Positive Thinking Exercises: A Complete Guide for Positivity & Conquering Negative Thoughts

“You need to do some positive thinking.” “Why can’t you develop a positive attitude?” “You need to smile more.” “You need a more positive mindset.” “Do you ever think positive thoughts? You’re so negative.”

Comments people said after I quit faking happiness.
Girl painting a dark sky bright blue- example of changing to positive thinking
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The human brain handles all the complex neuro connections that make us human. Your brain is the container for the soul, love, and your sparkling personality. It controls how we breathe, the speed of our heartbeat, how our senses react, and how we regulate our thoughts and emotions. Your brain is the supercomputer of the best creation ever made, YOU!

Your brain is subject to the environment you are in, just like the rest of our body. We stay in the water too long; we get soggy and gross. –Yup, we get raisin syndrome. And if we stay in it long enough, we feel like wet bread. EWW!

When loving and accepting people surround us; we develop positive thinking about the world and ourselves. Negativity, hate, trauma, and grief surround us, and it will fill us with anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, negative thoughts, and more.

These how to guide for positive thinking exercises was written by a former pessimist who used these methods to remove negative thoughts, and they can work for you too! -Have you guessed that the former pessimist in question is me yet?- These tips to achieve a positive mindset will start you on your journey to positive thinking, happiness, and feeling grateful about your life.

Desensitization Therapy 1
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disclosure

While I have hacked mental health for over 20 years, that experience does not make me a mental health professional. I am just a girl living with mental illness. This content is educational and informative and is not to replace the advice of your mental health team or doctor. Try these tips at your own risk.

For more information, please see my disclosure.

For you to have a legal service dog, you need to have documentation from YOUR mental health doctor or therapist stating how a service dog will improve your life (not a fake online registry or an online doctor that is trying to scam you out of your money). Please consult YOUR personal doctor to add a service dog to your treatment plan.

For more information on psychiatric service dogs, contact a disability lawyer or visit the Official ADA Website.


How I became a Pessimist.

My childhood was pretty great! I had great parents and amazing friends. But, I suffered a few traumas in my life. I survived a natural disaster, survived abuse from outside my home, and I survived my attempted murder during a home invasion.

Before, I was a happy, chatty, loving girl. But trauma changes you. It forces negative thinking (catastrophe thinking) to take a hold of your thoughts.

That’s when my brain changed. It saw a threat everywhere. I became hyper aware of my surroundings. Doubt and suspicion clouded my once happy mind. And I quit looking for happiness in my life.

RELATED POST: Living with PTSD: A Beginner’s Guide to Living a Happy Life Again

Girl Painting a Dark Sky (Negative thoughts) to a bright blue (positive thinking)

How Stress Changes Your Brain

That happy and hopeful brain I had adapted to my situation and helped me thrive in a hostile environment. My brain was trying to keep me alive. But trauma isn’t the only thing that can change your brain chemistry.

High-stress jobs, stay at home parents, and caregivers are prone to prolonged stress. Your brain can become stressed from finances, social media, body chemistry, poor nutrition, and so much more.

Do any of us live a low stress life in this modern age? Probably not unless you live off the grid. -Me thinking about moving to a no name place with lots of land and dozens of pups running around. –

When you become stressed, the brain adapts. It can cause you to have symptoms like:

  • Sleep Issues
  • Negative or Intrusive Thoughts
  • Exaggerated Startle Response
  • Mood Swings
  • Body Aches
  • Headaches
  • More Frequent Illness
  • and more!

“Stress results in acute and chronic changes in neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which result in long-term changes in brain ‘circuits,’ involved in the stress response.”

Traumatic stress: effects on the brain by J. Douglas Bremner, MD*
Too much stress is like chains surrounding your head.  -Head missing hearts with a chain surrounding it. - Positive thinking exercises can help you relieve stress & become whole again.

What are Negative or Intrusive Thoughts?

Maybe you have had some thoughts similar to these before?

  • Why am I like this?
  • Why can’t I do things right?
  • Nobody loves me.
  • I am fat and ugly.
  • If I don’t get this done, my boss will fire me.
  • My partner deserves better.
  • I’m a burden to everyone.
  • Everyone I know hates me.

*If you are having suicidal or homicidal thoughts, please contact your Mental Health Care team or local Emergency Department. These thoughts are not normal and warrant IMMEDIATE treatment.* You can find mental health hotline numbers on the resource page. Please take care of yourself. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

You are NOT your Negative Thoughts.

