Developing Optimism to Combat Stress

How can you end negative thinking and live with a more positive and productive mindset?

It’s no secret that negative thinking can generate a truckload of stress. In fact pessimism, or the general tendency to think negatively, is the number one cause of mental stress in both men and women.

Some scientists believe that humans have a natural tendency to think negatively because thousands of years ago, a negative mindset helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive hostile and scarce environments.

This pessimism eventually became an evolutionary trait and we still have it even if the majority of the world has moved on from living in hunter-gatherer societies.

How can you modify your thinking patterns so that you can focus on the more positive aspects of different life experiences?

  1. Correct Common Negative Thought Patterns

Because of our natural pessimistic tendencies, our minds seem to be preoccupied with generating negative thoughts and ideas. You have to spot these negative trends in the way you think so you can arrest them before they cause even more stress in your life.

Here are some of the most common pessimistic thought patterns that have been observed in both men and women:

a.) Unreasonable Generalising – When a person generalises too much, he ends up thinking that the world is unfair and that he’s always getting the short end of the rope in most situations.

You are making unreasonable generalisations when you think or say things like “everyone in this office is an idiot” or “I’m always the exhausted one in this house”.

b.) Crazy Conclusions – A person makes crazy conclusions when he thinks of a negative outcome before examining all the details of a situation.

c.) Unfair Self-Evaluation – An unfair self-evaluation occurs when you take a small detail from a situation and use that tiny piece to create a horrible outcome for yourself. A good example would be a high school student who wasn’t able to ace a college entrance exam.

He might say “I’m so horrible at studying that no university would ever want to let me in!” This type of thinking is not only pessimistic but it’s also large irrational because it’s not based on facts – it’s based purely on emotional thinking.

d.) Fearing the Future – This is a classic thought pattern observed in people with negative mindsets. You know that someone currently fears the future when you hear things like “I think I’m going to forget all my preparation and fail my job interview tomorrow”.

Again, this type of thinking is largely irrational and can easily sap anyone’s energy because it almost always generates “worst case scenarios” out of pure air.

  1. Hold an Internal Dialogue With Yourself

If you are often a victim of anxiety, over-worrying and negative thinking, it might help if you simply stopped your mind its tracks and held an internal dialogue with it so you can deconstruct any horrible thoughts you may be having.

Here are some statements that you can use to dispel any negative and irrational notions that you may encounter when your negative thinking kicks in:

“Am I simply reacting to this situation or am I preparing to respond to the problem?”

“Do I have any concrete proof that something horrible is going to happen or is everything just in my head?”

“Was I always correct about this type of situation in the past or am I repeating wrong assumptions I’ve had before?”

“Am I 100% certain that this catastrophe will take place again just because I had a similar experience when I was young?”

“Am I being reasonable when I feel sorry for myself just because one person didn’t like my output?”

“Am I being realistic or am I just letting my rich imagination getting the best of me?”

“Risk is natural – it doesn’t mean something bad will actually happen to me

“Stop thinking of the worst that could happen!”

  1. Laugh Whenever You Can – Laughter has been medically proven effective against stress. While it’s not reasonable to laugh randomly just because you want to, you should make it a point to laugh as often as you can to help dispel negative thinking and to physically relax yourself. When a person laughs, his whole body relaxes and his brain sends out chemical signals for pleasure and happiness.