Have you ever worked at “the power of positive thinking”? Have you ever met someone who mostly felt optimistic and upbeat? You know; the kind that easily throws out a litany of jokes and readily smiles with an easy laugh; the person that stands out in a crowd and easily makes others feel good; the one that infects others so that the happy feeling is contagious. How do they do it? Maybe it’s heredity, or they had a positive family or good environment while growing up. Or, maybe it’s in the genes. Well, whatever it is, what do the rest of us do if we aren’t so lucky?
It is a lot easier to ruminate about the negative things in life; you know, our short comings, other’s deficiencies and how they affect us, all the bad things that have happened to us or that we are currently experiencing, the money we don’t have, the fun we aren’t having, the unfairness of it all, the famine and large poverty base throughout the world, etc., etc., etc. With all this, how then do any of us succeed at positive thinking? Well, there are ways.
One strong restorative approach is called “Turning the Mind”, a skill learned in therapy groups to improve a client’s mood and perceptions of themselves, others and the world at large. Turning the mind is actually a hard process to do. It takes a lot of work. Unfortunately, many attempts fail just because we give up when we return to our old ways. You may not have known, but our brain motherboard bends according to how we think and feel. So, if you are a negative thinker, your brain has developed a neural electrical system that has supported and reinforced depressing thoughts for as long as you have had them. It becomes harder and harder to break that brain circuitry. However, it is possible. Learning and practicing positive ways of thinking and feeling can result in a change in how you view your life and how to move forward.
In order to change the brain, we need to become more aware of what we are doing to ourselves; how we feed and get stuck with the bad thoughts and emotions, and how we pull away or discard the positive ones. We have to learn ways to be more mindful of our thoughts and feelings and how we can better manage them. Oftentimes, spending time meditating or in prayer can be key factors in learning how to see yourself at a distance and guide yourself through this awareness. As you become more aware of how you get stuck with your emotions or your negative thoughts, you then are more able to recognize that you are in charge and you can make decisions about how to regulate your emotions and thoughts. No longer are you clutched into the grips of negativity by your thoughts and feelings. Instead, you have the ability to learn new skills and move towards a more positive you. With continued practice, “turning the mind” towards an optimistic outlook is indeed within reach. It takes time and practice, but it does happen. Just think, you may end up being the one who carries the jokes and moves the crowd with your jovial self.
Claudia A. Liljegren, LICSW
St. Williams Mental Health Services