Like it or not, everything you say to yourself matters — good and bad. So why do we tend to remember the criticisms over the compliments? Why do we mull over our mistakes more often than we celebrate our successes? Why do we sometimes say things about ourselves that we’d never say to other people?
The benefits of positive thinking are well established by psychologists, neuroscientists, and doctors. Staying positive helps us shut down our inner critic and live a more productive, ultimately happier life. So if your negative thoughts tend to outweigh your positive thoughts, it’s time to focus on feeling better about yourself.
Sometimes a single event can ruin an entire day. With this awareness that our mind tends to cling to the negative, we can intentionally focus on the good parts of our day to offset this imbalance. Gratitude will keep the good things in your life in the forefront of your mind and prevent mulling over the negative.
Try writing down five things that you feel grateful for every day and see how your attitude changes. Studies have found that gratitude can significantly increase your happiness and protect you from stress, negativity, anxiety, and depression.
Be kind to yourself.
It’s especially difficult to stay positive in the face of adversity and failure. For many of us, it’s much easier to show compassion to others than to be compassionate toward ourselves. It’s easy to blame oneself and put oneself down when things aren’t going well.
Next time negative self-talk creeps up and you find yourself thinking “I’m so bad at this” or “I shouldn’t have tried that” recognize the thought and replace it with positive self-talk. For example, “I’m so bad at this” becomes “Once I get some more practice, I’ll be way better.”
Feed your positivity.
The only way to expand on any skill is to build habits that reinforce that behavior—this goes for positivity too. To become a more positive person, do activities that cultivate these emotions. Practices like journaling, spending time with family and friends, and meditation all have the ability to increase positive feelings.
Turn failures into lessons.
You’re not perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and experience failure in multiple contexts whether it’s a job, a competition, or a relationship. But instead of focusing on how you failed, think about what you’re going to do next time and turn your failure into a lesson. How will you do things differently next time for a better outcome?
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your efforts will result in less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you. As your state of mind becomes more optimistic, you’re better equipped to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way.