The way that you think is a habit.
One of the best ways to improve your life (in just about every area) is to improve the way that you think.
Better thoughts = A happier, more productive life.
It’s that simple.
But, if you’re a pessimistic person – if you’ve trained yourself to unconsciously assume the worst and expect negativity in the world around you, overcoming those patterns is not always easy.
Fortunately, there’s a clear path you can follow. In this post I’ll lay out exactly how you can stop being pessimistic and begin to live a more optimistic, joyful, and inspired life.
Note: If you’re serious about changing your thoughts, I recommend you check out my Positive Thinking Playbook, which offers a clear system for reprogramming your mind and learning how to feel better, every day.
How To Overcome Pessimistic Thoughts
Step 1: Understand That Pessimism Is A Choice
The first step to stopping pessimistic thoughts is to understand that they are a choice that you are making.
This step is essential, yet many people overlook it. When we feel negative, we have a tendency to think that we are a victim of our thoughts (and the world around us), and forget to realize that every thought we think is a choice.
Let that idea sink in.
Every thought you think is a choice.
Understanding this point is incredibly empowering. Even if you don’t like your current thoughts, recognizing that they are a choice puts you in a position to change them.
Making this shift is always the first step. Becoming optimistic is about training your mind to focus on the good in every situation.
Step 2: Catch Yourself – Notice Pessimistic Thoughts
Once you know that change is possible for you, you can start the process of reshaping your thoughts. To do that, you must first become intimately aware of how negative thinking influences your life.
Practice observing your thoughts. Every time you feel negative, or think a pessimistic thought, take a few seconds to recognize that the thought was negative.
This process serves two purposes:
- It causes you to become acutely aware of how out of control you are of your own negative thoughts, and
- It helps you to detach from those thoughts. As you observe, you begin to see that they do not define you, and reinforce the belief that your thoughts are a choice.
Step 3: Take a Breath
As you become more aware of these negative thoughts, it’s time to continue to detach from them.
The best way to do this is simply to take time to breathe. You cannot overcome negativity from the feeling of negativity, so when you are caught up in a pessimistic thought, you cannot, in that moment, change the thought.
You need space.
I call this the process of stepping back. (Watch this video to learn how to do it…)
While I recommend that process, at its core, this step is just about finding space, and taking time to re-center your awareness. There are many breath exercises and pranayama techniques can be effective for this.
Step 4: Choose a Better-Feeling Thought
When you are detached from your negative thought, you gain the opportunity to redirect that thought.
Becoming optimistic is about developing a set of tools that help you to think better-feeling thoughts, on command.
This might include:
- Learn how to use positive affirmations,
- Starting a meditation routine,
- Setting a clear intention,
- Raising your energy, or
- Writing a ‘Happy List.’
Again, it does not matter which process you use, the point is to have many options available to you.
Your aim is always to choose a thought that feels slightly better than the one before it.
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat
Lastly, in order for this simple process to be effective, you need to repeat it, every single day, many times throughout your day.
Remember: positive thinking is a habit. Happiness is a habit.
If you are currently a pessimist, you have years of unconscious, negative, automatic associations running through your head.
Do not expect to overcome decades of negative thinking with a few small platitudes of well-being or feigned optimism. Success requires patience and perseverance.
The hard part is not doing the work, it is remembering to do the work, every time you feel any sort of negativity.
As you are doing this, it helps to take time once in a while to notice and appreciate the progress you are making.
You will have ups and downs along the way, and recognizing how far you have come is a powerful motivator to help keep you on track.
If you persist, you will be able to retrain your brain, and start living a more positive, optimistic life.
If you want more strategies and exercises to help you along the way: