Keeping positive

Talking to yourself positively can help you keep in a good head space. Find out how thinking style can assist you in times of pressure.

Positive talk

How you speak to yourself impacts your beliefs about certain situations and your actions. How you speak to yourself is called your explanatory style. Martin Seligman, outlines that there are three dimensions to a person’s explanatory style:

  • internal or external—how much control a person believes they have over an event
  • global or specific—the degree to which a person generalises the event to others beyond that specific event
  • global or specific—the degree to which an individual generalises the event to others beyond the specific event.

An optimistic explanatory style can help you in challenging situations. This kind of explanatory style would mean that you:

  • don’t blame yourself for what has happened (external)
  • you believe that things can change (unstable)
  • the challenging circumstances are specific to that particular event, and is not going to be replicated in all other situations (specific).

Tips on how to use an optimistic explanatory style

Be self aware

Automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs) are completely normal. Optimistic thinking is not about always thinking positively, but rather having an awareness of your thoughts, and being able to control your thinking in a proactive manner.

Avoid over-analysing

Humans have an amazing ability to look at a situation, and perceive many things that could go wrong. This was something we learned to do a long time ago, when we had to survive.

For example, if you had to defend your family against a woolly mammoth, you had to figure out how many things could go wrong, and respond in a way that would protect yourself and everyone you love.

In today’s day and age, thinking like that can still be helpful, but at other times, it can be quite paralysing, as often the things we think might happen, don’t, so we spend our energy worrying about situations that never take place.

Acknowledge you don't always have to be on your 'A' game

Acknowledge that you do not have to be optimistic all the time, but rather apply optimistic in the right circumstances.

Develop an awareness of your thoughts. Once you feel an ANT walk in, challenge it with logic. Ask yourself:

  • is this true?
  • what is the likelihood of this happening?
  • what could happen if I continue to think this way?

Listen to logic

If logic tells you this ANT isn’t helpful, squash it, and continue on with your day. This process of awareness and thought squashing is a skill that takes time. It is like a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it becomes.