When life hits, it tends to hit hard. It can often seem as though it’s one thing after another, dragging you further and further down like quicksand. How did you get here? When did life become so cruel?
While it may seem like the universe is out to get you, intriguing research suggests otherwise. Our thoughts and emotions have a powerful impact on our ability to rise, flourish, and reach success. By learning how to govern our thoughts to censor the negatives and bolster the positives, we can send ourselves on an upward spiral of happiness and success.
Let’s explore the upward spiral effect driven by positive emotions, and how you can use it to reach your goals.
What is an Upward Spiral?
Unlike a downward spiral which symbolizes a decline, an upward spiral is a metaphor for advancement. It is used to explain a continuous process of upward growth mobilized by self-reinforcing thoughts.
So, what exactly creates an upward spiral? Positive thoughts. It sounds simple, but your thoughts have a huge impact on many aspects of your life. Not only can positive thinking improve your relationships, your confidence, and even your physical health, it can also counteract negative emotions.
When you think about it, negative emotions bring on a whole load of problems. Negativity leads to fear, anxiety, and low-self esteem. It leads a person to focus on everything that could go wrong, rather than everything that could go right. Shifting to a positive mindset overrides that pessimistic thinking and allows you to truly flourish.
Positive thinking and it’s power to self-generate an upward spiral is a concept from Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory. This theory asserts that positive emotions broaden one’s attention and cognition, and therefore initiates upward spirals of emotional and physical self-development.
5 Exercises to Increase Positive Thoughts & Create Your Upward Spiral
Positive thinking sounds like a simple concept, but many of us are hardwired to hold onto negativity more so than positivity. It takes hard work and conscious effort to shift our brain from negative to positive.
Here are some practical exercises to get those positive emotions running and create your upward spiral.
1. Try the “Three Good Things” Exercise
This classic technique, developed by the founding father of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, is one of the easiest ways to boost positive emotions. It’s simple, but it works wonders.
The exercise entails writing down three things that went well each day. In his research, participants who did this for one week increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months.
If you want a quick, simple, and cost-free way to start your upward spiral, try doing this exercise every day.
2. Live a Balanced Life
Life can become overwhelming, and it’s easy to get stuck in the “work” aspect of it all. Whether you’re striving for a job promotion, shooting for straight A’s in school, or working towards a healthier body, don’t forget to live the rest of your life. Focusing too much on one thing can become tiresome and potentially lead to negative thoughts.
Work hard but balance it with fun. Spend time with your family, designate space for your hobbies, and don’t forget to relax every now and again! A balanced life cultivates a balanced mind.
3. Be More Mindful
Negativity abounds because we are not conscious of our thoughts. We often react to life’s events with abrupt emotion rather than rational, attentive thinking. The trick here is to be mindful.
In essence, mindfulness is being conscious and aware of your thoughts. It entails living presently in the moment, rather than dwelling on past failures or worries about future possibilities. It also involves the self-regulation of thoughts. In other words, being mindful means to intentionally monitor and direct your attitude away from the negative and into the positive.
Mindfulness has tremendous benefits including:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Increased happiness
- Improved life satisfaction
- Enhanced physical and mental wellbeing
With all of these benefits, it makes sense that mindfulness fosters positivity and growth.
4. Get Your Body Moving
It’s long been known that exercise produces a myriad of physical benefits and can protect against illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Well, it can also benefit your brain!
Physical activity can boost your mood, decrease stress levels, and upgrade your self-esteem. In fact, exercise is great for lowering depression, but has an even greater effect on decreasing anxiety, because it has a similar effect on brain functioning that antidepressant drugs do.
Because exercise has such a beneficial impact on mood, it’s a great tool to foster positive thoughts.
5. Reframe Your Thoughts
Our mood and well being are greatly influenced by how we perceive the world around us. Consider how you see the world. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you tend to focus on what you don’t have or are you grateful for what you do have?
When adversity strikes, how do you react? With hope and determination to pull through? Or with anger, resentment and a feeling that the world is against you? Developing the right tools to cope with adversity can promote positivity, resilience, and success.
Here are some simple steps to reframing negative thoughts:
Step 1: Identify the Problem & Negative Emotion
Before you can reframe your thoughts, you need to identify what the thoughts are. Use these questions as a guide:
- What negative thought am I thinking?
- What is the problem that is causing this negative thought?
- How am I limiting myself with this thought?
It’s a common assumption for people to think that they need to be “in shape” before they can train at a gym. Let’s use this thought as an example and answer the above questions.
- The negative thought is “I am not fit enough to go to a gym.”
- The problem causing this thought is that I am not satisfied with my fitness level.
- I am limiting myself with this thought by not allowing myself a place to start because I think I have to be perfect from the beginning.
Can you see how a negative thought can hinder your goals? Now let’s look at how to work through that thought and develop it into something productive:
Step 2: Challenge the Thought
Once you’ve identified the negative thought, it’s time to challenge it. Here are some further questions to ask yourself:
- Is this thought valuable?
- Is this idea based on fact backed by evidence or is it an assumption?
- Will this mindset help me to advance or is it holding me back?
Let’s continue on with the example above to challenge our negative thought and answer these questions:
- The thought that I am not fit enough to go to a gym is not valuable, because it is preventing me from getting started on my goals.
- There is no evidence to support that I am not fit enough, as there is no minimum fitness requirement for starting at a gym. This thought is based on my assumption of myself.
- This mindset will not help me to advance, rather, it is holding me back from going to the gym and improving my fitness level.
When you start to challenge your way of thinking, you’ll realize, more often than not, that it is not serving you in any way.
Step 3: Replace the Negative with a Positive
Once you’ve built a case against your unproductive thought patterns, it’s time to replace it with new and improved logic. For example, instead of thinking “I am not fit enough to go to a gym” think “I am not yet where I want to be, but I know I will get there with hard work.”
It’s important to be realistic with your thoughts, but keep them positive and uplifting.
Step 4: Come Up with a New Solution
Now that you have a more positive frame of mind think of a new solution to your problem. Decide on what you DO have and what you CAN accomplish to move you towards your goal.
Using our example, let’s come up with a solution to our problem. Instead of fearing the gym, you might give them a call and let them know you’re interested in joining, but you’re worried because you’re a beginner. Ask them what resources they have for beginners, and if someone can help you modify your workouts.
Take the first step towards creating your upward spiral and book a session with Gloveworx today!