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Thoughts on Positive Thinking
As I get older, I think more about the value of positive thinking.
That’s right, I’m in that spot in life where I think about thinking. What a place to be!
You get through your twenties where all you think about is random crap that you now can’t believe you got so caught up in when you were younger.
You know, stuff like how much school or work sucks, how bad your young adult relationships are, or how this video game is better than the video game someone on the internet likes(apply this to any other interest like sports or books or whatever).
In general, it’s all sorts of bullshit that ultimately doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. However, at that point it seems like it’s such a big part of your life that you can’t imagine how it couldn’t have a huge impact on your future. There’s all sorts of other things but listing them all would be a big endeavor and I could never capture what everyone seems to value that ultimately doesn’t have much true worth. And yes, there are naturally things that matter at that point but so many of us, myself included, seem to miss a lot of those when we’re young.
However, eventually something happens. It’s not the case for everyone but it was the case for me.
What drives that something is different for all but eventually you realize how much of your focus is on just pure worthless garbage. For, it was whet I hit my mid 30s, settled down a bit and saw my priorities change.
Now, I started to think about other nonsense like the the meaning of life, the future and stuff you thought was mostly bullshit when you were 20 like positive thinking and personal growth. I’m not saying one is more important than the other but I know that the fulfillment you get from one eclipses the other for me.
As my 30s started, I found myself in that spot, where the things I found important were changing in a big way but still found myself struggling with my thought process and approach to it all. It’s not an easy transition and one I struggled with a bit but sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to point you in the right direction.
A couple of months ago, I read a comment on a Reddit thread where a user talked about a journal he was keeping. It was one that pushed forward the idea that a change in thinking is possible but requires work. In this post the user talked about his own journey and how using this journal changed his entire mindset. I thought about it a bit and came to realize that, often, in the end, this type of journey can come down to that important word; mindset.
I was thinking about my own mindset and approach to life as I read this post especially in the backdrop of what was going on in the world at the time. After all, this hasn’t been an easy year for anyone.
I don’t remember the entire post anymore but the gist of it was that he was more content now than he was before he started doing it.
My younger self would scoff as I usually would when I heard about this type of new age stuff. Positive thinking? Sounds like a waste of time!
However, there were a few more comments beyond that one where people extolled the value of keeping a journal and the positive effects it can have that got me interested into looking into it more.
After all, I was all about that self-improvement hype these days so why not give it a try. Plus, this specific journal was something that only took a few minutes a day so it was perfect for lazy old me. As all people, I want change, but I don’t really want to work too hard on it! Is that too much to ask?
In all seriousness, here’s why I wanted to try this and why that thread resonated with me.
I know that I’m a pretty negative person. I mean this in the sense that I KNOW my life is pretty good and yet my outlook on the future is often pretty bleak. I am fully aware of that and yet I’ve always struggled to change it. This sounded like a way to work on that.
I’m not sure why I’ve always been this way. I’ve struggled with anxiety and that can always impact how you approach certain things. Also, I’m sure growing up in Poland and being raised by parents who grew up under a communist regime as well as living briefly under one myself probably had some effect. Communism seems to instill a sense of bleakness into you and that’s something I’ve struggled with getting over as I became an adult.
Don’t get me wrong. My parents are great people, they brought us to the states and gave us an opportunity they didn’t have, but that sense of the grim reality of life that exists in some of the former eastern bloc countries permeated our lives when I was younger even as things got better and better. It can often be hard to get out of that mindset when you spend your formative years being surrounded by it.
Whatever it is, I’ve always had this negative mindset and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to turn that internal frown upside down through the power of positive thinking!
What is Positive Thinking?
I guess before we started talking about the journal, it’s important to level set about positive thinking.
Positive thinking is the go to in the world of self-help and is essentially exactly what it sounds like.
The idea behind is is simple. You try to ignore the negative things in your life and instead focus on the positive. You picture yourself doing well, ignore and get over stumbles and end up on the other side as a person with a healthy outlook on life and a positive mindset. It clearly won’t remove those negative things from your life but it will change the way you approach and react to them.
Throw in a bit of self-help reading, maybe some counseling and you’re well on your way to being a happy person.
I’ve read a variety of books on the topic. After all, as I got older, I wanted to improve myself in one way or another and changing your mindset is one common way to go about it. It certainly applied to me.
Positive thinking is also a commonly covered topic in a bevy of books that deal with mental struggles, negativity, anxiety and anger. I’ve got some of those things! Some of those books tie in spirituality and self-respect and all sorts of other things that didn’t really resonate with me but the general idea is the same. In essence, it’s the idea that if you think and focus on the good things in life, you’ll get more of them sent your way or perhaps you’ll just notice them more when they happen.
It’s about training yourself to be thankful for the things that go your way and to float past and ignore the things that don’t.
However, at the end of the day, I’ve found that a lot of these books left me wanting for an actual way of doing it. It’s easy to say “picture yourself succeeding” or “ignore negative thoughts and focus on the positive thoughts” but uh, how the hell do I do all that?
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an answer to that in any of the books I’ve read. Perhaps, I just haven’t been reading the right ones but I have read a good portion of the more recommended ones out there.
To young me, it sounded like a bunch of nonsense and to older me, it was difficult to put those things into practice and more importantly, to stick with them.
It might work for some people who read those books and have an “aha” light bulb moment but it wasn’t there for me. After all, if I’m naturally an anxious, glass half full empty type, it’s hard to just flip the switch and become positive just by uh, thinking positively(which is what these books told me to do).
It’s like telling an anxious person to just stop being anxious, it’s not that easy.
