“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
While there might be a wee bit of confusion over who actually uttered these words first (a quick Google search indicates it could have been philosopher Lao Tzu, former UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, or grocery store owner, Frank Outlaw), this quote is the TRUTH. It’s clear that the key to our ultimate success — or failure — is through learning to control our thoughts.
In other words — positive thoughts lead to a positive life, and negative thoughts lead to a negative life. But whatever you want to call it — karma, The Secret, the golden rule — it’s all easier said than done.
First of all, you should know that it is not in my nature to act like one of those holistic, New Age, mindfulness gurus. I am a normal, 29-year old female who lives in a mid-sized city, has an 8-5 job, and turns to frothy Starbucks beverages far too often to solve the problems of the world.
Second, while I’ve read all sorts of articles about “how to become a more positive person,” it seems these articles always encourage people to start their day by clearing their mind through yoga and end their day by journaling about their moments of gratitude.
And this is where the positivity articles and I part ways.
I mean, come on. When I do yoga, I am solely concentrating on not slipping in puddles of my own sweat, and at the end of each day, I am much more interested in reading the Huff Post celebrity section than journaling.
But, like many of my peers, I would like to find a way to acknowledge positive moments and dwell less on negativity, gossip, anxiety, and worries. So, the question is: how can I shift my thoughts to be more positive without being all “namaste” and sappy? Here are a few experiments I’ve been trying lately to improve my outlook:
1. Surround myself with people who make me laugh. I’ve found that people who can make the everyday funny help me to appreciate normally mundane moments as “good moments.” For instance, there is a woman I work with who genuinely likes everyone she meets and finds ways to make anyone’s annoying habits seem quirky, funny, and delightful.
2. Verbalize my appreciation. I know I am guilty of not always fully thanking people, whether it’s a co-worker who goes above and beyond for me, or the checkout helper at the grocery store who makes sure to carefully bag my eggs. Telling someone out loud that you appreciate them doubles the happiness. Plus, it’s easier than journaling. Win-win!
3. Fake it ‘till you make it. When I feel negative thoughts starting to creep in, I try to imagine how my body language and facial expressions appear to others. Usually I’ve got a disgruntled, raised eyebrow and pursed lips — a testament to the fact that our thoughts really do become our actions. Realizing this, I’ve been trying instead to take deep breaths, lower my angry eyebrows, and uncross my arms. The result? I actually feel a tad more pleasant.
4. Acknowledge the moments that make me happy. There are little moments every day that I look forward to — whether it’s my drive to work, talking on the phone with my mom, or having a quick Gchat with a friend. And just because these things happen every day doesn’t mean I should simply disregard as them as “the usual.” I must acknowledge routine moments that bring me happiness.
While these little tricks aren’t quite second nature to me yet, my goal is to work hard to recognize the positives in my life, so gratitude and joy become a habit. Just like anything else, happiness is something we must work at to be successful — and for me, the end result is worth working for.
What are some ways you’ve learned to stay positive? How do you recognize gratitude?
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