yourself negative warnings or soothing tips that help you put things in perspective.
Boost your resilience.
“The ability to find and use evidence to contradict pessimistic thoughts is what we call ‘real-time resilience,'” says Reivich. “It quiets the self and enhances a sense of confidence and competence and optimism. That’s something anyone can practice,” she says. Here are a few ways to improve your thought processes.
Jot it down. Channel your positivity by writing several hopeful thoughts each day, along with personal evidence of positive outcomes. Writing at least two “optimisms” daily for six weeks can make a dramatic difference in your life, as you begin to realize that good things are just as likely to happen as bad things.
Make life lists. Write down five goals that you’ve achieved and that you enjoy thinking about, says Miller. Research shows that the happiest people have clear-cut life goals, take risks and persevere. Then, on a fresh sheet of paper, write down five goals that you’d like to accomplish. Goals should be specific, measurable, meaningful and challenging.
Silence your inner critic. Aim for a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative comments and thoughts. If you catch yourself with a negative thought, fight back by repeating a positive affirmation.
Take a time-out. Every day, set aside time to appreciate the beauty around you — from your child’s gleeful giggles, to a full moon, to the first signs of spring.
Treasure the moment. With your family, decorate a treasure box and fill it with blank index cards. Throughout the week, write down any special moments that occur and ask everyone to do the same. At dinner (or when the family gathers), take turns pulling a treasure from the box and reading it aloud. This exercise boosts optimistic thinking and encourages conversation.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)