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Embracing Positive Thinking: Transform Your Thoughts to Transform Your Life

Most humans experience random thoughts from time to time. These can range from the mundane, like “Who was that actor in that movie?” to the serious, such as “What’s my next big move?” Thoughts tend to float in and out of our minds with no rhyme or reason. This is because we don’t have control over the thoughts that come and go.

We do, however, have control over what we do with those thoughts. We have control over whether we allow a worrisome thought to lead us down a rabbit hole or if we choose to take that worrisome thought and reframe it into a problem-solving strategy. We have control over whether we see the rain in spring as a bummer or if we allow ourselves to become excited by seeing the tulips pop up.

How Do We Do This?

Gain Acceptance

The actual first step in positive thinking is to gain acceptance. A key factor in negative thought processes is the “swimming against the current” phenomenon. Doing so feels extremely difficult, tiresome, and quite daunting. Once we accept the fact that the current is going the other way and we stop fighting it, life gets much easier.

Accepting that things are the way they are, despite our desire for them to be different, frees our minds to do the work of problem-solving and resolving whatever is ailing us at the moment. We go from having both a problem and fighting the fact that we have a problem, to just having a problem. Feels lighter already, doesn’t it?

Reframe Thoughts

In therapy, we use reframing techniques to shift perspective on a situation. Just like my rain-to-tulip example mentioned earlier, we can either stay in the negative, sad mindset over the fact that it’s raining, or we can shift perspective to focus on the fact that the rain will bring the tulips. With reframing, it’s important to understand that we cannot deny that it’s raining or even change the fact that it is, but we can see the rain in a different light.

Increase Optimism

We’ve all heard the adage, “The glass is half full,” but what does that really mean? Maintaining an optimistic attitude is being willing and open to the idea that outcomes will most likely be good and favorable in most cases. While the glass is also technically half empty, the optimist sees the fullness of the glass, first and foremost.

You can practice optimism by reminding yourself that negative experiences and the impact of life’s setbacks are temporary, and you have the resources and skills to get through them. Practice focusing on the hope of the future, such as the future tulips that today’s rain will bring. This is not to be fantastical or unrealistic.

Why Should We Do This?

Practicing optimism benefits us in many ways. It helps to improve overall mood and reduce anxiety as we can see that there are multiple ways of seeing a situation, therefore no longer running the risk of feeling “stuck.” This ultimately leads to another benefit: improvement in problem-solving skills and strategies. Maintaining a habit of positive thinking also benefits us physically, as it has been shown to reduce pain levels, improve cardiovascular health, and increase the effectiveness of our immune systems.

When to Get Help If We Struggle with This

Pay attention to how your levels of functioning are being impacted. We all have a bad day from time to time or even find ourselves in a bad mood. This is a normal reaction to setbacks such as having a rough day at work or an argument with your partner. However, if activities of daily functioning are impeded due to the inability to shift to a positive mindset, it’s time to seek professional help.

If you’re skipping work, not eating or showering, or staying in bed all day, a mood disturbance has likely evolved into possible depression. A mental health professional will be able to coach you through the strategies discussed here, as well as others, to support you in feeling better.

By integrating dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and other approaches, we can empower ourselves to take control of our thoughts and improve our overall well-being. Remember, while we cannot control the thoughts that come and go, we can control how we respond to them. Embrace positive thinking and transform your thoughts to transform your life.

J Cangialosi, LCPC

J Cangialosi is a licensed clinical professional counselor at Relief Mental Health in Oak Brook, Ill. With more than a decade of experience in the field of mental health, including nearly 10 years at an employee assistance program, J brings a wealth of knowledge and a compassionate approach to her practice. In her role, she not only provides psychotherapy for patients but also clinical development and training for mental health providers, sharing her extensive knowledge and experience. Her commitment to advancing the field is evident as she presents at conferences and on webinars, participates in podcasts, and is a published author on Medium.

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