That’s especially true in a year like this one which, in simple terms, sucks the big one.
Still, I’ve always believed that there’s something to this concept and the value it can bring to your life. I’d much rather be a positive thinker with a good outlook on the future than be on the other side. My outlook on things has certainly gotten rosier as I aged but my glass still wasn’t anywhere close to being half full.
That’s why this journal sounded like a cool thing to try because it was actually a legitimate way TO DO something that would help me become a positive thinker.
Taking Five Minutes a Day to Build a Positive Mindset
In June of this year, I purchase a copy of that journal for myself and my wife and decided to give it a try.
What is the journal? Well, it’s called The Five-Minute Journal and it is a pretty simple concept.
It helps that it’s a nice hardcover book with a built in bookmark to keep track of your days but what really makes it work is how easy it is to follow and do. There’s some introductory text about the principles behind positive thinking and then you get into the meat of the journal which is a bunch of blank pages that look like this.
First, there’s a motivating quote every day from someone being positive. In this case, we’ve got Bojack Horseman and Confucius. Once a week, there’s a weekly challenge for you to do instead of a quote. It’s simple but valuable stuff like call your mom, dad or other family member just to say Hi.
After that you’ve got the actual journal part of it that you get to fill out.
It looks like this once you’re done. This is one of mine from September during the heat of the summer.
I liked that weekly challenge too. It’s simple quick and the items in question don’t have to be anything amazing. Hey we had a damn good cookie at that outdoor birthday party, what a killer day!
It looks the same every day and that’s kind of the beauty of it. Every morning, you write down three things.
- I am grateful for..
- What would make today great?
- I am…
Then at night, you write down two things.
- 3 amazing things that happened today
- How could I have made today even better?
That’s it. It’s simple, easy to do and easy to follow. There is some thought you have to put into it each morning as you don’t want to write down the same exact thing each day but that’s really the idea behind it. It gets you thinking about what you can do make your day better and what minor or major things stood out as making it excellent.
The question is, does it work?
I actually think so.
I started this in June and haven’t missed a day since. My wife has been doing it as well since it seemed like a great way for us to focus on the good things in our lives as the world around us struggled to bring that positivity into our lives.
And I think it’s actually worked. We are both in a pretty good spot right now mentally even though we’re not able to do lot of things we love and I believe a part of it is because we’ve been doing this journal through these difficult times.
I like it because it’s such a simple exercise but it really makes you think about what went well during your day. Even on bad days when work sucks or there’s some bad news going around, I can write down something good before I go to sleep.
It makes me realize more and more that there’s always something good going on every single day. Those good things might be small but they still matter and they are what makes it a life well lived.
The time spent with my wife, snuggles with the dog, hanging out with friends and family when we can, good food(even breaking keto for some pizza and chocolate chip cookies during a small outdoors birthday party for my nephew), a day off, air conditioning during the summer, heating during the winter, having a job in this difficult time and being safe and sound. It’s all an amazing gift that I’ve often taken for granted but I really don’t anymore.
Every day seems to have more value because I look forward to these positive moments and do my best to not focus on the negative ones.
That’s a big change in my mindset.
Yesterday was a perfect example of a fantastic day I wouldn’t have found all that impressive before. It snowed and was freezing outside but I was at home, my wife was at home, we burned a scented candle and watched the snow fall outside our window. We have some flexibility to work at home during inclement weather and this was a great time to take advantage of that. Sure I still had to work but this wasn’t a bad way to do it especially on a Friday. I felt content and happy.
It wasn’t anything crazy but the more I thought about it, it really was an amazing day because I spent it with someone I love in the comfort of a warm home. How lucky am I to be able to have that and be able to do that?
I feel that way quite regularly these days and find myself ignoring the bad things more often. That’s a lot easier when your focus is on the good.
The journal does a good job of helping you do that and best of all it’s only a few minutes each morning and each night. I’m glad to have found it this year because it’s certainly harder to focus on those good things during a time like this.
There’s a lot of things we can’t do this year. We can’t see family or friends and are limited in what we can do but in the end I am lucky to be where I am and to be as fortunate as I am in a world like this and this journal makes me put that at the forefront every single day.
I go to bed with a positive thought in my mind and wake up with a goal to start the day off on a positive note.
That’s another benefit of the journal. It’s very useful as a motivational tool for me. What would make today great? Well what if I walked 10,000 steps? It certainly makes me remember that goal and push me towards it before the day is through. That way, I can write it down as an amazing thing that happened today.
The user who wrote that reddit post way back when wasn’t kidding. It’s a simple thing but it can really change your mindset if you’re looking for something like that.
All the self-help books I’ve ever read didn’t do that for me but actually putting a bit of work into it and forcing my brain to focus on the positive seems to work. Best of all, it’s simple and that’s why it’s great. The journal is right there by my bed so that it can be the first thing I write in every morning and the last thing I write in every night.
In the end, I would recommend this to anyone who’s in the same rut as me. If you think that your mindset needs a change then this is the perfect way to do that. Best of all, since the company basically shows you what the journal is, you can basically do it on your own in a word document if the cost is a struggle.
However, knowing myself, I know that the journal itself and having a copy of it by my bed is key in actually sticking with it so I recommend picking it up here if you can. You can also check out the company’s website as well. At the end of the day, it’s important that you do it every day for an extended period of time. I didn’t notice any major changes until I was at least a month into the process and it seems to get more impactful the more I do it.
At this point, I’m about four months in and plan to continue this as long as I can. It’s a simple but excellent way to focus on the good things in your life and that’s pretty damn important especially right now. As smart guy and good writer, Paulo Coelho says, “the simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”