“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ― Lao Tzu

Each of us has a set of messages that play over and over in our minds. This internal dialogue, or personal commentary, influences our words, actions, habits, relationships and ultimately, in the words of Lao Tzu, the destiny of our lives. 

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Too often the pattern of self-talk we’ve developed is negative. This internal seed of negativity causes a dark ripple that extends to all corners of our daily lives. We walk around with a dark cloud hovering close-by, and view all glasses as half-empty. Our conversations always revert to all that is wrong with the world, and we’re constantly expecting the worst.

This negative approach to life can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Concepts such as the law of attraction, “you reap what you sow,” and “birds of a feather flock together,” speak to the magnetic power of our thoughts. Many studies confirm the correlation between positive thinking and success.

So how can we begin to brighten our view of the world, and infuse more positivity into our thought patterns? Although quite simple, these six steps can make a profound impact on your approach to life, and ultimately create a more positive outcome.

  1. Practice Gratitude.

    One of the quickest ways to shift your focus away from negativity, judgment, and disappointment is to list the things in your life for which you are grateful. Be grateful to be gainfully employed, to sleep in a bed each night, for the sun that comes up each morning, for the waiter who greets you with a smile, for the people that love and care for you, and for a body that lets you experience life each day. Practicing gratefulness can cause almost an immediate shift in your perspective. Keeping a daily gratitude journal, even digitally, can help remind you to keep life’s blessings at the forefront of your mind. Another strategy is to have a gratitude partner—someone who can support you in your journey to positive thinking. Each day, text, email or tell each other three things for which you are grateful. Think of this person as your accountability partner for your path to healthy thinking.
  2. Two Steps Forward.

    Initially, it might be hard to stop the negative flow of thoughts. This shift takes time. Be patient with yourself, and first just try to observe your thought patterns. See if you can catch yourself judging others, focusing on failures, complaining about work, or criticizing yourself or your body. When you observe these thoughts, take a moment to counter each negative thought with two positive observations or gratitudes. Think of it as taking two steps forward after your one step back.
  3. Positive Posture.

    The mind and the body have an intrinsic connection—each has a profound impact on the other. If you are struggling to move your mind into a more positive perspective, try moving your body there first. Try standing up straight, shoulders back, chin held high, stretching your arms out as wide as they can go. Feel powerful. Feel positive. Carrying yourself with “positive posture” will encourage your mind to feel more positive as well.
  4. Smile.

    Another way for your body to “trick” your mind into being more positive is through smiling. The simple act of smiling, even if you don’t necessarily have anything to smile about, can instantly change the way you feel internally. Whether you are sitting at your desk, driving in your car, or walking down the street, smile. You will be amazed how your mind reacts. Even better, try smiling at a co-worker or stranger you pass in the hallway or on the sidewalk. Did they smile back?
  5. Ditch the Crabs.

    If you put a crab in a bucket, it will easily climb out. But if you put a second crab in the bucket, neither of them will escape. Once one starts to escape, the other will pull it back down into the bucket. In other words, surround yourself with positive people. It's hard to maintain a positive perspective if you are constantly pulled down by the negativity of friends, family, or co-workers. If you get trapped in a negative conversation, gracefully try to change the subject to something more positive. However, if you are surrounded by a bucketful of negative crabs, it may be time to reevaluate your circle of friends in an effort to be surrounded by uplifting individuals.
  6. Do Something Kind.

    It’s easy to get absorbed by our own world of misfortune and to forget about the people around us. Stepping outside of your daily routine to help someone else can provide amazing perspective and fill you with positivity. Strive to do one nice thing for someone else each day. Call a family member or friend in need of a kind word, compliment a stranger, go out of your way to help a co-worker complete a task, or join the thousands of caffeinated people “paying it forward” in the Starbucks line.

Life is not always easy, and sometimes we get handed a bushel of lemons. However, it is our own perspective that ultimately determines if we will drudge through life puckered and sour, or skip along with a glass of sweet lemonade. 

Gregory L. Jantz, PhD is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and an internationally recognized best selling author of 28 books related to mental wellness and holistic recovery treatment.

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