I used to wonder how to make positive thinking a habit, whether there were techniques that could help me to stay optimistic. Because sure, we have moments when we feel great, but most of us also have some seriously negative times too, right?
I researched through all the best positive thinking techniques, all the ways to have a positive perspective on life, to be more hopeful and more optimistic. And I found tons of exercises. Let’s take a look.
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12 Positive Thinking Techniques
1: 100 good things
I’m actually a little obsessed with this exercise because it makes me feel amazing.
Here it is: Wherever you are, find one hundred things you like about it.
For me, for instance, every time I walk to work, I start to count things I like, such as trees and plants, and other nice things. Doing so will get me up to 30 or 40. Things get harder when you run out of positive things to list.
To get to 100, you will need to search around for positive things. And this is great. Because you will be training your brain to find positive things in life. And guess what? Once you stop this exercise, your mind will naturally continue to look for sources of positivity.
2: Something good in everything
Strive to see something positive in everything. This works as a continuation of the exercise above.
Once we’ve listed one hundred good things about the place we’re in, we then look for the good in whatever we see.
For instance, if we happen to look at someone we don’t have a good relationship with, we have to see one good thing in them and focus on it.
Here’s a challenge:
- Intentionally go somewhere where there will be people you don’t get along with
- Mindfully observe them and also observe the way you feel about them
- Tell yourself that your negative thoughts and feelings are not real, they are just thoughts and feelings
- Now list as many things as possible that you like (or admire) about them.
Note that this is great for anxiety and depression because it makes you see little things that you like in things that make you anxious or depressed. For instance, I used to be worried about the dentist, but then I started to see the things I liked about them instead, such as my clean white teeth.
This is a powerful technique. It trains the mind to see the good even in things we don’t particularly like.
3: Give people compliments
Ah, one of my favourites. This one trains the mind to see the good in everyone. It’s great for social anxiety, too.
The idea is simple:
- For every person you see, think of ten good things about them.
- Don’t like your mother-in-law? Tough whoopee. You must come up with ten beautiful things to say about her.
- And then you have to give the person one compliment.
This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Complimenting someone you don’t get along with is not easy. But it is worth it.
If you struggle with this one, spend some time thinking about the positive qualities of other people and all the beautiful things you have done for one another. This will fill you with positive thoughts about people. And it is glod for health 
4: Change your negative thoughts
Find ten alternatives to our negative thoughts.
The average person thinks approximately 70,000 thoughts every day. And 80% of those thoughts contain negativity.
Now, a quick bit of maths tells us that 70,000 thoughts a day multiplied by ten is 700,000. So clearly you won’t be able to change every negative thought. That’s why we focus on automatic and recurring thoughts.
Automatic recurring thoughts  are thoughts we often experience and want to change. You probably already know which thoughts those are.
When we experience one of these recurring negative thoughts, we find ten alternative positive thoughts.
Here’s how (This is a cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) technique. )
- Take 25 mindful breaths
- Observe your thoughts
- Notice when you experience automatic negative thoughts (these are negative thoughts that you often think unintentionally
- Think of ten positive thoughts as alternatives to the negative thoughts
- Continue until you have changed ten thoughts.
Daily practise of this technique will totally change your mindset.
5: Share your positive thoughts with other people
Whenever somebody asks me how to think positive, I always ask them to look around and describe the things they like.
- Chat to someone you get along with
- Now instead of talking about your thoughts, only talk about what is happening around you. In other words, talk mindfully and positively. For instance, “I love how that leaf is gently blowing in the wind”.
- Once you get in the habit of talking to other people in this way, it will start to be automatic, and you will naturally speak positively.
This exercise achieves many things. Firstly, it makes us more mindful. Secondly, it encourages us to focus on the positive. It also makes us more aware of what’s happening in the now. And finally, it makes us better conversationalists.
6. Positive Thinking Meditation
When you meditate, you see your thoughts and beliefs floating around in your mind like dust-clouds in the air. You’ll notice how all those little thoughts and ideas influence you. They affect your feelings, your actions, and your future. That’s why we need to change negative beliefs.
My favourite positivity meditation is to meditate on my breath and then bring to mind all the moments in my life that made me feel amazing. Truly visualise those things. You could also use this gratitude meditation script.
- To do this, you’ll first need to come up with a mantra or affirmation that evokes the kind of thought you wish to achieve.
- Take your time and choose a positive mantra that creates the right feeling.
- For instance, if you want to stay positive about life in general, you might choose the mantra “Life is good.” If you want to stay positive about a goal, weight loss, for instance, you could choose the mantra “I’m feeling good about losing weight.”
- Find somewhere quiet where you can sit in peace for ten minutes without being disturbed.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Continue to do so for five minutes, or until you feel relaxed and focused.
- Begin to recite your mantra to yourself. You may say it aloud or whisper it. While doing so, think about your mantra and what it means.
- Continue to recite your mantra for ten minutes, while meditating on the meaning of the mantra.
- To finish, stop reciting the mantra and simply sit silently for two or three minutes.
- Repeat every day.
