How to Think Positively to Reduce Stress Levels

I get it. You’re going through a tough time and someone tells you to think positively? It’s a bit like when someone says, “Cheer up, love, it might never happen”! But here’s the thing. Changing the way you think about things can make a dramatic difference to your health and it’s a skill that can be learned.

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. That means when you have negative thoughts your brain believes them to be true. Imagine that there is a restructure at work, and you start to think ‘what if I lose my job?’, ‘what if I can’t get another one?’. Your job might be perfectly safe but as far as your brain is concerned, you’re unemployed with no chance of getting another one! Understandably, then, your brain will think that you’re under attack and will try to protect you by making you angry; depressed or anxious. Remember:

• Anxiety helps you to run away from a threat
• Depression helps you to hide from a threat
• Anger helps you to fight back

And when this happens, it’s hard to think rationally and be proactive about the situation.

So how can you train yourself to think more positively?

Step 1:
You’re thinking negatively when you worry about the past or the future, put yourself down or expect the worst. Negative thinking damages your confidence, harms your performance and impacts your health.
Note down these negative thoughts as they occur, over the course of a week. This will help you identify patterns and triggers.

Step 2:
Challenge each of your negative thoughts and ask yourself if it’s rational? What’s the evidence behind it? If you struggle to look at your negative thoughts rationally, imagine that your best friend is looking at the list – what would they say?

Step 3:
How can you change that negative thought into a positive? What opportunities does a challenging situation give you to learn or to make positive changes?

Here’s an Example
Negative Thought – nobody will talk to me at this networking event, I’m rubbish at networking
Rational Thought – I’m not confident in groups but I’m good at talking to people individually
Positive Thought – I can find someone who’s stood on their own and strike up a conversation with them

Once you start reframing your thoughts, you will feel more in control and able to cope better.

Something else you can try? At the end of each day make a list of ‘what’s been good’. Focusing on the positives will help build your resilience and reduce your stress levels.