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    Tools for Positive Thinking (Personal & Professional)


    “The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.” – Andrew Bernstein

    Too often, we become bogged down by the negative aspects of our personal and  work-life. We let the small things bother us and allow them to snowball into larger issues. Before we know it, we’re entrenched in a negativity bias that is difficult to break free from. However, with a few simple tools, we can change our mindset and improve our outlook on life. In this blog post, we’ll discuss four tools that will help you overcome negative thinking; these include:

    1. Keep a Journaling
    2. Make humor available and be open to it
    3. Surround yourself with positive people.
    4. Practice positive self-talk.

    Why is positive thinking important?

    According to a 2018 study conducted by iOpener, on the impact of happiness on productivity, out of over 3,000 participants from 79 countries, results indicated that happy people are:

    • 180% of respondents were more energized at work,
    • 108% of respondents were more engaged,
    • 50% of respondents were more motivated,
    • 50% of respondents were more productive.

    Positivity means maintaining calmness, composure, optimism, and enthusiasm for living. When you have positive perspectives, you perceive things differently, enabling you to feel more positive. 

    Positive Attitudes Increase Productivity

    Positive thoughts stimulate the brain, ensuring that it is functioning efficiently. What’s more, positive thinking also increases energy levels, enhancing alertness and equipping you to perform and handle a variety of circumstances. Finally, as stress reduces, positive thinking helps you think clearly and improve your focus. Deborah Sweeney summarizes the importance of a positive attitude:

    “An employee with a bad attitude can upset the apple cart in an office and create a really toxic environment. Positive attitudes can make the work environment happy and a joy to be in. I would happily take an office full of positive attitudes over negative ones, without a doubt.” – Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.

    Signs that you are becoming a Negative person

    Negative thoughts and behaviors take a toll on us by inducing tension and perpetuating anxiety and stress hormone production. These are just the types of behaviors that raise blood pressure, cause cortisol overproduction and tighten muscles. Beyond the negative emotions, negativity can also affect inter-relations by making social, romantic, and vocational endeavors more difficult.

    For these reasons, it is critical to know what kind of attitude you are communicating to the people with whom you interact. Here are eight surprising signs to help you identify if you are a negative person:

    1. You Say Things Like “It’s Too Good To Be True”
    2. You Dwell On The Past
    3. You Judge Others
    4. You Don’t Accept Compliments
    5. Your Automatic reactions and thoughts Are Negative
    6. You Have Trouble Maintaining Relationships
    7. You’re focused On The Problem, Not The Solution
    8. You’re Not Excited About The Future

    The Importance of a Positive Mental Attitude 

    Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

    You can understand a lot about a person by how they answer that cliche question. Having a positive mental attitude and positive thinking skills will help you move towards achieving personal and professional goals and improving your quality of life. The following are some positive thinking exercises that will help you transform negative self-talk into optimism and rational thinking:


    Writing about negative experiences and feelings has been proven to decrease mental distress. Researchers found that those with various medical conditions and anxiety who wrote online for 15 minutes three days a week over 12 weeks had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after one month. Their mental well-being continued to improve during the 12 weeks of journaling. (PositivePsychology) 

    The Benefits of Journaling: 

    • Boosts mood and improves attitude
    • Enhances sense of well-being;
    • Reduces symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam);
    • Reduces intrusion and avoidance symptoms post-trauma;
    • Improves your working memory (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005).
    • Encourages opening up to others about your negative thoughts

    Journaling may also have an impact on physical health. To illustrate, a study on 49 adults in New Zealand found that those who wrote for 20 minutes about their feelings on upsetting events healed faster after a biopsy than those who wrote about daily activities. Similarly, college students who wrote about stressful events were less likely to get sick than those who wrote about neutral topics.

    Make humor available and be open to it.

    A study of 420 candidates on laughter by the European Journal of Integrative Medicine found laughter that 70% of respondents reported an increase in immediate well-being by 89% and an absolute increase of 16%. This, of course, is one study; moreover, many more studies have concluded that laughter is connected to healing mental and physical health issues.

    Short-term benefits

    When you start laughing, it lightens your mental load and induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can (MayoClinic):

    • Stimulate organs: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.
    • Relieve stress responses: Certain laughing responses can ease stress and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.
    • Eases tension: Laughter stimulates blood circulation and aids muscle relaxation, reducing the physical symptoms of stress. 

    Long-term effects

    Laughter is also healthy over the long term; for example (MayoClinic):

    • Improve the immune system: Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that affect the body by inviting stress into your system and decreasing your immune response. Conversely, positive thinking can release natural chemicals (neuropeptides) that help fight stress and other illnesses.
    • Relieve pain: Laughter eases chronic pain by causing the body to produce its natural painkillers.
    • Increase satisfaction: Laughter helps cope with difficult situations and connect with others.
    • Improves mood: Laughter reduces stress, depression, and anxiety and may make you feel happier. It can enhance our self-esteem.