Your thoughts are purely a chemical reaction to hormones released into your body when you experience stress. These chemicals flood the body so you can react to stimulus. Yup, that’s right, the good old Fight or Flight Response.

Our ancient ancestors needed the flight or fight response to react to danger in their environment. Think predators and environmental hazards that could kill them.

We have developed so much, yet our fight or flight response is still pretty primitive. And it’s this response that overreacts to stressors that are not really threatening our lives.

Facing a deadline causes excessive stress. Holidays are stressful because we feel rushed and overwhelmed. We get road rage when we are in traffic because we feel trapped. We end relationships when we feel vulnerable to another person and are uncomfortable pushing through.

Instead of communicating properly, we yell and become aggressive so “the threat” will end, and the cause of our stress will go away from us.

None of these things will kill us, but we are putting space between us and our stressors so our brains will relax and stop the flood of stressful hormones. We are purely reacting to situations.

Ever get out of a long line that’s making you mad? That is a flight reaction. Ever yell at someone when you can’t take anymore? That’s the fight reaction.

Why am I telling you this? Because realizing that your brain is lying to you is the first step in changing those nasty little impulses and negative thoughts into a more positive mindset. Enter positive thinking exercises!

You are not your thoughts. Make a choice to stop and take a breath and break down your thoughts. You’ll find that you really weren’t in real danger, but you were just reacting to a stressful situation. That there are other ways to manage stressors. This is how you slowly retrain your brain toward positive thoughts and you create a new, more positive attitude.

girl thinking negative thoughts
You are not your negative thoughts. Jump start your brain and turn on Positive Thinking!

Positive Thinking Exercises & How to Use Them


I hope you enjoy these positive thinking exercises. If you have questions, leave them for me in the comments!

The A.C.T. Method and How to Use It.

When I was a positive reinforcement dog trainer with local rescues, I used the A.C.T. method to train my pups to make better choices. -Yeah, yeah. I know you’re not a dog but hear me out! It will be worth it!-

After my traumas, I was a mess. I was an E.R. frequent flyer for a fast heart rate. -At one point it was so bad I was referred to a cardiologist!- So I got the advice of a psychiatrist and a therapist. But my panic attacks continued to where I was agoraphobic, aka fearful of people and crowds.

My solace was the dogs that I was training. Their anxieties were slowly turning into confidence. Then it hit me. Why couldn’t I do the same for myself?

Born of positive reinforcement training, I used the A.C.T. Method to help me conquer my panic attacks and create positive associations with my triggers, just like I was doing for the dogs in my care.

It just so happens that this method also works when I have panic attacks and PTSD flair ups. This method helps me prepare my body and my brain for the potential stressors by creating new opportunities for me to learn.

Before we jump into how you can start thinking positively, download this FREE printable so you can follow along from anywhere.

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How to “Anticipate” Stressors

A negative brain automatically jumps into “what ifs” and “catastrophe” thinking. How do we get rid of these negative thoughts? We simplify!! Overwhelmed brains are not prone to use positive thinking exercises. You need to simply the process for positive thinking exercises to work for you.

Break Down Your Goals Into More Manageable Steps

When we are in elementary school, we learn to write through repetition. We learn in tiny steps to write individual letters. As we progress, we pair these letters together to form the words we will write all our lives.

Most of us do not learn best by jumping off into the deep in. We learn in steps. After my traumas, the stress of “diving in” turned me into a hermit. Fear paralyzed me.

With the help of a therapist, I learned to identify my emotions and what was causing me duress. I had high hopes that I could go into my city alone and not feel like death was waiting around the corner.

Breaking down my goal of being completely independent was crucial to my success. A trusted friend accompanied me to stores, grocery shopping, and helped me accomplish overwhelming tasks.

Short and smaller tasks helped me gain confidence. I learned to manage my environment. I practiced until I was comfortable. With time, I became the positive and independent woman I am today!

Having trouble breaking down your goals? Try this Goal Setting Worksheet.

Today I will on post it notes with options below
Break Down Your Goals in to more manageable steps.
Keep a Stress Journal to Track Stressors

It genuinely surprised me about the simple things that created negative emotions.

