Bestselling author Gill Hasson is back to help you learn how the power of Positive Thinking can change your life Are you stuck in a rut? Do you feel plagued by negative thoughts and emotions every day? Gill Hasson, the bestselling author of Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence, is back to help you move on from those pesky negative emotions and focus on the positive instead. Gill's practical and reassuring approach to the benefits of Positive Thinking will have you applying it to your own life every day. If you struggle to see past setbacks both at work and at home, it can be tricky not to let those negative emotions affect you in every area of your life. This book will give readers the tools to view life with a positive outlook and charge ahead in achieving goals that once seemed out of reach. Learn how to: * Identify the triggers for negative thoughts and understand how to turn them into positive ones * Deal with setbacks and make the most out of negative situations * Improve your happiness by accepting situations and learning how to move forward * Understand how the power of Positive Thinking can help you achieve your goals The power of Positive Thinking is not a new idea; it's been around long enough to become almost a cliché, but there's a reason behind its longevity: positivity works. This book shows you how to break through the clouds today, and start working toward the life you want.
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This edition first published 2017
© 2017 Gill Hasson
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Hasson, Gill, author.
Title: Positive thinking : find happiness and achieve your goals through the power of positive thought / Gill Hasson.
Description: Chichester, West Sussex, UK : John Wiley & Sons, 2017. | Includes index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016029047| ISBN 9780857086839 (pbk.)
Subjects: LCSH: Attitude (Psychology) | Positive psychology. | Self-esteem.
Classification: LCC BF327 .H387 2017 | DDC 150.19/88--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016029047
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978-0-857-08683-9 (pbk) ISBN 978-0-857-08692-1 (ebk) ISBN 978-0-857-08691-4 (ebk)
Cover design: Wiley
Part 1: Positive Thinking and Positive Action
1: You Are What You Think
Positive thinking vs. negative thinking
Positive intentions of negative thinking
Your amazing brain
In a nutshell
2: Moving on from Negative Thinking
Recognize negative self-talk
Challenging and replacing negative thinking
Accepting negative thoughts and moving on to positive thoughts and actions
In a nutshell
3: Taking Positive Action
Positive thinking and positive action
How to get what you want and achieve your goals
In a nutshell
Part 2: Developing and Maintaining Positive Thinking
4: Finding and Keeping Motivation
Acting ‘as if’
Change your body, change your mind
Where there's a will there's a way!
In a nutshell
5: Creating a Positive Mindset
1. Appreciate your day
2. Be kind
3. Work to help other people
4. Give compliments
5. Mind your language
In a nutshell
6: Building Your Self-Esteem and Confidence
Start from a position of strength
In a nutshell
Part 3: Positive Thinking for Difficult Situations
7: Dealing with Disappointments and Setbacks, Trauma and Tragedy
Setbacks and disappointments
Trauma and tragedy
Look for the positive
Bullying and abuse
Guilt and regret
In a nutshell
8: Managing a Fear of Failure, Perfectionism and Comparing Yourself with Others
How to overcome a fear of failure
Letting go of unhelpful perfectionism
Comparing yourself with other people
In a nutshell
About the Author
Table of Contents
What do you want? Why do you think positive thinking might help?
Perhaps you want to start your own business, change your job or career, start a relationship, improve a relationship, travel the world. Perhaps you simply want to feel happier and more positive each day.
Maybe you need some positivity to help you cope with a disappointment, setback or even a trauma or tragedy.
Whatever it is, you may have decided that things need to improve and that what could help would be a more positive perspective and approach. You're right; a positive perspective and approach can help.
But is there really power in positive thinking? Yes.
The fact is, if you're not a positive thinker – if you don't have a positive attitude – there's not much that can make up for it. Money, education, talent and opportunities are all well and good but without positive thinking you can't really make the most of them. Other people can't be positive for you. They can be supportive and encouraging but then it's over to you.
There simply is no substitute for having your own positive attitude. It gives you the motivation, energy and ability to succeed, it enables you to be happy and keeps you going through the toughest times.
A positive attitude is the difference maker. So how can you get this difference maker in your life? This book will explain how.
Part 1 introduces you to the concepts of positive and negative thinking. It explains that what you think and say to yourself can have quite an impact on what you can and can't do. Think positively and you'll feel able to manage and do well. Let negative thoughts take a hold, and you're likely to feel overwhelmed and powerless.
So why, if negative thinking is so unhelpful to us, do we think in negative ways? Chapter 1 explains why. And there's a questionnaire for you to complete, which will give you an idea of just how negative or positive you currently are.
If you are more inclined to think in negative ways, the good news is that once you're more aware of your negative thoughts, you're in a better position to disempower them. In Chapter 2 you'll learn how to challenge negative thoughts and choose more helpful, positive ways of thinking.
