The default setting of our minds is negative thinking. Whenever our focus is waning and our attention relaxed, our mind strays to the negative territory in no time.
The hold that negativity has on our minds is scary and disturbing. Negative thoughts are far more powerful than their positive counterparts. And, in the struggle for dominance, negativity is always the winner.
The reason for this is simple. We have a natural propensity to lean towards negativity. We tend to feel, store, and process negative information more than positive news. Though we understand that negative thoughts are harmful, we continue our association with them as we seem to enjoy them more. The plausible explanation for this is that our brains are hard-wired to be biased towards negative thinking.
However, we are very much aware of the harmful effects of entertaining negative thoughts and encouraging negativity in our lives. We know that we should ignore these bad emotions and embrace positivity for success and better life.
This is easier said than done. With the stranglehold that negativity has on our minds, it would be a herculean task to uproot it and plant the flag of positivity. This is where attitude exercises for positive thinking can come in handy.
These positive psychology exercises are carefully designed to eradicate negative thoughts from our minds and replace them with positivity.
You may also want to take a look at our guide on 6 examples of changing negative thoughts to positive.
This article offers 8 positive psychology exercises that can help you shift your mindset to positive thinking.
Exercises for positive thinking
The core idea behind these attitude exercises is that people can lead a happy, peaceful, meaningful, and content life if they can manage to shift their mental focus from negative to a more balanced perspective.
The often-adopted practices to enable this switch to a positive mindset are affirmations, gratitude journaling, and loving-kindness meditation. Extremely effective though these methods are, they work for some but not for everyone. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of situation.
As most of our minds and their workings remain a mystery to us, we can only develop and adopt more novel practices to help more people find their footing in life.
Here are some more ways to shift your mindset to positive thinking.
1. Positive recollections
The goal of this exercise is to develop positive emotions through lingering in and relishing memories. Positive reminiscing is about savoring the past.
This relates to deliberately raising your awareness of pleasure and enhancing your capacity to accept, acknowledge, appreciate, and retain the memory of positive events. Savoring involves the intentional use of your emotions and actions to boost the appreciation, intensity, and duration of positive emotions and experiences from the past.
For this exercise, there is no need to look for massive positive experiences from the past. Learning to enjoy small pleasures in life is key to happiness and a content life.
Coping with negativity and savoring positivity are considered two sides of the coin of life. Improving your skill in both can help you lead a life free from stress, worries, anxiety, and fear.
2. Sensory perception
A mindfulness practice, this exercise involves tuning into your five senses and learning to derive pleasure, delight, and comfort from life experiences.
This exercise trains you not to just respond to what is happening to you but to become aware of and engage with the sensory experiences during these events. Mindfulness helps in training and nourishing your ability to bring into the center stage of your consciousness, the positive reactions felt by your sensory organs.
Instead of skimming through these events and not deriving pleasure from them, you learn to pause, stop, and notice what is happening. Involving the sensory organs in the experience will help you retain the memories of the event and recollect them. And this helps in filling your mind with positivity.
3. Gratitude by conscious removal
Feeling grateful is always part of positive thinking practices. That is feeling thankful for all the blessings and good happenings in your life. Gratitude by mental elimination is going a step further with this process.
This exercise involves mentally cutting or detaching positive experiences from the past instead of intentionally lingering on them and acknowledging their presence in your life. You actively delete the memory of the positive experience from your data bank of memories and evaluate how your life would have been without this event.
By doing this, you realize how fortunate you are and how empty or depleted your life would be now without this particular incident in the past.
The experience for this exercise need not be huge successes or insanely happy events. It can be everyday occurrences that brought you happiness and fulfillment.
4. Pause for self-compassion
As we are all aware, we are our own worst critics and this can be the cause of a host of negativity in our lives. Practicing kindness and compassion towards ourselves is the key to eliminate this from our lives.
This exercise involves pausing in your daily activities long enough to develop a more compassionate view of past incidents. You may not be happy with your reaction or how you handled the situation. And this may lead to stress, anxiety, and discomfort.
You can eliminate these emotions of suffering by taking a more lenient or sympathetic look at the said incident. This exercise is not about shifting the blame elsewhere. It is more about making peace with it and being more kind to yourself.
Self-compassion takes out negative feelings and allows you to experience more positivity, fulfillment, well-being, and improved relationships.
5. Self-help vision board
As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Images are more impactful and last longer in your mind than repeating the same idea verbally. The success of the vision board in positive thinking is proof of this.
This exercise involves creating a vision board exclusively aimed at improving your attitude towards yourself. Self-care is about taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. In this exercise, you encourage yourself to indulge in pleasures and concentrate on things that make you happy.
This helps in raising awareness about the importance of self-care and cultivating self-compassion. This practice of self-empathy helps in boosting mental health and immunity and lowers mental suffering like stress, anxiety, and fear.
The idea behind this exercise is to come up with positive activities you want to do, can do, and would enjoy doing. Care should be taken to avoid activities you feel you should do. Find images and inspiring quotes associated with the activities chosen and assemble them into a vision board. Place it in a place you see often. Every time you come across this, it will serve as a reminder for indulging in more self-care.
6. Daily motivational recognition
The more success you have, the more positive your mindset will be. And the key to success is self-motivation. This positive affirmation exercise is aimed at developing and enhancing awareness about your motivations in everyday life.
In this activity, you are required to take a few moments during the day and contemplate things that excite and motivate you. You need to do this multiple times a day to derive the maximum benefit.
As you rummage in your mind for information, you can write them down for later reference. Following this process every day, you will be left with a pile of information on what motivates you. You can compile this information to understand how far your motivations are self-determined.
The same exercise can also be carried out without recording the findings. It will be useful for immediate insights into your impulses and motivations.
7. Benefit awareness
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Meaning, you can find something positive in the bleakest of situations, only if you care to look for it.
As this exercise requires expert guidance, it is ideal to perform with the help of a therapist. In this, you are asked to recount a traumatic experience from the past. You are allowed to freely express your thoughts about the incident but try to avoid drawing inferences and interpretations of the same.
Once you are finished recounting the past, your attention is actively directed towards a positive aspect of the experience. With questions such as, “What did the experience teach you?” or “Did it equip you to deal with similar incidents in the future?”.
The recollection of the incident may trigger suppressed negative emotions in you. The presence of a therapist can help in ensuring that things do not get out of hand and control the damage. With these nudging questions, a therapist can turn your attention to look at the positive side of the event.
8. Journaling about positive experiences
Similar to a gratitude journal, which is a time-tested method to raise your positivity, writing about positive incidents from your past can lead to enhanced levels of happiness and fulfillment.
Dwelling on a past event that you relished and gave you happy memories can evoke positive emotions in you. Instead of merely thinking about it, when you are writing it down, you tend to derive more out of the experience.
Writing helps you stay focused on the topic and ensure that the positive emotions stay longer with you. This exercise sees to it that the incident stays on the top of your mind.
Positive thinking is an empowering and motivational way to shape your life. For more details, see our article on the advantages of positive thinking.
Even as some of the positive thinking exercises listed above can be practiced without external help, some others require expert guidance from a therapist. It is always advisable to take help from a professional in matters related to your mental health.
Many of these positive affirmation activities for adults offer the best results when done in groups. When you participate in the happiness activities for groups, it can change your mindset to positive thinking in no time.