    Laughter has proven to decrease stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your immune system. Further, laughter triggers the release of endorphins. Endorphins promote positive emotions and a sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain.

    There are many ways to expose yourself to humor: 

    • Watch comedy movies, shows, or youtube videos
    • Access comedy hashtags on social media
    • Read funny articles, comic books, poetry, tongue twisters, stories
    • Surround yourself with people fun

    Surround yourself with positive people.

    When you surround yourself with positive influences, staying focused on your end goals becomes effortless, and over time, you will stop thinking negatively. You’ll feel energized and motivated when you spend time with positive people. Your stress levels will naturally lessen. 

    Dealing with a stressful Coworker

    Toxic people are those whose behavior adds negativity and upsets your personal or work-life. In many instances, toxic people are dealing with a stressful situation or trauma in their life. But unfortunately, they act in ways that don’t present them in the best light and usually upset others in the process.

    When interacting with negative coworkers, you should approach them with patience and a positive attitude. Use these tips to deal with negative people in your personal life and at the workplace:

    • Make the employee feel heard in the present moment.
    • Identify the positives within their negative comments.
    • Reach out to human resources or your manager if needed.
    • Excuse yourself from the conversation politely.
    • Distance yourself from negative situations.
    • Try to compromise on group projects.
    • Surround yourself with positive coworkers.
    • Cultivate a positive mindset.
    • Set clear boundaries.
    • Remain professional.

    Lastly, you can also use your professionalism to help negative coworkers find resources and solutions to their problems. This can create a more positive atmosphere in the workplace. At the same time, you can showcase your leadership and conflict resolution skills. Managers will appreciate how you handle adversity and reward you with more responsibility.

    Practice positive self-talk.

    Our thoughts influence self-perception and perception of the world around us. These perceptions and attitudes are shaped by the “internal narrative” (aka, inner voice). Our inner voice constantly tells us things, and unfortunately, they are often negative. However, it is possible to reshape this narrative through positive self-talk and affirmations. 

    Positive self-talk and positive affirmations

    Practice saying positive statements out loud in private. If privacy is not possible, repeat them silently in your mind for 10 -15 minutes, 2-3 times a day. If you are not accustomed to self-talk exercises, they may seem awkward at first, but they are effective. For instance, if you are pessimistic, you can learn to shift your inner dialogue to be more encouraging and reassuring. It does require forming new habits, which takes patience and effort. In due course, your thought patterns will change. 

    Here are some examples of positive affirmations:

    • I have the power to change my mind.
    • I have permission to change my mind.
    • Attempting to do this took courage, and I’m proud of myself for trying.
    • I love myself for who I am.
    • Fear is only a feeling; it cannot hold me back.
    • I forgive myself for any past mistakes.

    Note: research suggests that people with positive self-talk have improved mental and problem-solving skills and are better at coping with new challenges. This exercise can be undertaken in a way that is similar to daily meditation practice.

    Practicing positive thinking every day

    In sum, if you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with daily practice, eventually, your inner voice will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of your surroundings as negative thoughts become positive ones.

    Note: with enough practice, positive affirmations can enter your subconscious mind, embedding positive thinking and helping you stay and improve your well-being.


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    Final Tip: Exercise

    Research has shown that walking promotes the release of endorphins in the brain that stimulate relaxation and improve our mood. Also, walking does not have to be done at a fast pace to have stress-relieving benefits. In fact, a 15-30 minute walk twice a day at a comfortable pace promotes relaxation and well-being, according to studies (North Dakota State University). 

    Always act with a purpose.

    Prior to taking action, it is vital to set goals. In the case of improving attitude, reducing stress, or adopting a happy and positive mindset, it is essential to visualize success.

    Much of what we discussed in this article has to do with learning new skills and changing habits that will lead to happier and more productive outcomes. Based on the abovementioned exercises, here are some example goals:

    • Write in your journal once in the afternoon and once in the evening for 10-15 minutes per day.
    • If you enjoy watching movies, try watching only funny movies a few times a week.
    • Include reviewing humorous hashtags as part of your daily social media routine, and avoid negative ones.
    • Spend more time with positive friends and less time with negative ones. Gradually make the shift over several weeks and months.
    • When dealing with a stressful coworker, try using the techniques above. Practice using 1-2 each week to change your interactions over 3-5 months.
    • Spend 20 minutes 2-3 times a day for 15-20 each time, practicing positive self-talk affirmations.
    • Visualize where you want to be in 3, 6, and 12 months and design a plan with time-based goals based on your vision to keep yourself accountable.
    • Try your best not to speak negatively when speaking to people
    • Inform people you trust and about your goals and they can support you along the way.

    It can be challenging to break out of negative thinking patterns, but it is possible with a few simple tools. By journaling, using humor, surrounding yourself with positive people, and talking positively to yourself, you can see a change in your outlook on life. These are just four of the many available tools to help you overcome negativity; find what works best for you and stick with it. What tool do you find most helpful when combating negative thoughts?

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