Last updated on November 27th, 2023.
No two people view the world the same. While culture, beliefs, and economic conditions greatly impact people’s perspectives, humans can typically be placed into two categories: positive and negative thinkers. Negative thinkers often come from a place of fear or doubt; their decision making relies upon suspicion or a belief that what they want is inaccessible. On the other hand, positive thinkers view the world as a place of opportunity, and they act out of a belief that everything will work out in their favor.
The difference between these perspectives may be innate, but the underlying cause is a matter of habit. Persistent thoughts lead to automatic assessments, which ultimately lead to life’s outcomes. So how can you train your brain to be more positive? By developing daily habits that are grounded in gratitude and claiming opportunity in every experience, you can learn to transform even the most difficult circumstances into valuable insights and life lessons. How you view the world is within your control, and it starts with the mind.
This concept of a positive psychology is become more and more of a mainstream practice. There are even courses online and continuing eduction programs where you can become a positive psychology practitioner through training and certification. This path will enable you to take the practice of positive thinking into the world.
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, what if you’re here just to check out a few tips for yourself on thinking more positively?
Can You Train Your Brain to be More Positive?
Training your brain to be more positive requires directing its focus to see the good aspects of any situation. While some people are naturally more positive, the process isn’t always easy or automatic. It takes discipline and intentional action to train the brain to be more positive. With practice, the attempt will become the default calibration.
Learning to focus on the benefit of a situation, rather than what could go wrong (or has gone wrong) is a life-changing experience. As many studies indicate, gratitude is a leading factor in health and wellness. In one study, conducted through the Universities of California (Davis) and Miami, three groups of participants wrote down their thoughts about current events in their lives. One group reflected upon the positive aspects, one on the negative, and one was neutral, not being directed to contemplate one way or the other. The results indicate that people who focus primarily on the positive aspects of situations are less likely to have health complications, and they achieve a more optimistic outlook on life, leading to an overall sense of happiness.
Being grateful for one’s circumstances has been shown to improve daily life in the following ways:
- Employees who feel appreciated will be loyal and produce quality work.
- People who are grateful for their existence will take better care of their physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Gratitude may lead to less aggressive or combative actions that are rooted in fear and anger.
- Being grateful leads to reciprocation and a sense of security in relationships.
- Those who see a situation’s outcome as valuable are more likely to grow and achieve prosperity.
People who are more optimistic are inclined to take calculated risks that are important for personal growth. On the contrary, people who focus on what irritates them, what went wrong, and how bad they feel about their circumstances will be less likely to take chances that lead to necessary development. Continuous attention to the negative aspects of a situation can attract more negativity in one’s life:
- Suspicion and fear can lead to lost opportunity.
- Complaining can diminish self-worth and relationships.
- Persistent negativity can lead to overall poor physical health, either through chronic stress or a reluctance to take care of one’s wellbeing.
- Negativity can alter the brain, leading to anxiety, depression, or issues with attention and memory.
- A pessimistic mindset can hinder motivation, which can lead to poor performance and inability to maintain life-supporting infrastructure.
It’s apparent that the benefits of positivity far outweigh those of persistent negativity, but humans are naturally inclined toward a negativity bias. It is well known that humans, like all animals, have an innate desire to survive. This survival mechanism instructs and prepares us to see danger (negative phenomena) constantly. Although survival is essential to enjoying one’s life, the modern human can learn to enjoy life outside of daily threats. It is within the contemporary human brain’s ability to observe its own tendencies to alter thinking toward a more beneficial and positive response to stimuli.
How long does it take to train your brain to think positive?
According to the 1960s self-help book, “Psycho Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living out of Life”, author Dr. Maxwell Maltz claims that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Since this claim nearly 60 years ago, researchers have determined that it may take up to three times as long to develop a habit or change a routine. For some people, altering a mental practice will take less time and effort, but for others, it may take much longer and be more difficult. A host of personal attributes can contribute to a person’s ability to train the brain to think differently:
- Personality and individual temperament
- Life experiences and upbringing
- Spiritual/religious beliefs and cultural customs
- Access and resources
- Immediate circumstances, regarding time, family, or employment
Regardless of one’s circumstances, though, it is possible to train the brain to think more positively within a few weeks to a year. The training depends upon current inclination (are you someone who is steeped in negativity and despair, or are you already fairly positive, looking to bolster your current outlook?). With effort, discipline, and dedication, you can train your brain to think positive thoughts, bypassing automatic negative responses.
4 Ways to Train the Subconscious Mind to Positive Thinking.
Now is the time to form healthy habits. By taking the steps below, in addition to personalized goals, it is possible to create a mindset that naturally aligns with positive thinking.
Observe Your Behavior and Change it
The first step of taking any action is to make an observation. Observing one’s own behavior is difficult, because we see ourselves differently than other people do. For this reason, we create habits in the first place. Often, our behavior becomes so automatic, we don’t see it. Observation takes insight and introspection. In order to analyze one’s actions, it is necessary to identify the behavior.
Start by paying attention to your thoughts, words, and actions. Take note of every time you react to a situation or someone else. Do you automatically respond in a negative way? Do you get angry or frustrated quickly? What words do you say to yourself? When you catch yourself reacting to an event, stop and observe your behavior.
The more you observe and identify your behavior (again, through thoughts, words, and actions), the more in control you will be. Once you can see how often you respond in a negative way, then you can train yourself to replace that reaction with more positive thinking:
- When the dog barks, instead of thinking how irritating it is, think of how the dog is doing its job (and actively seek ways to train yourself and the dog to react differently).
