How to fully embrace positive thinking

Positive thinking is an invaluable asset and possibly the key to live a fulfilling and harmonious life. Having a positive mindset can improve your wellbeing, boost your productivity and make you sleep better; it can make you more sociable and strengthen your relationships; it can increase your resilience and self-esteem, and overall make you feel good and optimistic. How can we learn this approach?

First of all, it is important to say that positive thinking doesn’t mean naivety or blind optimism. We simply can’t be happy at all times. As human beings, we are not in control of our emotions, and when life gets in the way, trying to suppress or avoiding dealing with them in name of absolute positivism, can only work for a limited time. Ultimately, those emotions will pile up, come to the surface and burst out, hitting us with sadness, anger or frustration.

Positive thinking means facing and dealing with negative emotions in a positive and productive way.

Here are three steps to do so*:

  1. Accept the emotion

As we said, there is nothing we can do to stop an emotion from investing us. When you are hit by a negative emotion and try to fight back, it’s like when you are carried off by the current and try to swim upstream: you are consuming all your energy and don’t get any results. The emotion, like the current, is much stronger than you, and if you keep going you’ll face the risk of getting a cramp and drown. If, on the contrary, you accept that you are caught in an undertow, you can save your energy for when the current will weaken, and you’ll be able to swim back to the shore. By accepting the emotion and let it do its course, knowing that it will pass at last, you are actually taking action, because you are building the confidence to face it.

2. Learn from it

Remember the first time you had a broken heart? I bet it felt like the world was about to end. But then you experienced it many other times, and eventually learnt that in time, with patience, and with the support of the people you love (mum, getting you ice cream, and your bff, talking on the phone with you for 100 hours), you can recover from it. Every time you go through an emotion and get to the other side, you give yourself a chance to learn something about it and about yourself. You learn that, sooner or later, the pain will go away, and that you have the skills to make it through, because you already did it. Looking at the emotion through this lense, allows you to feel in charge and immediately reduce its destructive power.

3. Say it out loud

Admitting we are dealing with a negative emotion while we try to embrace positive thinking, might sound counter intuitive and feel like a defeat. I am not saying you should complain about how miserable you feel though; that is what a pessimistic person would do. On the contrary, I am inviting you to say out loud that yes, you are struggling with something, and you are not over it yet, but you are acknowledging the struggle and dealing with it, hence you are in control. What is more positive and productive than that? By outlining your thoughts in a positive way, you are preparing and empowering your actions, and are now ready to take over your emotion with a different spirit.

*It is important to mention that, while this approach can help you dealing with uncomfortable emotions in a more positive way, it might not be applicable in every situation . If you think you need support, talk to your GP or call for free The Samaritans helpline at 116 123- available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for people who want to talk in confidence.