Series Part III of VII
Daily Exercises for a Positive Mind
The following exercises are things you can do daily to develop a positive mindset and better emotional resilience. Use them regularly, especially when you are going through difficult times, and watch out for change!
What Went Well the Previous Day
Research shows that remembering and writing down what went well for you during the day the increases your happiness for longer periods of time. I always do this exercise in the mornings in bed, especially when I used to wake up with that awful sense of dread, despair, and gloom. Remembering and writing down positive experiences helps your brain to better acknowledge that positive experiences are truly a part of your life and that not much has to change in your life for you to feel good every day. Writing and focusing on positive experiences every day also breaks your pattern of experiencing negative thoughts and beliefs, and you will eventually realize that you can feel good most of the time.
At the end of the day and every morning when you wake up, mentally go through or write down what you accomplished or what went well for you during the day and the previous day. It could be finishing a task, managing to exercise, going out with a friend, having a laugh, or even receiving a smile from someone. Make sure you acknowledge at least eight circumstances that went well for you or that made you happy.
Try it now.
Spend 20 minutes writing down everything that went well or did not go wrong for you for the past 2 days.
Giving Yourself Permission to Heal
A lot of our emotional issues actually come from an unconscious resistance we have to allowing ourselves to accept a better way of being. Many of us are also unwilling to let go of certain ideas or emotions we have become used to. You might not even be aware of these subtle resistances which hold you back from feeling better. I have created an exercise which allows you to overcome some of these unconscious resistances. I used this exercise successfully when working with victims of the Kenya Westgate terrorist attack, and, even after such a traumatic experience, I saw people’s anxiety peel away, their breathing changed, and their trauma and tension turned to a sigh and smile of relief. It’s a very powerful exercise if done right.
Another daily exercise for you is where you say to yourself: “it’s safe to (…be happy, feel this way, let go, heal, feel strong, be in love, etc…)” or “it’s okay to …” and feel what happens inside of you as some of your limiting thoughts begin to surface. This is a powerful exercise you can do whenever you feel any emotional discomfort. I’ve used it many times and am always surprised to discover what thoughts have been holding me back without me even knowing it.
Whenever you try this exercise, search inside yourself for what you’d like to feel or what you’re struggling with, and say “It’s safe to…” Add the word “sometimes” or “once in a while” after your sentence. This helps your mind accept your sentences much more easily.
Even if you feel something negative and you don’t know what belief is holding you back, try saying “It’s safe to feel this way and recover” – you’ll suddenly give yourself permission to let go of your internal struggle and feel a sense of relief and internal strength. I’m listing a few sentences to help you on your way. Notice how you feel after saying each of these sentences. If you feel any resistance or emotion coming up, accept these feelings and allow them to change as you meditate deeper on your positive intention.
“It’s safe (okay) to feel okay sometimes.”
“It’s safe (okay) to be happy again.”
“It’s safe (okay) to be rich and successful sometimes.”
“It’s safe (okay) to be okay with these feelings sometimes.”
“It’s safe (okay) to be in love again or to love someone again sometimes.”
“It’s safe (okay) to be in power again.”
“It’s safe (okay) to feel love for myself again once in a while.”
“It’s safe (okay) to feel this way sometimes.”
“It’s safe (okay) to smile to myself again once in a while.”
“It’s safe to feel important again, once in a while.”
“It’s safe to love myself again, once in a while.”
I used to struggle with what being grateful means. I thought I was being grateful because I wasn’t really criticizing anything in life. I thought that in the back of my mind I must already be grateful. However, after a few awakenings of realization in my life, I began to realize that being grateful is about fully and actively appreciating specific feelings and details about people, things or events. Being grateful involves a wholehearted acknowledgment rather than something you think you already do in the back of your mind. Being grateful does not take away precious time from important things in life but actually gives you back important time to feel what’s really precious in your life.
