I am a firm believer that positive thoughts create a more positive life. For a long time though, my approach was not just inefficient it was downright counterproductive. Rather than changing the tone of my thoughts toward the positive, I simply decided to suppress everything I classified as negative.
Suppressing Emotions Is Not Positive Thinking
Anger, sadness, frustration… they are states of mind that we feel and deal with. They serve their purpose in certain situations. They may protect us from danger, help us heal from trauma and spark wonderful creativity. Lingering on these feelings too long can grind our life’s journey to a halt, and even have damaging effects on our health. The same can be said for forcefully ignoring or suppressing these emotions.
Positive thinking is not about forcing your state of mind, it is about giving yourself a little nudge in the positive direction.
Adjust the Emotional Thermostat
So, if we are not suppose to stop ourselves from feeling the negative emotions, how are we supposed to increase our positive experience? I like to think that we should simply adjust our emotional thermostat. The way to do that, is pretty straight forward actually: become more aware of your emotional state, and your positive emotions in particular.
Positive emotions are usually a little bit quieter than the negatives. You can hardly fail to notice anger, sadness or frustration. A moment of joy or gratitude can be fleeting and almost go unnoticed. Making an effort to become more aware of those quieter emotions, is paramount in making your mind a more positive place.
Some of My Strategies
Here are some of the strategies that helped me set my emotional thermostat to positive.
Writing a little every day gives me a good idea of where my heads is. There is no set topic or structure, it is just flow of consciousness. I usually do this early in the day, to get me started with some awareness of my state of mind. Sometimes it is about my dreams, about goals, challenges or about some new insight I gained about my childhood. There really are only two requirements. The first is that I am writing for myself. I have shared some of it with the people closest to me, but in essence this is for my eyes only. The reason for that is that I can be honest, vulnerable and do not have to censure anything. The second is that I write at least 750 words. There is some science to that, but in essence it is a length that requires you to push through those initial ideas and elaborate. As a result you will have to dive a little deeper into your own mind.
I use 750Words.com, because it gives me nice stats about my state of mind too (and does all the word counting for me).
Every day I try to take one or two moments to just sit. Especially on days where I am rushed off my feet and feeling overwhelmed. Taking 5 to 10 minutes to listen to your own body and mind is a great way to stay connected. I am no yogi, I have no special room for this. In fact, sometimes I do this on the train. I have a nifty little app called Stop, Breath & Think, that lets me check in with how I am feeling, and suggests a good meditation. This is again a moment to connect with your state of mind, and awareness of your emotional state really is the way to go. And if you are doubtful of the benefits of meditation, let this mouse explain:
3. Reflecting On the Day
Taking time to look back on the day is a good way to look at what is really going on. Even a bad day has good moments, all you need to do is remember them. I have started a one Line Journal. Every day I write one single line about that day. What was the best, most important, most enjoyable, most life altering thing that happened. Because I only have one line (luckily my handwriting is quite small), I have to make it count. That helps me consider the day, and look at the best moments in it. It is also a great way to practice gratitude (one of those little quiet emotions).
Another way to do this, is to make it part of the dinner table conversation. Everyday have each family member consider and name the best thing that happened to them that day. You can also include questions like: what is the thing you most appreciated about each family member today. It is all about calling out the positive emotions.
The more you practice awareness of positive emotions, the easier it becomes to recognize them as they occur. Once you do, you have adjusted your emotional thermostat.
I love it when the journey and the outcome are the same thing 😉
How Do You Keep Things Positive in Your Life?
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