7. Appreciate whatever comes along
Question: What do we mean when we say life is hard?
Most people mean it is hard to make life the way you want it. In other words, it’s hard to shape life to our desire.
Another question: why bother.
There are two elements to that sentence above: it is hard to [make life] [the way we want it].
Foolishly, everyone focuses on the first half of the sentence: making life something. They would be much happier if they focused on the other half what they want.
It’s like the story of Buddha:
A monk says to Buddha, “I want happiness”.
Buddha says, “Okay. Remove want, that’s desire. Now remove “I”, that’s ego. See. Now you have happiness.
- If life is not what you want, learn to like what life is.
- Appreciate things the way they are.
- Do not try to force life to comply with a delusional mindset.
- Appreciate life as it comes to you.
Like the Dale Carnegie quote says, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get”.
This positive thinking technique will give you a new perspective and help you to appreciate even the most challenging times in life.
8. Feel content:
There is a famous Buddha quote that says, “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
Many people associate contentment with wealth. But wealth is more than just the money in our bank accounts. Real wealth is spiritual contentment. It’s feeling good about the world at large.
Life is so much easier when we are spiritually content. And it is easy to become spiritually content. Simply focus more on the things you have rather than the things you don’t have.
9. When life feels hard, try this…
If you want to develop a positive mindset, you need to appreciate the hard times in life. Because hard times will come. That’s inevitable. Thinking positively means you’re positive even in the hardest of times. So how do you do that?
There are two solutions.
- Be more hopeful during challenging times
- Appreciate the hard times
To make life easier, relish the challenge.
There is this misguided notion that success means overcoming adversity. Wrong. True success means recognising the beauty and value of adversity itself.
When we understand the intrinsic good in life’s challenges, we stop worrying about success or failure, about easy or hard. We learn to appreciate the journey.
Look back through your life and recognise all the challenges you have faced and how they have helped you grow. See the value in adversity.
10. Positive thinking for anxiety
There is a rule in psychology that says that we should only ever focus on the step we are on right now. Because how can we think positively when we are always focused on those big problems that are just over the horizon?
If you’re climbing a mountain, don’t focus on the miles you have to climb, focus on the next step. Then what seems impossible will seem easy.
This is one of the little positive mindset exercises that’ll make a big difference. It can change our perspective and make us realise that actually, life is easy provided we go one step at a time.
11: Follow your heart
Love is always right. Sure, it’s often painful. Sometimes love leads us to crazy-town. But it is always right. Even if we cannot see that love is right, it is. That’s why you should stop working hard and just do what you love instead.
Love is a test. It says, “Are you brave enough to follow me?” The enlightened scream “Yes” in response. That is why they live such colourful lives.
12. You can’t have a positive mindset without a little faith
Yes, having faith is one of the best positive thinking techniques.
Cast out your oars and trust in the ocean’s currents to carry you where they will.
There is a power controlling our destiny. And it sure as hell is not us. To make life easy, recognise the higher power.
We may be given free will to help guide our vessel, but it is the universe’s ship, not ours. We are just blessed to exist in this vast ocean for a short spell.
Trust that life will carry you to your destination. Have faith in the cosmic powers of the universe.
13. Let go
A lot of people start trying to develop a positive mindset because they want to get more from life. But part of positivity is letting go.
The serenity prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Enlightened people know what was meant for them. Unenlightened people do not.
Just because you want something doesn’t mean you’ll get it. And it doesn’t mean you need it. It just means you happen to be experiencing an emotional state of mind that is telling your brain that you have a desire for something.
Some things are not meant for us. Let go of what is not yours. Then you will embrace the infinity of things that are uniquely yours, the myriad splendorous gifts the universe bestows on you.
Benefits of Positive Thinking
- Positive thoughts have a profound effect on our life and longevity.
- People who think they are healthy will live significantly longer than people who think they are unhealthy.
- Positivity helps you to be mentally strong and happy.
Stanford published a breakthrough study by the journal Health Psychology. This study proves that people who think they are unhealthy are at higher risk of death. But the research goes even further. What you will find stunning is the fact that thinking you are healthy is more important than actually being fit.
Sounds remarkable. Yet this is a study by a leading university, and it took more than a decade to complete. The researchers examined information collected by the National Center for Health Statistics taken from over 60,000 people between 1990 and 2011. The people studied were all from different backgrounds and had a diverse range of fitness levels and health conditions. So, make no mistake about it: This was a legit study. Some of these participants were followed for as long as 21 years. And 10% died during the study time.
Specifically, the study looked at:
- Health benefits of positivity
- How often people performed different exercises and activities.
- How active people were
- Whether they smoked
- How often they were sick
- How active and healthy people thought they were.
- Level of physical work or exercise they did each week
- The study also looked at an extensive range of demographic details.
- The data showed that if people think they are less fit than their peers, they will have a significantly higher risk of death.
- The risk of death is 18% higher for people who think they are less active than others.
- People who predominantly think positive thoughts about exercise are 71% less likely to die than people who consider themselves to be unfit.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison