A common aphorism says that “things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
Of course, saying this is a lot easier than making it so in our own lives . . . especially when things don’t seem to be going our way. Psychologists who study behavior and thought patterns have found that up to 80 percent of our mental chatter—the 50,000 or so thoughts that occur spontaneously throughout any given day—are negative. It’s no wonder that so many of us get discouraged so easily!
The good news is that we have control over our thoughts, and because we have control, we also have the power to change the percentage of negative thoughts we have each day. As you start this new year, try picking up these five habits to change your thinking and make 2018 full of positivity.
1. Talk to yourself.
It may sound silly, but talking to yourself can slowly change the way you think. A positive affirmation is something you say to yourself repeatedly and out loud that becomes imprinted on your mind. The more you say it, the more you believe it. Motivational speaker and author Louise Hay describes affirmations this way: “An affirmation opens the door. It’s a beginning point on the path to change. In essence, you’re saying to your subconscious mind: ‘I am taking responsibility. I am aware that there is something I can do to change.’ When I talk about doing affirmations, I mean consciously choosing words that will either help eliminate something from your life or help create something new in your life.”
The best way to start using affirmations is to stand in front of a mirror at the start of each day and repeat out loud a positive statement about yourself. As the day goes on and you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, try speaking aloud another affirmation. Over time, you will begin to believe these affirmations and act on them. Some great affirmations include:
“I am the architect of my life. I choose how it’s built.”
“I am energetic and capable of accomplishing many things today.”
“I have many talents I will use today.”
“I have many blessings in my life that bring me joy.”
“I will do (insert something important you want to do that day) well and happily.”
When you say an affirmation, try adding another ritual-like activity to it, such as diffusing or applying an essential oil. Doing so has the benefit of associating the aroma with the positive thought and then being able to remember that thought by simply reapplying or breathing in the essential oil throughout the day or week. One of my favorite oils for affirmations is frankincense, sometimes referred to as the father of essential oils. Frankincense is ideal for purging our negative thoughts and reminding us that we are loved. I suggest pairing it with these affirmations:
“I trust myself and remain calm at all times.”
“I am safe.”
“I am supported and unconditionally loved.”
“My needs are being met.”
2. Count your blessings.
A lot of times we get so caught up in negativity that we forget just how blessed we really are. A great daily habit is to write down three blessings or things you have to be grateful for. Write down whatever comes to mind, whether it’s small and simple or grand and impressive. Some days you might need to include things you typically take for granted, like having a roof over your head or clothes to wear or a body that gets you to and from places.
“The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” says Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude.
“It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide,” Emmons said.
If you’re having a particularly hard time thinking positively, consider creating a longer list of blessings. In fact, you may want to create a list of liabilities versus blessings and try comparing them. Think of every blessing you have: clothes to wear, a roof over your head, a shower and soap, clean air to breathe, and so on. Chances are that the blessings list will be much longer than the liabilities list. When you see your list, you’ll be able to stop focusing on only the negative and truly recognize how much positive there is.
Ginger (zingibar officinale) is a great essential oil to diffuse as you make your list and count your blessings. It is the ultimate encourager and helps you to live in the present. It works well on its own or when paired with citrus oils. A fabulous blend suitable for diffusing is 3 drops wild orange, 2 drops ylang-ylang, and 2 drops ginger.
Try to find at least three people to smile at each day. The act of smiling does many things. It brightens the day of those who see us smile. It encourages others to smile back at us, which provides a moment of acceptance and assurance. It makes us appear more loving and trustworthy, which draws people to us and in turn makes us feel loved. It makes us think about what we have to be happy about. Indeed, smiling creates a powerful feedback loop for the brain. Almost every time you smile, you get something in return. And, the more often you smile, the more often that return presents itself. As a bonus, it costs nothing to smile and takes very little time.
One recent study found that the emotional faces a person makes actually influence the way a person is feeling. So, as you smile—or frown, for that matter—your brain takes notice and begins to align itself with the emotion your face is communicating.
Try inhaling or applying lime essential oil while repeating the affirmation “I feel energized and uplifted by my life.” Then smile at the next person you see. I promise it will lift your mood.
Incorporating regular service into your life will not only infuse others with gratitude but do wonders for your mood. As you serve others—in soup kitchens, at homeless shelters, in hospitals, at assisted living facilities, in first responder careers, at elementary schools—you begin to learn about their lives. And as you learn about their lives, you begin to appreciate and understand their struggles. This builds gratitude for your own blessings and courage to face your own struggles. It also builds love and happiness. And it distracts us from our own troubles for a time.
Service can be transformative! This is especially true in those times when you feel most overburdened or discouraged yourself. Taking the time to pause from your own concerns and help another person is a powerful reminder that we’re not alone. A 2015 study found that stressed individuals who serve others despite their own worries find immediate relief as they serve. Simply put, those who do more for others are more likely to have positive and happy feelings.
It might not be counted as service, but gift-giving can also bring positivity into your life. Essential oils make great gifts! I love making my own aromatic body wash with some wild orange essential oil and packaging it in a cute bottle to give to friends who need a boost or just more ways to relax.
To make the body wash, combine 10 tablespoons unscented castile soap, 2 teaspoons sweet almond oil, 2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin, 1 teaspoon liquid vitamin E, and 40 drops wild orange essential oil in a large bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined, pour into containers, and share with your friends.
5. Focus on the present.
Buddha taught that “The secret of health for both body and mind is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” The only thing you can do right now is make the moment you’re in successful. You can’t change the past, and tomorrow is yet to come. But you do have control over how you act today in the here and now.
Remember this and use Buddha’s adage to encourage you to seize the moment. In your mad rush to accomplish everything on your to-do list each day, try to slow down and really focus on the task at hand. To do so, get in touch with your senses. Ask yourself what the task really looks like and how it feels. For example, if your task is making dinner, think about how wonderful and woodsy the herbs smell or what the knife feels like in your hands as your chop and slice and dice or what the sizzle of oil sounds like in a hot pan. Use these thoughts to block out everything else that is going on and become mindful of only what you’re doing. Try this with several tasks each day—with your children, at work, during your workout, while meditating. As you practice being mindful of the present moment, you’ll find yourself feeling more in tune and connected. This is especially true when those moments involve other people. If you find your mind sneaking away during these moments, tell yourself, “No, I’m not doing that right now. I will not worry about it.”
Of course, you can’t feel and do this in every single moment, but trying to practice it in select moments throughout the day can be freeing and fulfilling.
An easy way to practice being mindful of the present is to learn to meditate. Begin by sitting alone in a dark, comfortable space with your favorite essential oil being diffused in the background (a good one to try is vetiver). Sit quietly in a comfortable position but with your back straight. For a set time (even 2 minutes can work), close your eyes and focus on nothing but your breathing. When other thoughts attempt to intrude, push them out and begin again to pay attention only to your breath and how it enters and exits your lungs. Do this daily or whenever you find yourself worried about the future or focusing on the past.
So there you have it: five habits for a more positive you and a more positive year. Start practicing them today and be prepared to see your life—and your mood—improve.