Can you learn positive thinking?
Would you like to think more positively? Well, here’s some good news. Science suggests that positive thinking is indeed a learnable skill. But how do you learn it? What techniques and exercises are most likely to help you boost your positive thinking skills?
Here we’ll explore techniques and strategies for positive thinking which can provide the needed resources for cultivating this important skill.
3 techniques for positive thinking
When evaluating your own positive thinking skills, it’s helpful to explore different types of positive thinking. So take a moment to explore the following positive thinking techniques and strategies.
1. Think positively about the past
When we think positively about the past, we may reminisce on the good things that have happened. We might bring those positive memories to mind, reflect on what we learned, or feel grateful for the good stuff.
Here are examples of past-focused positive thoughts that put a positive spin on the past while still acknowledging the difficult situation:
- “I did the best I could.”
- “That job interview went badly, but at least I learned what to do differently next time.”
- “I know my childhood wasn’t perfect, but my parents did the best they could.”
These past-focused positive thinking strategies can help us feel better in the present moment even if the present moment is challenging.
2. Think positively about the present
When we think positively about the present moment, we might pay attention to what’s going well (rather than what’s not going so well), or we might try to shift our perspective on our present circumstances by reframing the situation or looking for silver linings.
Here are some examples of present-focused positive thoughts:
- “I’m so lucky to have my friend Jane who really cares about me.”
- “That breakfast was so tasty and beautiful, and I enjoyed it immensely.”
- “Even though I may make mistakes, I always try my best.”
By using these present-focused positive thinking strategies, we give ourselves more control over how we feel even in challenging situations.
3. Think positively about the future
When we think positive thoughts about the future, we try to stay optimistic. We hold more positive expectations about the future or focus on the good things to come rather than the bad.
Here are some examples of future-focused positive thoughts:
- “It’s all going to turn out fine.”
- “I can’t wait to go to that event next week.”
- “I will continue to work toward my goals, so I know that my future is going to be great.”
Future-focused positive thinking can not only help us feel better in the moment, but it can also lead to better outcomes.
Attempting to improve our skills for each of these three types of positive thinking strategies can help us build this skill and improve our wellbeing.
Try this exercise:
Three Good Things
Research suggests that thinking of and listing three good things each day can contribute to increased happiness in the short term and longer term.
Even better, this exercise is simple to do. Just spend a few minutes each evening reflecting on the day until you think of three good things. They can be a simple as enjoying a delicious dinner or sitting in the warm sun.
Try this exercise:
Best Possible Future
One study showed that imagining and writing about your best possible future increases positive emotions. This exercise can help train your brain to be more optimistic.
Set aside 15 minutes to write about what your best potential future could look like. Try not to focus on what could go wrong, and just think about what could go right.