By: J.A., Writer for Hope Instilled
How to climb out of the hole of despair.
How to avoid going there in the first place.
How to cultivate more positive thoughts and less negative ones.
I have combined my own advice, along with the advice I’ve read from psychologists and other random bloggers to give you a ton of great ideas for becoming a more positive thinker.
With chronic illness, we often have to work a lot harder at positivity!
I felt it was a good time to write about positivity because it is something I’ve been struggling with myself lately. At the end of last year, I did not see the results I was expecting with my treatments for fixing the root causes of my chronic illness, and it has been a real letdown. I even recently experienced a couple of bad chronic pain flare-ups, and I have yet to nail down specifically what caused them. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last 4 years, but lately, progress seems minor or non-existent.
I’m usually really good at staying positive, reminding myself of the things I’m grateful for, and turning around my negative perspectives, but I still struggle now and again. It is rather easy to go to a negative place sometimes and get comfortable there, sit down, recline, and dwell.
That negative place looks different for every one of us. For me, it’s a loss of hope that I’m ever going to get to a place of being fully healed, or at least being able to see I’m getting close to that finish line. I think we are all allowed to visit our own place of doom, but things are definitely not going to improve if we stay in that place for too long. It will likely get a bit musty, definitely lonely, and stress-wise it could lead to more pain, and more depressive thoughts.
36 Ideas on How to Stop Being Negative
1. Surround Yourself with Positive People
I think one of the best things to do when you start to lose hope is to go out and find others who have some and take or share some of theirs. This could be other chronic pain sufferers who are feeling hopeful, friends, family, or a support group. Just make sure in general that you are surrounding yourself with positive people. If you are spending too much time around negative people you are likely absorbing that negativity.
Your illness can physically hurt you, but you do have some control over your thoughts and perceptions. You determine how to view your illness, how to view the world around you, how happy you are, and only you can change that. You can choose to see the world as a dark and evil place, you can choose to see it as beautiful and magical, or somewhere in between. The world is a certain way because you perceive it as such. You have the ability to reprogram your mind to be more positive. Just understanding that we are all hardwired for negativity can help: Negative Bias: Why We're Hardwired for Negativity. I know if you struggle with clinical vs. situational depression and anxiety, you might not have as much control, but you do still have some.
2. Understand How Positivity Works
Positivity is not about what you have or don’t have. Happiness is seeing beyond the imperfections, and that’s how positivity works too. Positive thinkers do see both the negative and positive in a situation, but they choose to focus on the positive. Positive thinkers have a strong awareness of when their mind is taking them someplace negative, and they stop themselves before they go down the tunnel of negativity. It’s also about asking yourself if you are turning something small and insignificant into something much bigger, something that might not even matter tomorrow.
3. Read, Listen and View Positive Things
You could start each day reading some positive articles, reading inspirational quotes, reading from an inspirational book (i.e. bible), listening to a positive podcast, blog, video, or music that makes you feel good. Also, avoid viewing or watching things that cause you to go to a negative place. Turn off the news, avoid drama movies or horror films, stay off of social media, etc.
Practice being more mindful by focusing on the present, and not concerning yourself with the past or the future. You don’t have to meditate to be mindful, but it will help you to develop the habit of being more mindful. View more on it here: mindfulness meditation.
5. Remind Yourself of What You Can Control
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my chronic illness makes me feel very trapped. It bothers me when I have a really bad chronic pain flare-up, and there is nothing I can do to make it go away faster. I can only try and prevent it from becoming worse. It bothers me that I can’t make my treatments go any faster, it takes years to fix everything. Lastly, it bothers me that I can’t completely prevent myself from having another chronic pain flare-up. But, there are still a lot of things I can control, like some of the things I mentioned in New Year’s Goals Ideas for Chronic Pain/Illness: improving mental health, finding purpose, trying new treatments, exercise, eating healthier, reducing toxins, stress management, other wellness changes, and engaging in hobbies and interests that make me happy.
6. Work on Being More Grateful
I hate being compared to other chronic illness sufferers, and sometimes I hate being told about the people starving in other countries. There are definitely days where I remind myself that things could be worse, that I have felt worse, and I feel a bit grateful. But, being grateful in comparison to someone or your past self is not always the best route to go down. You could just write down the things that you are grateful for in your life now, and view them frequently, or try and write something new each day.
7. Journal About Your Goals, Accomplishments, Pain, and More
Gratefulness is awesome and all, but if you keep coming up with the same reasons to be grateful, it can lose its power really fast. I’m working this year on journaling more by writing down positive improvements in my health, wellness changes I’m making, fun things that I did this year, and accomplishments. Journaling or creating checklists is an excellent way to deal with feelings of being overwhelmed, and also being able to see and pay attention to changes and improvements.
At the end of every year for the last three years, I have been recording in a journal all my highlights from the year that I want to remember, and then just this year I did a list of health and happiness goals for the next year. I have many goals and things to work toward that should help with my long-term health, hopefully, my short-term health, along with my happiness levels.
8. Stop Blaming Yourself!
Chronic pain sufferers can be pretty hard on themselves. I don’t know about you, but I have personally gotten angry at myself for a chronic pain flare-up. Sometimes I don’t know what causes them, and sometimes I figure it out after the pain arrives. However, I shouldn’t have to learn my lesson by having two-day-long migraines where I can’t function along with stomach pain. Usually, this is not my fault. There is no giant flashing warning sign that says “don’t do it or you will pay miserably for this.” It is never obvious at the time. Don’t feel guilty for being in pain. No matter what the cause is, you don’t deserve it. Instead of blaming ourselves, we need to focus on what makes us strong, amazing, and special.
