Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Our mindset is involved in everything we do in our lives – how we live our lives, what choices we’re making, and how we feel about life in general. Our overall health & wellbeing is also influenced by our mindset.
We know that we don’t have control over our outer environment, but we can control our inner one – our mind. That’s the good news! But like anything that requires learning, it takes training, practice and patience.
However, because life can be challenging, keeping a positive mindset can seem impossible at times.
So how can we learn to cultivate a more positive state of mind?
How can we train ourselves to be more resilient, better able to cope with the setbacks and difficulties that life will inevitably throw at us?
Our everyday offers us many opportunities to choose – whether that choice is about what we eat, how we respond to a difficult customer or how we react in a traffic jam when we’re late for a meeting.
We can use these everyday experiences, and small set-backs, to cultivate a more positive mindset. When life’s bigger challenges meet us – as they often do - we can apply the same attitude to these difficulties too.
Here’s a few key elements that can help you develop a more positive mindset.
Adjust your perspective
We can look at a situation or a challenge through a different lens. We can shift our perspective in 3 ways.
Firstly, by recognising that the situation - and our emotions that come with it - are impermanent, can help us keep a positive mindset in the midst of difficulty. Going through a challenging time, for example a job role transition, is often necessary to achieve our desired goals.
Secondly, viewing stress in a more positive light is key. While long-term stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health, some stress is good for us – it keeps us motivated, alert and helps us feel alive! Some studies have shown that how we perceive stress can affect our overall success in life. So next time you feel those familiar butterflies or increased heart-rate before a presentation, telling yourself that it’s a positive kind of stress to help you do your best will make you feel more positive about the experience and often bring you better results. In fact, you may recognise these feelings are the same as excitement!
Finally, recognising that challenge can bring about growth can help turn our mindset around. People with a positive and resilient mindset suffer setbacks like everyone, and often significant challenges. They may stumble and fall but they stay focused on their goal. Let’s take inspiration from Nelson Mandela who said “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail”.
Know your purpose
Your purpose keeps you on track. It’s your goals, your values, your passions, your talents. Think of it as your GPS system. You may need to regularly re-centre or even alter your direction as you change and your circumstances change. Your main sense of purpose may come from your family, your sport, your faith, spirituality or your ambition. Basically, the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, especially when there’s a rough patch. It doesn’t matter what that thing is. Know it and live your life aligned with it. When you have purpose, life’s difficulties will be easier to navigate.
We often need help to tap into what our unique sense of purpose is. A coach, psychologist or a personal development course, books, podcasts out there can help.
We can’t all do an Eat Pray Love or book an expensive wellness retreat! But there are many ways to incorporate some soul searching within the confines of our everyday life – a weekly yoga or meditation class, a weekend retreat, seeking out some new people, new activities and challenges. How about trying that activity that you showed promise at as a kid, or a hobby that you’re drawn to?
It doesn’t matter what it is. When we’re engaged in an activity that absorbs our attention, we connect with a deeper, creative and intuitive part of ourselves that is often neglected. It’s here that we get to know ourselves better and our unique purpose can be revealed, in time.
And you may find that your purpose is to simply live a healthy life, with people you love, doing some work or other regular pursuit that you enjoy. That’s perfectly fine. When we know that we’re striving to live a life that’s in line with our purpose, our mind naturally relaxes.
Mindfulness is really a way of living. It’s knowing ourselves better - our emotions and feelings, our behaviour, our habits and our reactions.
We all have “stress” triggers that create an internal response. Often these responses are an auto-pilot reaction to something that we perceive as challenging or fearful. When we can create a little space between feeling triggered and reacting, the stressful or challenging feeling often subsides. For example, next time your “angry” button is pressed - let’s say by an insensitive comment by a family member, give yourself some quiet space to take 2 or 3 minutes of deep breathing. You can recognise the difficult feelings that this has triggered and tell yourself that it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling. This will allow the emotions to be recognised, to surface and by then, you may feel calmer and less likely to hit back, adding more fuel to the fire!
This mindful approach can be applied to any situation that arises when you feel your buttons being pressed. Step back, breathe, acknowledge your feelings. Then you can choose your response from a place of more calm. And that response may be to go outside for a walk or phone a friend who will make you laugh or give you a boost! Keep in mind that cultivating a positive mindset will not happen overnight. It’s a full-time, life-long job. But with new awareness, you can bring about small changes and develop a different relationship with your mind. One that will allow you to thrive, grow and find a solid sense of contentment, even when there’s challenges.
I hope these tips can help you to develop a positive mindset. If you have anything you’d like to share on this topic or any advice from your own experience, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Article by Kerry White
Kerry is a Workplace Health & Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Coach, Yoga Teacher & Shiatsu Therapist and the founder of Kerry Wellbeing.
Kerry specialises in workplace sessions to help people feel as well as possible, physically & mentally. Through practical and collaborative sessions, Kerry equips people in the workplace with effective tools and insights to help them deal positively with everyday stress, challenges and common health and well-being complaints (including backache, headaches, fatigue and anxiety).
Kerry has brought her unique health & wellbeing sessions to numerous top corporates and organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Because she has spent many years working in pressured office-based roles, Kerry understands the challenges many people experience, both physically and mentally.
For more information on Kerry's workplace sessions, visit: https://www.kerrywellbeing.com/