Positive Thinking: 12 Techniques for Personal and Professional Development
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ― Roy T. Bennett, positive thinking quote of the day.
What if I told you that you can quickly improve the outcome of almost everything you do just by using the power of positive thinking?
I know, it sounds too good to be true, but positive thinking has been shown scientifically to improve results. The best thing is that anyone can start implementing these tips today, for free.
Not only will you dramatically improve your results, but your family, friends, colleagues, peers and bosses will also notice a difference in your attitude. After all, it's the basic law of attraction, positive people like hanging around positive people.
Keep on reading to find out about the 12 best techniques for positive thinking, as suggested by our team of productivity experts.
We also have an article on how meditation can improve productivity that we recommend you check out if you are interested in this topic.
Table of contents
The power of positive thinkingThe way we think and what we think about is a powerful tool. In fact, neuroscientists have found that the same brain regions that are involved in executing an action are also involved when thinking about an action. This can have a very real impact on you in the physical sense.
Studies have been done where participants were either physically or mentally training and practising, for example, playing the piano or strengthening certain muscles. Indeed, after the practising period, both groups performed similarly well.
The power of thinking and its physical impact on the brain and both its structure and function are summarized in the video below.
Okay, so the way we think clearly bears a real power. How might that look like in real life? And how might a group of friends, colleagues or strangers reinforce your thinking?
Here, the group and either the positive or the negative reinforcement received had a real impact on performance, regardless of the natural ability of the participants.
Importantly, positive thinking did not suddenly add abilities, but it allowed the participant to fulfil their potential. What your real potential actually is may be beyond what you expect it to be.
The benefits of positive thinkingThe above experiment touched upon one crucial benefit of positive thinking. By thinking positively you will have a real impact on your performance.
Trusting and knowing your skills and your potential will help you to fulfil it. Importantly, thinking positively will not suddenly make you master tasks. However, it puts you in a position that allows you to really tackle and work on that task.
By being in a habit of positive thinking, you will approach things differently than when being stuck in a negative mindset. Little things that you would have perceived as obstacles before may have interfered with your performance.
You can either think about how this is a great inconvenience to you, how you will be late for work and potentially miss a briefing.
Isn't it is so irresponsible to cancel a train without informing the passengers why and what has happened? Are they actively trying to mess with your schedule?
It is also quite cold and miserable outside, of course, this was gonna happen today… Now, these thoughts could go on for the remaining 30 minutes it takes until the train gets there.
But here, you are in a situation where it is not in your power to do anything but wait for the train. You might think that there surely is a good reason for the train being cancelled, because who would intentionally inconvenience their own customers?
Luckily another train will come fairly soon, so that is something to appreciate. Okay so now you are given 30 minutes. You could go for a short walk, maybe even grab a coffee or start a conversation with one of the other passengers. After all, you are not alone at the station…
The science of positive thinkingAs mentioned earlier, there is a real biological basis of positive thinking. In fact, when thinking negatively about events and possibilities the stress hormone cortisol may be released.
This hormone is involved in the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and interferes with higher-order cognitive functions.
On the contrary, when not perceiving a situation as stressful, and when in fact thinking positively, dopamine is more likely to be released. This hormone will allow you to engage the more specialized parts of your brain, allowing you to get stuck in a challenging academic task or project at work.
Positive thinking tipsPositive thinking applies to all areas of life and it is something that you can practice.
Indeed, if it does not come to you ‘naturally’ and you tend to think of things negatively, remind yourself that this may be a habit you can unlearn over time.
So, give yourself the time to practice the 12 techniques mentioned below. These will be relevant to both your personal and your professional development and performance.
1. Positive reinforcementThe basketball experiment gave one example of how positive reinforcement may look like.
Another example that is a bit more relatable to everyday life is positively reinforcing what you are good at. Often we know when we performed well on a task.
If that is not immediately the case, think about what you are good at and ask your friends what they think you are good at. Appreciate that and reinforce these achievements.
2. Constructive feedbackWhen presenting a project at work or writing an essay at uni, make sure you are receiving constructive feedback.
Positive thinking is not about ignoring aspects that don’t go so well. It is more about using all the resources you have to improve your performance further and making use of what you know you are good at already.
So next time you give a presentation, ask your colleagues or friends afterwards to be honest and constructive and find out how you can use your strengths to improve further.
3. Perceived stressedRemember that feeling stressed is determined by how you perceive a situation. In fact, stress may not be a bad thing in given situations.
What does become problematic is if you are experiencing it as distress. Be aware that stress is not the same for everyone.
Sometimes, stressful situations are almost ‘learned’. Being stuck in a traffic jam is an inconvenience but if you are not in a real rush, there is not a need to perceive it as a stressful event.
4. EvaluateTherefore, evaluating situations taking into consideration what resources you have at hand right now and what the situation requires of you is necessary.
If you come to the conclusion that an event is truly stressful, think about constructive ways of dealing with it.
Instead of being upset about having to feel stressed, what can you do to overcome this situation?
5. AwarenessIn order to do so successfully, it is really helpful to be aware of the sorts of situations that you may find stressful.
Maybe, there is something in your routine that you can change to help you think positively when it comes to that situation at the train station mentioned before.
Maybe, trying to wake up a little earlier to do some exercise in the morning or to practice mindfulness will help you stay calm and focussed when something does not go as planned.
Don’t expect to simply think positively at all times but rather try to figure out what will allow you to do so.
6. MeditationYou may find that meditation is a great way for you to enhance your positive thinking. Meditation is a fantastic way of managing stress and making yourself more productive.
7. FlowPerceiving the work you do or the activity you pursue as intrinsically rewarding is positive thinking in action. Read more about inducing the flow state and what it is here.
8. RoutineThe above couple of points may be easier to incorporate into your life when thinking about when you would like to apply these techniques.
Maybe you’d like to make meditation part of your morning routine or you would find it helpful to go through the last day before going to bed and being aware of potential stressors and how you managed them.
Either way, positive thinking is a habit that can be trained and that may be easier to access when following a routine.
9. Gratefulness practiceAs with positive thinking, gratefulness can be actively practised. It may feel unnatural at first, but try to find a moment to think about let’s say three things that you are grateful for today.
If it was a concrete action or someone who had done something, why not let that person know? Not only will you make yourself happier and more positive, but you will also spread the joy around.
10. JourneyRemember, all of this is more of a journey than a quick fix. It is okay to fall into habits of negative thinking at times. Try to realize what is going on and be aware of why it is happening.
11. Time for friends and familyMake time for what makes you happy. While you can learn to think positively in general, you will not have to try as much when spending time with your loved ones.
You might also want to share your journey with them because being supported, and receiving constructive feedback is so beneficial.
12. Work-life balanceFinally, positive thinking is all very well, but if you are overworked and tired, you are not in the greatest place to practice all the aspects mentioned above.
Try to find out what work-life balance works for you and then try to be assertive in following it through.
Some of these techniques will be well summarized in the video below, talking about the science behind happiness.
Positive thinking is a great way to stay motivated and improve your performance. However, there are other things.
For short-term boosts to productivity, concentration, energy and mental performance, you could consider using natural brain food supplements. If you'd like more inspiration on how to think positive, then check out this positive thinking quote list, containing nearly 3000 quotes about positive thinking.
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