Positive thinking is a habit. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, but choosing to focus (or find) the good over the bad is a choice.
But a study by Christine Porath discovered that thoughts carry ten times more power if they’re spoken out loud. The experiment also went on to find that negative thoughts have four to seven times more power than a positive one.
That means, if you say a single negative thought out loud, it can be up to 70 times more powerful than a single positive thought.
But it makes it easier to see why we, as humans, gets stuck in negative thought patterns. How could we not, when it holds that much more power? Additionally, other studies have shown that negative news is perceived to be more truthful.
When it comes down to it, negative thinking just has more bang for its buck.
I wanted to run my own experiment. Not too long ago, I’d found my own thoughts becoming more and more fixated on the “bad”, and finding it harder to find any “good”. I wanted to switch that balance back.
The problem was, a lot of our thinking happens (rather ironically) without us thinking about it. And I couldn’t sit around all day noticing and amending every single thought I had – I still had a life to live!
So I came up with a simple plan: anytime I found myself thinking something negative, I had to immediately think of two positive thoughts to counteract it.
Can you become more positive?
The first day, I found myself having to come up with a lot of alternative positive thoughts. Almost every thought I noticed needed two positive ones – way more than I’d realised or expected.
But very quickly, my thinking began to change. Within just a couple of days, I was catching negative thoughts significantly fewer times. After about a week, I was barely having to counteract any at all.
I decided there were three main possibilities for this:
- The experiment had made me realise just how negatively I’d been thinking, and being aware of this had helped to curb it.
- Coming up with two positive thoughts for every negative one took time and effort, and so, in an effort to be lazy, my brain stopped thinking of negative thoughts and jumped straight to a positive (a bit like how negative reinforcement works).
- Two positive thoughts quickly outweighed the one negative, so thinking positive became the new habit.
Regardless of why, the challenge definitely helped me get out of my negative rut. I began feeling much happier, even though none of my circumstances had changed, and I was more hopeful, kinder, and (weirdly) began believing in myself more.
The experiment also helped me realise how little attention I’d been paying to my own internal dialogue; it’s so important we tune in and listen to what we’re telling ourselves on a daily basis, and this challenged reminded me how to do that.
How to think more positively
I recommended everyone give it a go – just try for a week and see what happens. I’m not consciously looking to catch negative thoughts in order to counteract them anymore, but I do still think of two positive ones if I happen to notice one.
And I think I will make the effort to fully repeat the challenge every now and again – to check I’m still paying attention to what’s always running through my head and remind me to keep tuned in.
If you decide to give this a go, please let me know how it goes by commenting below – I’d really love to hear about your experience!