You become what you think about. Throughout history, philosophers, historians and even poets have written about the power of the mind. Your thoughts become your reality.
Norman Vincent Peele said, “Change your thoughts, and you change your life. If you think in negative thoughts, you will get negative results; if you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results. In three words, ‘believe and succeed.’” William James wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich. If you wish to be learned, you will be learned. If you wish to be good, you will be good.”
Thinking helps you plan, make decisions and imagine your future; however, negative thinking can lead to stress, depression and paranoia. Negative thoughts drain energy and keep you from living in the present moment.
If left unchecked, negative thoughts become stronger and more powerful in their hold on you. If your thoughts are confused and full of fear and doubts, your life becomes full of fear, anxiety and doubts. Most fears are learned. The only fears you are born with are fear of loud noises, fear of bright lights and fear of falling.
The antidote to fear is love, self-love, self-respect, and courage. Some good news is the discovery of neuroplasticity — which is the ability of the brain to change its physical structure and function based on input from your experiences, behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. This adaption means that with awareness and action, you can change your negative thinking patterns.
Develop a positive mental attitude
Make a commitment to remain positive and to being a positive force for others. One of my lifetime goals is to have everyone who meets me — in person or remotely — feel better about themselves, their abilities and their circumstances. Annually, choose a word to guide your daily life. This year I chose “hope.” My 2021 plan includes spreading HOPE through my thoughts, words and deeds.
Surround yourself with positive people
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” says business expert Jim Rohn. Some people are naturally negative and view life as a glass-half-empty. It can seem like they spew carbon monoxide! Limit your time with them. Then replace their negative influence on your thinking with people whose glass is half-full. If you cannot seem to stop your negativity, contact one of these special people to help you gain a more positive perspective.
Limit exposure to violent news, crime-ridden TV and movies, politics and negative social media posts
Garbage in, garbage out. If you want to have positive thoughts, feed your mind positive images and uplifting stories. Choose wisely.
Create a plan to implement when tempted by negative thoughts
Develop a plan to recognize negative thoughts. Implement it as soon as you find you are thinking negatively. When you catch yourself tempted by negativity, say, “Cancel!” Hold your chin up, take a deep breath, and flip your thoughts to something positive. An example of planning ahead is Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. Phelps used his plan during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In his quest for his eighth gold medal, his goggles filled with water when he dove into the pool to start the race. Virtually blind, Phelps activated his plan and started counting his strokes. He knew exactly how many strokes he needed to get to the other end of the pool. He remained calm, focused and won the gold medal. No negative thinking allowed!
Sing, dance, do yoga or take a walk outside
The act of moving can help you think positively by activating endorphins which are like morphine. Movement can reduce stress, improve sleep, diminish the perception of pain, boost self-esteem and decrease depression.
So, turn on your favorite music and enjoy moving to the beat.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Being filled with gratitude for people and things in your life can turn negative thoughts into positive ones. It can bring you into the present and fill your heart with appreciation. Think of five people and things for which you are grateful right now.
Seek professional help
Life is short, and you deserve to live your life to the fullest. If your negative thinking continues, consider professional help for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions.
“Forces beyond your control can take everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond.” — Viktor Frankl, neurologist, philosopher, Holocaust survivor
Starting today, you can choose to respond positively! Will you?
Dr. Susan Murphy of Rancho Mirage is a best-selling author, business consultant and speaker specializing in relationships, conflict, leadership and goal-achievement. She is co-author of LifeQ and In The Company of Women and can be reached at Susan@DrSusanMurphy.com. Murphy’s article originally appeared on Forbes.com.