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Golding Notebook 500 Pages on Amazon

You’re going to want a journal to make notes about your positive thinking exercises & your progress.

Take it with you to therapy & Dr. appointments to get the most out of your sessions.

Taking notes during the process will help you see patterns you can work on.

Here is one of my favorite journals!

Write about what causes you to feel unpleasant. Break it down even further.

Example: I get angry when someone yells at me. > Why are you angry? > I feel hurt. > Why do you feel hurt? > I feel unloved and unimportant. > Yelling causes me to feel unloved and unimportant. Feeling unloved and unimportant is your core trigger!!

I’ll do one more. I hate Toyota. > Why do I hate them? > A man who raped me drove a Toyota. > Why does the Toyota trigger you? > They picked me up in the Toyota. I had to ride back home in it after my rape. I felt trapped in it. > Toyota vehicles cause me to feel trapped. > Feeling trapped is a core trigger for me.

Yelling is probably not a core trigger, but how it makes you feel. I do not feel my core emotions at concerts, stadiums, and cheering for teams, but if I am in bed and hear yelling, I feel a core emotion and become triggered. It’s your core emotions that matter. For me, yelling when I am in bed causes me to feel trapped. While yelling at concerts causes me to feel excitement.

Keep asking questions until you have broken it down to a core feeling. Your core feelings are your true triggers. By knowing that feeling trapped upsets you, you can take simple steps for prevention.

Journaling Your Way to Positive Thinking
Journal Your Way to Positive Thinking
Create a Support System

Humans are social animals. We live in groups, eat in groups, work in groups, and most of us play in groups. We love getting together! When we’re alone, we have anxiety and depression. Being social is in our DNA!

So why do we keep trying to go it alone? Society pressures us into being a powerhouse. If our ancestors had this mentality, we would be extinct. Why? Social creatures do better in life!

We live in a society where we depend on one another. And humans are THRIVING! Most of us wouldn’t be able to eat the foods we love today, decorate in fun cultural styles, travel to amazing exotic locations, online groups, team sports, and more!!!

Here are a few benefits of having a support system from the Mayo Clinic.

  • Improve your coping skills
  • Alleviate Symptoms of Stress
  • Better Long Term Mental Health
  • Better Self Esteem
  • Improved Health
  • Healthier Lifestyle

How to “Create” Opportunities to Train Your Brain

You will thrive if you create opportunities for yourself. Set yourself up for success and break down your goals into achievable steps. You’re allowed to need a smaller step. Failure helps you see what you need to work on. You can use your support system until your confidence grows. Keep practicing until you get it right!

Desensitization

Panic attacks come from feeling a complete lack of control and a strong sense of fear. Desensitization will help you calm your strong emotions with SLOW & controlled exposure to your fears.

If you have mild anxiety you can probably try desensitization on your own, but I recommend adding a dr or therapist to your self care plan for stronger fears.

Desensitization takes time and patience. You can’t just have a fear of spiders and expect yourself to jump into a pit of them without consequences. It doesn’t work like that. Slow and safe is the way to do it.

Example: I would give you $100 to open a book and look at a picture of a spider. We would keep doing this routine of payment for looking until you start looking forward to it. You would get excited to hear about looking at spiders in books. Next, we’d take it to a safe place and look at real spiders, like the zoo. All behind glass, 100% safe, and for your reward I would give you $500 dollars for each success because you are in a real situation. Eventually being closer to spiders will be very rewarding for you.

That’s how desensitization works. You get rewarded for facing your fears. Those with social anxiety get to hit up the book store and stock a bag on their way home from a lunch with friends. -Yeah, that would make me want to go to lunch with a crowd for an hour-ish.- Point is, facing your fears gives your rewards! Rewards help you form POSITIVE associations to negative thoughts and emotions.

Remember:

  • Reward yourself for following through on your anxiety.
  • Create safe instances for you to practice.
  • Don’t do too much too soon. Less is better at first.

RELATED POST: How Desensitization Therapy Will Tame Fear & Boost Self Esteem

Create Opportunities for growth and positive thinking.
Create Opportunities and watch yourself grow!

How to “Train” Your Brain

Positive thinking is more than just flipping a switch and going from a negative Nancy to a positive mindset. It’s just another goal you need to break down! Here is what I do to hack my way to positivity.

