Are you stuck on the negatives in your life? Maybe you’re at a job that you don’t like, or you’re in an apartment rather than in the home of your dreams, or maybe you just tend to be more pessimistic in your outlook. You are stuck in a negative spiral that is affecting your outlook on life, and potentially affecting your relationship.
Changing your perspective can drastically change your outlook on your current situation. Scientists have actually found that positivity can rewire our brain structure and function, creating new neural pathways; this is known as neuroplasticity. By practicing positive thought and activity, areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings can strengthen over time. This can help decrease the release of stress related hormones and increase your resiliency toward negative experiences.
However, a change in perspective takes time and practice. Many of the negative automatic thoughts we experience have been present for years and need to be approached with compassion. An exercise that can be done daily for a week to a month in order to slowly change your perspective is to journal. Write down 5 to 10 things each day that are positive in your life. Journaling this provides a concrete platform to refer to, especially on days when you may be feeling especially unhappy or down, in order to remind you of the positives in your life.
Some areas to consider when beginning this exercise include:
- People: friends, family, coworkers, the barista at your favorite coffee shop
- Places: your home, job, favorite restaurants, places you have traveled
- Things: books, clothes, car, pets, awards
- Compliments you may have received
- Accomplishments, personal abilities, to-do list items that were completed
- Future plans you are looking forward to
- Memories you cherish
Other questions to ask yourself when journaling include:
- What do you have in your life that you’re thankful for, that you appreciate, that you’re proud of?
- What characteristics of your partner do you love, such as qualities your partner possesses, acts you appreciate, how you enjoy time being spent with them.
- What are some memories you truly cherish with your partner?
- What do you love about where you live, home or city?
- What about your job do you enjoy- tasks, location, co-workers?
- Are you looking forward to any upcoming trip, concert, family gathering?
An example list based on these areas and questions may include:
- Funfetti cupcakes
- A cool fall breeze and leaves on the ground
- My ability to laugh at myself
- My family’s unconditional support and love
- Prescription glasses and contacts
- Memories with my grandparents as a child
- My partner’s ability to express emotions and openly communicate
- The way my body feels when I listen to acoustic music
- Feeling comfortable enough to ask for a hug when I’m feeling down
Once you have written a list, or a few, of positive aspects, materials, memories, go back and review the list and process you took to create it. What was easy about creating this list; what was difficult? Are there any patterns or themes within your list? Take time to think more deeply into some of your items. Ask yourself what a specific item brings to mind; what does this specific item add to your life?
It may be difficult to think of positives the first few times, however, the more you practice the easier positives will come to mind. To get your mind flowing, try finding something positive, kind, or warm to say to someone everyday. Sometimes it is easier to think of lovely things to say when it is about others. Then you can apply it to yourself. As you practice this skill of identifying the positives, the positive reflections will begin to change from more surface level to deeper, intimate, personal positives. It is important to review your journal entries throughout the week as to remind yourself of the positives in your life.