9. Stop Comparing Your Life to Others
These days everyone is getting chronically sick, so you are not alone. You can’t compare your life to others because you don’t know what they might internally struggle with. Even if their life is amazing right now, you might not know what they have struggled with in the past, or what they might struggle with in the future. Bad things happen to everyone, there are no exceptions, everyone will have storms in their lives.
10. Stop Caring About What Others Think of You
It is perfectly normal to care about what others think of you, we all care to a point (except for maybe some people with inflated egos). However, we can’t let others damage the way we see ourselves. There will always be people judging us, and people who might not agree with the way we live our lives or the things we do, but that’s their problem and not ours.
11. Compliment Yourself
Compliment yourself whether out loud, in a journal, or in your own head. Remind yourself how awesome you are, how great you look, how strong you are, how great you do at your work, hobby, or being a great friend, pet parent, etc.
12. Turn Thoughts Neutral or Positive
Try turning thoughts neutral. When a negative thought appears in your mind, find a way to change the wording of the thought so it is neither positive nor negative. You can also turn thoughts positive by coming up with three positive observations or feelings of gratefulness for the one negative thought.
13. Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) also called “tapping”
Learn more here: What is ETF
14. Utilize a Positive Mantra
Come up with your own personal positive mantra and repeat it often. Use it when your mind is entering a place of negativity.
15. Overcome Your Fears
You can’t live in fear. Check out my blog Overcoming 5 Common Chronic Pain Fears
16. Improve Your Self Esteem
17. Find Something Purposeful to Do
Find one or a few purposeful things to do every day, week, or month. It will help you to feel better about yourself if you are making a difference, which will help you to approach life with more positivity. View my blog Finding Purpose in Life When Chronically Sick
18. Try Random Acts of Kindness
Do random nice things for others whether it be a stranger, friend, or family member. You can also share how much you appreciate others in your life.
19. Pay Attention to Values
Make sure your life is aligning with your values and what really matters to you.
20. Work on Spiritual Health
This might be a spiritual modality, getting involved in a church, or other religious practice.
21. Remove Negative Things You Don’t Enjoy
If there are things you are doing in your life that you don’t really enjoy, find a way to eliminate those things from your life, if possible. Most of us still have to work, do chores, finances, etc.
22. Change up Your Diet
Your diet does have an effect on your mental health. Studies have proven this. Eating less processed food and less sugar will make a difference. You can also focus more on eating whole foods including healthy proteins, healthy fats (coconut, avocado, nuts, eggs, yogurt, chia seeds), vegetables, and fruits.
23. Drink More Water
Being dehydrated can make you sluggish and lack energy which can definitely spur negativity.
Exercise makes you release endorphins and serotonin which are known to combat stress and make you feel good.
25. Improve Your Sleep
Are you getting enough sleep at night? Are you tossing and turning at night? When I don’t sleep well, I can be a pretty negative person. Sleep is key to starting the day with a more positive outlook. Always aim for a solid 8 hours of sleep, or at the very least 7. Look at natural remedies for sleep if you are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep.
26. Improve Your Stress Levels
If you are not handling stress well or are chronically stressed, check out my blog An In-Depth Dive into Better Managing Stress (From someone who has lived with chronic stress & chronic pain)
27. Work on Posture
Pay attention to how often you slouch. Stand up or sit up straight, pull your shoulders back. Pay attention to how often you are hurting your neck texting or surfing the web on your phone. A positive posture can make you feel more positive. Poor posture is said to affect physiology, neurology, and our mental health.
28. Diffuse Essential Oils
The right essential oils can help soothe the mind, and create a calming environment.
29. Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in nature has been shown to help reduce stress, anger, fear, unpleasant feelings, and lift your mood in general.
30. Improve Your Home Environment
Do you have a lot of clutter at home? Does your home need a deep cleaning? Reducing clutter and creating a more comfortable space might be key to improving your positivity. Clutter, what you hold onto, can keep you from being the best version of yourself.
31. Change up Routines or Habits
Review your daily routines to see if you are doing some activity that is hurting your positive vibes. Maybe you have a bad habit that you know about, but you keep on doing it. It might be time to quit for good. It can be hard, but over time it will get easier. According to science, to form a new habit it typically takes 66 days for it to become automatic. So stick with it.
32. Engage in a Fun Activity or Find a New Hobby
If you get stuck in a negative mindset try to do an activity that makes you feel good and happy.
Even if you don’t feel like it, try it. A smile creates a chemical reaction in the brain that can make you happier.
Find a funny YouTube video or something else to make you laugh, it might just change your mood. Laughing releases endorphins which are happiness chemicals.
35. Saying “No”
Make sure you are saying “no” to things you don’t want to do. Don’t let someone guilt you into something that really makes you unhappy. Say “no,” especially when you are worried about being too overwhelmed or are dealing with pain.
36. Use a Positivity Reminder
Find a bracelet, necklace, card with a positive statement, or something else you can keep on you that represents being positive, and use it as a reminder. Use it to remind you that you are in control of your thoughts, and you can choose positivity or negativity.
Don't think positivity can help you? View my next blog: When Positivity is NOT the Answer (Chronic Anxiety, Depression, Stress)