You'll also learn about a new approach – a mindful approach – which suggests that instead of challenging negative thoughts, you simply accept and let go of those thoughts and turn your attention, time and energy to the outcomes you would really prefer.
Some people claim that positive thinking is unrealistic; that you can't get what you want in life simply by being positive and optimistic and suppressing or ignoring the negative aspects of life. It's true; that is unrealistic.
It's unrealistic because positive thinking is more than a way to manage your thoughts – positive thinking is about what you think and what you do. It involves being proactive. Positive thinking needs to be followed by positive action. Chapter 3 explains this. It explains what you can do to achieve your goals and get what you want and it explains how positive thinking can help support you in your efforts.
Whatever it is you want to do, though, whatever goals you're aiming to achieve, it's quite possible that despite your good intentions, you either can't get yourself started or you've got started but now you're flagging. Part 2 begins by explaining, in Chapter 4, a number of ways that you can develop your willpower and motivation and keep going.
With positive thinking, what you're aiming for is to make it a habit. A positive habit. Chapter 5 has a range of ideas, tips and techniques for establishing a positive mindset. You'll discover that the more you train your brain to think positively, the more likely you'll have helpful, positive thoughts and beliefs that will soon become your normal way of thinking.
Continuing with the theme of developing and maintaining positive thinking, Chapter 6 looks at the links between positive thinking, self-esteem and confidence. When your self-esteem is high, your thoughts and beliefs about yourself are positive; you feel good about yourself and you're more likely to believe that you can do things, things can turn out well and you can cope with setbacks. It's a helpful, positive dynamic where each aspect feeds into the other. Chapter 6 suggests a variety of ways that you can build your self-esteem and confidence and tap into that positive dynamic.
So far, then, so good. But what if you're currently facing challenges and setbacks? What if you've experienced trauma and even tragedy? How can positive thinking be of any real practical help?
So much of how we handle problems depends on how we make meaning out of our experiences.
Finding something positive in adversity doesn't mean denying how difficult or devastating the situation is, but it can help prevent you from being overwhelmed by the awfulness of it.
The final section of this book – Part 3 – looks at the role of positive thinking in a number of difficult and challenging situations.
Chapter 7 looks at managing, amongst other things, disappointment, guilt, regret and tragedy. It emphasizes the need for courage – the bravest, most intrepid form of positive thinking – and explains that, whatever the circumstances, you can see possibilities and find hope in the most difficult of times.
And finally, Chapter 8 looks at the sort of negative mindsets that can cause you stress and hold you back. It explains how to free yourself from, for example, a fear of failure and the unrealistic expectations that can often come with being a perfectionist.
The same principles of positive thinking – let go of negativity and instead focus on the positive – apply throughout Part 3. You'll find that they're emphasized as a way of dealing with the times that you might be inclined to negatively compare yourself with others. A key piece of advice here is to see other people as role models to learn from and be an inspiration to you rather than see others as people who are ‘better’ or have more than you.
In fact, throughout the book you will read stories of people who have used positive thinking to achieve their goals and overcome difficulties. Hopefully, their stories will inspire you; inspire you to view yourself, your abilities and experiences in a positive light and to approach life and its challenges with a positive outlook.
In the words of the writer Stephen King: ‘You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.'
So let's get started!
Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. Think positively and you're likely to enjoy positive results. Negative thinking, on the other hand, can lead to outcomes you'd rather not have. Negative thinking undermines your confidence. It contributes to indecision. It defeats you. It beats you. It creates the ‘bad luck’ that you'll later lament.
Think positively and you'll feel able to manage and do well. Think negatively and you're likely to feel overwhelmed and powerless. What you think and say to yourself can have quite an impact on what you can and can't do, as shown by this simple exercise. Try it for yourself. You'll need another person to help.
Ask the other person to stand and extend their dominant arm out horizontally, at shoulder level so that their arm is parallel with the floor.
Ask them to think of a time when they failed at something – a test or exam or job interview, for example. Then ask them to think negative thoughts about themselves: ‘I’m weak. I'm not as clever as other people. I'm hopeless. I'm pathetic, I'm not good at anything. I can't do this.'
Ask the person to continue thinking the negative things. Tell them you are going to stand behind them and attempt to pull their dominant arm down to their side. Ask them to resist you pulling their arm down.
Now, ask the person to hold their dominant arm up again at the shoulders, parallel to the floor.
This time, ask them to think of a time when they achieved something, succeeded and did well at something – passed a test or exam, got offered the job, did well in a sport, for example. Then ask them to think of positive things about themselves: ‘I try my best. I can do well. I feel good about myself. I am a good person. I am strong. I can do this.’
Ask them to repeat the positive statements to themselves while you attempt to pull their arm down to their side. Ask them to resist the pull.
Typically, in the first part of the exercise, the person's arm is more likely to give way to your pull. Negativity overwhelms them and it's not easy for them to be strong. However, when the person's thoughts are positive, their body has the ability to resist the force that's pulling their arm down. They are more likely to stay strong and resist your pull.
