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28 Days to Feeling
More Positive

Explore ways to turn negative thinking into positive thoughts

It’s not too late to change your outlook. Research on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, reveals that you can rewire your brain even in adulthood. And there are lots of reasons to adopt a more positive outlook. It boosts your immunity. It reduces anxiety. It promotes happiness and more success in life. It protects you from health problems. Challenge yourself this month to start looking on the bright side.

WEEK 1: GIVE THANKS

Gratitude, which is an appreciation of what is meaningful and valuable to you, fosters positive feelings and well-being.

  1. Post a reminder. Put this quote somewhere you’ll see it every day this week to remind you of the importance of gratitude.

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.”

– Germany Kent,
author of The Hope Handbook

  1. See the good. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Keeping your eyes closed, think about something good in your life. Your children, a close friend, a good job, your dog, anything that brings you joy. Focus on it for few minutes and then open your eyes. Stop and do this any time today when you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or negative.
  2. Share thanksgiving. At dinnertime (or any meal), go around the table and have each person talk about something they are thankful for.
  3. Stop worry. Worry is all about negativity and can lead to lots of anxiety. To stop this detrimental cycle, find a quiet place to sit and think about three things that you worried about in the past week. Now visualize a positive outcome for each of the worries. This simple exercise helps to reduce anxiety and increase happiness.
  4. Write it out. Carve out 20 minutes and sit down with a piece of paper or your computer and write about a positive experience from the day. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling just keep writing about what happened and how it made you feel to bolster a positive outlook.
  5. Reframe your thoughts. Notice how often you think or say, “I have to…” “I have to go to work.” “I have to exercise.” Change those “have tos” to “get tos.” “I get to go to work.” “I get to exercise.” That little tweak makes it sound like a privilege or something desirable.
  6. Spread gratitude. Write a thank you note to someone who has helped you or been there for you in the past. Be specific about what they did and how it helped you. Not only will you make someone else’s day, but it will also remind you that others love and support you.

WEEK 2: FOCUS ON FUN

Play is rewarding, fosters empathy and generates optimism.

  1. Post a reminder. Put this quote somewhere you’ll see it every day this week to remind you of the importance of play.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing.”

– George Bernard Shaw,
playwright

  1. Watch something silly. Spontaneous laughter has been shown to improve mood and even boost immunity. For a healthy dose, pop on a comedy, your favorite comedian, or even goofy cat videos—whatever makes you chuckle.
  2. Rediscover joy. When you were younger, play and having fun were your focus. But, as you get older, you tend to work and play less . To reconnect with that fun side of yourself, do something that you loved doing as a kid—ride a bike, play Yahtzee, paint a picture, play the guitar, anything that you used to enjoy doing.
  3. Read the comics page. It’s a great way to add some levity to your life. Don’t get a newspaper? You can find them online. Cultivating a sense of humor can help you to find the humor when faced with bad situations
  4. Explore new places. Drive or walk through a new neighborhood or park. Visit a store or museum you’ve never been in before. Or simply take a different route home. The experience of novelty and diversity in your environment has been associated with more positive emotions.
  5. Get outside. Spending time in nature reduces stress and anxiety—two well-known downers. You don’t have to go far. Your backyard or nearby park will do. Even being around beautiful plants or looking at pictures of nature can bring out good feelings.
  6. Swap embarrassing moments. At lunch with co-workers or at dinner with your family, ask everyone to share something funny that happened to them. You’ll get a boost from the laugher and learning to laugh at yourself will help to fend off negativity.

WEEK 3: Stop the Inner Critic

It’s that little voice in your head that knocks you down and makes you doubt yourself. Over time, you start to believe all of the negative self-talk if you don’t break the cycle.

  1. Post a reminder. Put this quote somewhere you’ll see it every day this week to remind you of the importance of self-compassion.

“What you tell yourself every day will either lift you up or tear you down.”

  1. Catch yourself. The first step to silencing your inner critic is to pay attention when it rears its ugly head. As soon as your thoughts turn down the negative pathway, cut them off at the pass. Immediately counter a negative thought with “stop it.” You can even say it out loud for more impact.
  2. Bring in reinforcement. Grab lunch, coffee, or a drink with someone who always makes you feels good about yourself.
  3. Stop being a perfectionist. It may sound admirable, but constantly striving to be perfect can lead to depression and anxiety. And the fear of failure if you don’t live up to it can contribute to procrastination. Instead, think about being “good enough” or “making progress.”
  4. Sit up straight. You’ll handle stressful situations better is you’re sitting tall instead of slouching at your desk. Studies have found that people who maintain good posture have higher levels of self-esteem and better moods than their slumped counterparts.
  5. Help others. While the concept of volunteering is to help others, it’s actually a win-win. Others benefit from your actions and so do you. Research shows that people who volunteer have higher self-esteem, are happier, and have greater life satisfaction.
  6. Imagine your best possible self. Think about you in the future being your best and the characteristics you’ll need to make that happen. Got it in mind? Now, write about what your life will be like once you achieve it. Include as many details as possible. Research has found that those who write about an improved version of themselves are more likely to become it.

WEEK 4: Chill Out

It’s tough to be positive when you’re stressed out.

  1. Post a reminder. Put this quote somewhere you’ll see it every day this week to remind you of the importance of relaxation.

“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.”

–Doe Zantamata, author of the Happiness in Your Life book series

  1. Stop and breathe. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Slowly count as you inhale, and then repeat as you exhale, trying to make it longer. For example, inhale for three counts and exhale for six counts. Continue for at least a minute, longer if possible.
  2. Detox. Skip the news, social media or even people who spew gloom and doom. Exposure to negativity just breeds more negativity.
  3. Meditate. Research shows that it can actually change your brain so you’re better able to handle stress and anxiety. And it’s easier than you think – no burning incenses or chanting. To get started, try an app like Calm or Headspace.
  4. Enjoy a favorite. Grab your favorite beverage and curl up on the couch with your favorite book or watch your favorite movie.
  5. Do some gentle exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do—stretching, yoga, walking, dancing—all you need is 10 to 15 minutes to feel more relaxed.
  6. Listen to music. Mellow out with some slow-tempo tunes. Music is such a powerful mood booster and stress buster that it’s even been shown to help with depression and anxiety.

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