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How to Think Positive Thoughts

Positive Thinking Day on 13th September is not just a ham-fisted attempt to make everybody smile and be happy, and is not just paying lip service to the complex and challenging conditions of depression and anxiety. Positive Thinking Day is a real opportunity to promote the idea that people can stop and look at themselves, and start the process of banishing negative thoughts and taking a different approach to life.

Many people like to recognise Positive Thinking Day by sending a gift, or a ‘Thinking of You’ greetings card to a friend or colleague. These can be a great gesture, particularly if you add a personalised message encouraging someone to be more positive and take certain steps, if they are facing difficulties with positive thinking.

It is very easy for people to dismiss and misunderstand depression and anxiety, when the symptoms are not obvious. And yes, people need to use positive words when talking, see life as an opportunity full of possibilities rather than full of obstacles and worries, push out all negative thoughts from their mind and believe they will succeed. But it’s one thing saying it and quite another actually achieving it. Thinking positively takes time and practice, but you control it and need to take responsibility, so here are some pointers to achieve positive thinking:

* Keep a diary every day to track your thoughts and allow you to evaluate and reflect. This helps let go of things rather than stewing over them, it helps you spot patterns and triggers and you can also record one positive thing that has happened every day.

* Identify and challenge automatic negative thoughts. These are things like immediately thinking ‘I will fail that’ when faced with a test or exam. You need to be honest with yourself and ask whether that is accurate, and whether you would challenge someone else who thought the same thing about themselves.

* Replace negative thoughts with positive questions, and be constructive, ie. ‘how am I going to avoid failing this test?’

* Reduce your exposure to negative influences such as certain music, films or books, and turn it around to find such things that always have the opposite effect.

* Surround yourself with positive people, don’t be dragged down by negative people and bad influences. If this means putting some friendships on hold or moving on from others, it is for the best.

* Avoid black and white thinking. Often called ‘polarised’ thinking, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking there are only two scenarios; good and bad. Find the grey areas and work on what you can do to improve them.

* Work on paranoia and ‘personalising’, ie. believing everything is your fault, or someone didn’t smile at you because you have done something wrong. There are many other factors that influence other people than just yourself.

* Cleanse the mind every day by visiting a peaceful or favourite place. This could be at work, at home or somewhere local you drive to.

* Change physical habits such as fitness, diet or posture, and try to smile and laugh more. These all help you feel better and promote a healthier mind and body.

* Be creative. Open your mind and start thinking outside the box by making something, drawing, writing or learning a new skill.

* Volunteer. Do something positive for the good of the community or someone in need, and it will trigger self-esteem and feeling good about yourself.

* Set goals. Whether this is at work or at home, or is a physical fitness aim, we all feel positive and satisfied when we achieve a target we have set ourselves.