- When you receive a request at work that seems mundane or undesirable, stop and think of how grateful you are to have employment (and if you’re not happy with your job, find a way to get a new one).
- When you are tired, stressed, or feeling unwell, instead of barraging your mind with negative thoughts, focus on how good it is to rest and restore your body and mind.
- When you don’t get what you want or something disappointing occurs, look for the blessing. Not receiving or achieving may be what you needed to open the door to something better.
By observing your own conduct and replacing unwanted behavior with desirable action, you can do the work necessary to train the brain to be more positive. Taking a pause before responding or reacting is an excellent way to give your brain time to change the narrative. Once you do this, the story will change. A tool for promoting change is the Greatness app. It’s a powerful platform for observing and changing behavior by helping individuals establish new habits. Features such as habit tracking, goal setting, and reminders enable users to track their progress, stay accountable, and make positive changes in their daily routines.
Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of positivity and happiness. Gratitude is seeing the silver lining in a disappointing outcome. It is okay to be upset when you don’t get something you want or when something hurtful happens. However, the bounty that awaits us may be better than what we previously imagined. That dissatisfying performance may motivate you to improve upon your methods. That failed relationship may have opened the door to deeper self-love or a better connection. That difficult boss may have strengthened your resolve or helped determine what it is you’d rather be doing.
There are many ways to see the blessings in unanswered prayers. Practicing appreciation turns into an attitude of gratitude. Here are a few ways to practice gratitude and incorporate thankfulness into your daily life:
- Before you get out of bed, start each day with a prayer or thankful thought about your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write down at least three to seven things for which you are grateful, every day.
- Share your gratitude with others. Write thank you notes regularly. Tell someone how much you appreciate them or their behaviors. Your gratitude can be for actions both big and small.
- When you lie down at night, just before falling asleep, focus on that for which you are grateful.
By intentionally focusing on what is good in your life, you will start to see the good more easily. This is a great practice especially when constructing your personal narrative. Using a perspective of gratitude, even when looking back on difficult circumstances helps build the muscle of resilience and move forward. This consistent practice is an important aspect of this training regimen.
Remove Negative Obstacles
When training your brain to be more positive, it is important to set yourself up for success. Removing obstacles that barrage the mind with negativity supports your commitment to being positive. It is not always easy or possible to remove all that is negative. Afterall, actualizing the gifts in life often cannot occur without the moments of despair. However, if you notice that a certain condition—person, place, object, or tendency—thwarts your attempts at positivity, then you must remove that obstacle.
- Identify situations, places, or people that make you feel bad. Your intuition is a wonderful gift and can guide you in this process. If it is a pattern of yours that consistently makes you feel worse afterward (smoking, overeating, not getting enough sleep, yelling at your children, etc.), then recognize that pattern immediately as the source of misery.
- Determine your boundaries. If a place or situation makes you feel uneasy, don’t go. If a person is the source of your discontent, avoid them or change the nature of your relationship. If it is a habit of yours that needs kicking, kick it.
An Important Note about Building and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries: It may be impossible to remove people or places from your life. Quitting a bad habit or getting rid of an object that makes your life worse is difficult but possible; however, people and places exist in our lives that may be unavoidable (or that is the choice one makes). If this is the case, it is essential to
- Determine the behavior you will no longer accept.
- Practice communication by telling your desires to the person involved through direct language.
- Maintain awareness about your feelings during interactions.
- Maintain boundaries through consistency and follow through. If someone crosses your boundary, let them know and see if they will alter their behavior. If not, remove yourself from the situation.
- Give yourself permission to honor your boundaries, not feeling guilty for any choices you must make for self-preservation.
- Find the root cause of your discomfort and work on healing. It is not only important to remove negative obstacles but also to determine why negativity exists in your life. What triggers the unwanted response? Find the source of the pain and work on your own reaction. You may find that it was your attitude that needed removing and nothing further.
Practice Love in Action
It isn’t always easy to be positive in a world that seems steeped in negativity. Every day, we are surrounded by others who demonstrate fear, hate, and greed. However, when you practice Love, you demonstrate acceptance, forgiveness, and generosity. Being the change you want to see starts with your actions:
- Start with loving yourself. You are who you are supposed to be, with all your gifts, and these gifts are to be shared and celebrated. Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Forgive yourself for mistakes.
- Do no harm. Eat ethically, take care of the Earth, do not hoard or take more than you need.
- Support others through acts of generosity and encouragement. Openly recognize others’ talents, practice mindful listening, and provide help in any way you can.
By acting from love, you radiate positivity. Training your brain to be more positive is easy when your intentions are rooted in care.
How do you wake up and start your day positive?
By starting your day on a positive note, you create momentum that leads to a positive thoughts, words, and actions throughout your life. One positive affirmation in the morning is akin to eating a well-balanced breakfast: It is the food the brain needs to sustain itself toward healthy habits and we all want to keep our brains as healthy as possible.
- Before getting out of bed, think of at least one thing that makes you grateful or that inspires you.
- Practice self-care by participating in a wellness regimen that supports the body, mind, and spirit. Show yourself love and care through cleaning your body, putting on comfortable clothing, adorning yourself with your favorite jewelry or accessory, listen to inspiring music, exercise, read uplifting literature, etc. Do this before work, checking emails, or starting the day’s to-do list.
Observe your mood and practice acceptance. We can’t be positive every minute of every day. Sometimes we are sad, angry, or hurt. However, when your brain seeks the positive in any situation, you will see that even these emotions are necessary to fuel compassion, tolerance,