“You are what you eat” has a nice ring, but it isn’t quite true. If you eat carbs, you don’t turn into a carb. “You are what you think” is a more accurate saying. Unsurprisingly, those who think negative thoughts become negative, and those who think positive thoughts are positive.
It’s common to retreat into your mind and think throughout the day. You might notice that there’s almost a “narrator” in your brain that churns out a flow of thoughts and ideas, even commenting on what you’re doing.
No, you’re not crazy, it’s completely normal to have a constant train of thought. However, you might not pay much attention to it. That’s a good thing in many ways, because you probably want to focus on what you’re doing.
That train of thought could be influencing your life more than you realize. For example, people who think positive thoughts are at less risk for heart attack and stroke. One study followed people who had a family history of heart disease (meaning they’re at a high risk). The researchers found that people who were labeled as positive thinkers were 33% less likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke than negative thinkers.
Another study on college students found that students who identified as positive thinkers had less anxiety, depression, and greater success than their negative counterparts. It’s hard to say if negative thoughts cause mental health issues, but they certainly don’t help.
Interestingly, many people who identify as “positive thinkers” believe that it’s a built-in trait. In other words, that’s just their personality. That’s not entirely true, but it might seem like you’re stuck in whatever thought pattern you currently have. If you’re positive you’re probably healthier and have greater life satisfaction than someone who’s negative. It’s hard to be positive when things aren’t going your way.
Luckily, your disposition isn’t set in stone. You can use a technique called reframing to cultivate positive thoughts. The first step is to figure out when you’re going down a negative rabbit hole. When you catch yourself getting frustrated or upset, say out loud or write down your thoughts.
Sometimes, all you need to do is make yourself aware of how negative your thoughts are. To take it a step further, try to reframe each negative thought. Pause for a minute and think about how you can reframe the situation to draw something positive from it. When you have an idea, write it down or say it out loud.
Over time, you’ll start to think more positively. Another trick is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you sense a train of negative thoughts coming, you snap the rubber band against your wrist. It will literally snap you out of your thoughts! As with anything this requires time and effort, but it’ll pay off in the long run.