The air is warmer, the sun is brighter, and the days are longer. It’s the season of new beginnings. Spring is the time of year to de-clutter, cleanse, and freshen up our lives. We enjoy the crisp air, the budding trees, and a bit more exercise. So why not enliven and rejuvenate our mindset, too? It’s easy to fall into the habit of negative thinking. The shorter, darker, colder days of winter can wear on our normally cheery and optimistic outlook. It can effect our beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. For example, when in stressful or unfamiliar situations, many of us tend to automatically assume the worst possible case scenario. That fearful belief provokes an anxious feeling that further validates the fear that something will go wrong. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. It’s partially rooted in past experience, brain chemistry, and an innate biology that’s kept us alive for thousands of years. It’s not however, always accurate. In fact, very few things are “always” or “never” anything. That’s why it’s important to check your thoughts, challenge them, and consider other possible outcomes of any situation. Here are a few strategies you can use everyday to begin thinking more positively and improve your mood as a result.
1. Soften Your Self Talk: If the way we think effects the way we feel, then the vocabulary we use will effect our emotions. If you decide something is “awful” or “disastrous” it can create intense feelings such as rage, contempt, or helplessness. If you pause and evaluate the situation while considering the bigger picture, you may decide it is “unfortunate” or “unfavorable” which will create much more manageable feelings like concern, disappointment, or discouragement.
2. Question Your Assumptions: Notice your default mode. What do you automatically assume when considering the potential outcome of a situation? Is it skewed to the negative? Begin to rate the possibility of that outcome on a scale of 1 – 100. Consider the facts of the situation and all the evidence you have to support the idea. Is there a 50% chance it will happen, an 80% chance, or is it really more like 10%?
3. Accept the Worst Case Scenario as Only ONE Possibility: Let’s face it, it is a possibility. But that’s all it is. It’s not a guarantee. There are many possible outcomes for any situation. Challenge yourself to be creative, think outside your usual way, and develop a few alternative possibilities. They might be neutral or even positive possible outcomes. The idea is to break the habit of assuming the worst will happen and improve your outlook on life.
4. Hit the Pause Button: By taking a few seconds before responding to situations, you are interrupting your automatic reactions and allowing a new thought process and behavior to emerge. Evaluate your goals and the possible consequences of your options. In the end, it produces a much kinder and manageable outcome. As Deepak Chopra said, “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”