Being Grateful is a Powerful Way to Improve Emotional Wellbeing
Studies show that people who practice gratitude are less stressed and less depressed. If you ever wake up in the morning with anxiety or a sense of dread, spend some moments feeling gratitude for as much as you can, and go through everything that went well for you, didn’t go wrong, made you smile, or relax the previous day. Every day write down ten things you are grateful for. When you wake up in the morning, say thank you for this wonderful day, and say thank you for at least five things you are or can be grateful for. Search your mind for people you could have thanked. If someone has been kind to you in the past, thank them verbally or in your mind if you cannot get a hold of them, even if it has been a while since you saw them last.
Focus on the Positive
Instead of thinking about what is not going well in your life or what you still haven’t accomplished, think about how much you wanted some of things you now have and acknowledge that they are now in your life, and appreciate it. Even in the most difficult circumstances, where nothing beneficial is apparent, find something you can be grateful for, even if it unrelated to the difficult situation. Searching for positive aspects of difficult situations transforms the way you respond to life and gives you the courage to be more proactive and create more positive changes for yourself. Practicing this regularly every day will infuse your mind with positive thoughts and emotions so you are less likely to lapse into negative feelings.
Commit to Yourself
Make a commitment to yourself for the next 7 days to only imagine what is going well or what went well, doing this throughout the day for 7 days, no matter what is going on. If you’re stressed or there’s a stressful situation, pause for a moment, and divert your mind to think about what you are grateful for or what went well the previous day, or what has been going well for you in your life. It could be simple things like “I have a bed to sleep on,” “I’m earning some money,” “I’m grateful for my breath,” or “I have a family or people who care about me.” Over time your mind will automatically have more positive thoughts to think about, and will move away from stressful thoughts and painful emotions. Go ahead now and write about 10 things you can be grateful for.
Set Positive Intentions
“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.” —Seneca
Sometimes when we want change in our life, we focus too much on the negative thing we want to get rid of. Instead, talk about what you want in a positive way. State what you want, which gives your mind and heart a clear intention to work on, rather than saying what you want to get rid of, which is more complaining about your situation and reinforcing your negative thoughts and feelings. For example, rather than saying, “I want to get rid of my sadness and depression,” say words like, “I want to feel happier in my life.” The second sentence increases the feeling of what you want in your life, and it makes you more aware of the steps involved to get you to where you want to be. It also makes you aware of certain feelings or ideas that you have and were not willing to give up on. This clarity increases your ability to take the necessary steps to bring positive changes into your life. Write at least ten positive change sentences for yourself, and read them out loud at least once a day or whenever you’re feeling gloomy.
Here are some positive change sentences that will help you get started:
- I want to feel calmer in my life (rather than saying, “I want to feel less anxious”)
- I want to smile more often.
- I want to have more positive thoughts
- I want to be and feel happy.
- I want to laugh more.
- I want to be in a relationship that is happy and good for me.
- I want to be in a place where I feel free and happy.
- I want to have positive thoughts about the future.
- I want to feel refreshed in the morning.
- I want to feel financially free.
- I want to be happier with myself, I want to think about myself and smile.
- I want to feel confident in myself.
- I want to heal from this.
Be Specific About Your Goals and Desires
Go ahead and write some down. Push yourself, explore, enjoy, and really feel the things you want! In the beginning, it might be difficult to pin down precisely what you want; however, as you do this process, a sense of clarity will emerge, and it will be easier to imagine what truly makes you feel better. After a while, you will automatically begin to let go of sadness, despair, and other negative thought patterns, and you will be able to focus more on positive thoughts and emotions.
Dr. Ameet Aggarwal ND is a naturopathic doctor and psychotherapist (Gestalt, Family Constellations, EMDR) with years of experience treating physical issues, anxiety, stress, depression, abuse, relationship issues and also working with UNICEF, UN Staff and other large organizations. His online course on using the 5 pillars of health, (free videos on health.drameet.com), lecturing around the world and being voted top 5 speakers on 2 world summits has earned him the recognition of top 43 naturopaths to follow.