So what does this little experiment prove? It shows us the power of our thoughts over our bodies. When we think negative thoughts, we tend to zap our strength. When we have positive thoughts, we become stronger and are more in control.
You are what you think. And what you think, you are.
It's important to know, though, that neither negative thinking nor positive thinking is more real or true than the other. Either way of thinking could be real or true. But what does make one way of thinking more real is the one you choose to think and believe. As Shakespeare said, ‘For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
Your thoughts can be understood as your ‘self-talk’ or your ‘inner voice’. Your self-talk provides you with a running commentary rather like the constant text at the bottom of a 24-hour news channel. This self-talk directs your thinking and shapes your beliefs, expectations and actions.
Self-talk has a way of creating its own reality. Telling yourself you can do something can help it happen. Telling yourself you can't do something can make it more likely to be true. And because your brain speaks with your own voice, whatever it says, it feels real and it feels true.
To a greater or lesser extent, we simply accept particular beliefs and ways of thinking. That's all well and good if those thoughts are helpful and constructive. It's not so good if those ways of thinking are negative and produce thoughts and feelings that are unhelpful and self-defeating.
So if positive thinking is the most helpful, beneficial way to think, why do we think in negative ways? Let's start by trying to understand this.
Negative ways of thinking are an aspect of emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, disappointment, guilt, shame, regret, resentment and jealousy. Often, these emotions include thoughts such as ‘I can't do that’, ‘I’m scared', ‘It's not fair’, ‘I’m such an idiot', ‘It's his fault’, ‘It's her fault’, ‘Nothing ever goes right for me’ and ‘I wish I hadn't done that.’
We usually think of emotions like fear, worry, disappointment etc. as ‘negative emotions’. Why? Because they make us feel bad. And yet, these emotions, like all other emotions, do actually have a positive intent.
Take, for example, the emotion of guilt. Typically, the thoughts that accompany guilt are ‘I’ve screwed up, I shouldn't have done that, it's my fault. I feel bad about what I did.'
How can this way of thinking be positive? Well, the positive intent of guilt is to prompt you to recognize your wrongdoing and then to think about and take action to put right or make up for what you did wrong.
If, though, when you feel guilty you simply wallow in your guilt, beat yourself up about what you did wrong or try and suppress or deny how you feel, then your thoughts and actions (or lack of action) remain negative. Those thoughts and actions or inactions do you no good whatsoever.
The positive intentions of ‘negative’ emotions act in the same way as the positive intention of physical pain. If, for example, you touch something really hot, the pain makes you pull away. It feels bad, but the positive intention of that pain is to protect you. It's the same with emotional pain; it can prompt you to take positive action.
What about a difficult emotion such as regret? How can that be positive? The positive intent of regret is to prompt you to learn from what you now wish you had or hadn't done; to behave differently in future. Regret is only negative when you are stuck in regret; you allow it to keep you there and leave you feeling defeated and hopeless. But it's not the emotion that's negative, it's your thinking and lack of positive response!
Furthermore, the fact that you know that emotions such as guilt and regret make you feel bad can actually motivate you, too. They can motivate you not to do something that could result in you feeling guilty or regretful.
Emotions such as guilt, fear, anger, sadness and regret narrow your perspective and your thinking. There is a good reason for this; narrowed thinking focuses your attention on the ‘negative’ situation so that it becomes the only thing you can think about in order that you take action. Positive action. Again, just like putting your hand on something hot, all your attention is focused on it, and your response is positive (and quick!).
Supposing, for example, you're anxious about a test or an exam. The positive intent of anxiety is to focus your thoughts on what you need to revise. It starts to work against you, though, if the anxiety overwhelms you.
Or, supposing one Friday evening you notice a mole on your arm that seems different. You're worried about it. Worry forces you to think about little else over the weekend other than getting to see a doctor on Monday. It's annoying that you can think of little else, but the fact that you are so preoccupied makes it likely you'll go and see the doctor and get the mole checked out.
Another example of an emotion that narrows and focuses your thinking is sadness. Sadness helps you to slow down enough to take in and adjust to your loss.
Emotions such as sadness, anxiety, worry and guilt might not feel good yet they do have beneficial aspects if you respond to them positively. If you don't act positively on those emotions, if you let them overwhelm you, they can contract and distort your world and keep you feeling bad.
In contrast, ‘positive’ emotions such as hope, compassion and happiness and their associated positive thoughts, can expand your world and the possibilities in it.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson's research at the University of Carolina shows that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to see more possibilities and options in a range of situations in your life.
In an experiment by Fredrickson, groups of people were shown different film clips. The first two groups were shown clips that created feelings of contentment and joy. The last two groups were shown clips that provoked feelings of fear and anger. Afterwards, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar negative or positive feelings would arise and to write down as many ways as they could think of that they could respond.
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