Adding Positive Thinking Exercises to Your Day

You need to fight those negative thoughts with positive thinking exercises. For every negative thought, create 3 positive ones. Example: I am worthless.= I am having a hard time right now, but I am doing my best. My emotions do not define me. I am valued by my support system and offer love and friendship.

Talk kindly to yourself and give yourself some love. I tell myself what a good job I did when I clean and how I made my life a little healthier. Tell yourself how proud you are when you get a shower on a depressed day. When you’re anxious, tell yourself you will feel better soon. You cannot show the world love if you can’t show it to yourself.

This is my favorite of the positive thinking exercises because it helps me see the light in every situation, no matter how bleak.

Learn to See The Good Too & Enjoy the Small Things

Positive thinking isn’t just thinking happy thoughts. It’s being able to experience negative emotions & thoughts, but also seeing the good with them too. –We can’t see how wonderful the light is without the dark, right?-

Enjoy the little things. Revel in that cup of coffee in the morning that wakes you up! That 1lb you lost is amazing and you are one step closer to your goal! Your dog sits instead of jumping on you? Give that boy a treat! And do a happy dance. Every step is worth celebrating and will help you master positive thinking!

Create opportunities to grow and positive thinking.
Add positive thinking into you day to retrain your brain.
Positive Thinking Books for a Positive Mindset & Improved Mental Health

I love a good self-help book. And there are some wonderful texts by some amazing authors that will help you create positive thinking habits. Some are a workbook style, others are more clinical, and then there is just a fun and inspirational read. Here are some of my favorite titles! These are available as E-books and they offer a few on Kindle Unlimited!

These are just a few of the books that have helped me conquer my anxiety and depression, and promote positive thinking. Not only have they helped me heal from trauma, but they set me back on the path to positive thinking. They have helped me take back my life, have a positive mindset, and feel confident again by helping me conquer my inner demons.

Positive Thinking Books
Positive Thinking and Mental Help Books to help you master positive thinking.

Creating a Positive Thinking Lifestyle

Don’t forget that to upkeep your new positive mindset, that you need to enhance your environment as well. Your environment can help enhance your moods, bring calm into your life, and give you more time in your day for self care. You can start your journey right here on the blog!

RELATED POST: 20 HEALTHY MINDSET HABITS TO TRY TODAY FOR POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH

Following Positive Influences Creates a Positive Mindset

You don’t have to scrap your social media accounts to make positive changes. Change your follow settings for accounts you want to visit occasionally, but don’t want constant reminders of drama and sadness. -I am part of a bunch of support groups, but I do not have them on my Facebook feed so I can keep my scrolling more positive.-

Un-follow family and friends that cause you to feel bad. Just because you hang out together in real life doesn’t mean you have to follow their every move. -I don’t follow everyone I know, even if we are family or friends. By knowing everything they do, I am denying myself the surprise of their story when we are together. I only follow people I cannot get together with often.-

Find some fun pages to follow. When I am on social media, they fill my screen with cute animals, funny jokes, and inspiration. There are some great joke groups and cute animal pages. If you surround yourself with depression and anxiety all the time, that is how you are going to start feel. So start surrounding yourself with pages that inspire positive thinking, happiness, and help you feel good.

Adding With Love, Me to your social media can help you learn positivity. We are no drama, no fuss, cute fluffs, and tips for mental health and self care. Plus, you will see some really cute service dog antics that will have you thinking more positive in no time!

Positive social media creates a positive thinking enviornment.
Create positivity with a positive social media feed.

Creating Cozy & Relaxing Spaces

You are a product of your environment. Negative spaces do not invite positive thinking into your life. You want a solid foundation to help you create positive thinking habits. And that starts at home.

I spent years hating my home. My mood was so low because I hated being in my home. We live the life of the military, so we get what they give us. -Our choice is whether to live in a military house with the benefits of saving on utility costs, trash service, and maintenance, or buy a home and take a huge risk that we can’t sell that house at moving time.-

And of course I spend most of my time here. I had this negative mindset that this wasn’t my house, so I couldn’t make it my own. I couldn’t love a house that I didn’t pick. I was very wrong!

So I slowly started changing my environment. And it worked! I started loving being home. I was more relaxed. I was sleeping better. And my marriage improved. I was no longer focused on all the bad, but started seeing the positive again. By creating a space that I loved, I was helping my brain engage in positive thinking.

With Love, Me is going to teach you to:

  • Learn how your environment affects your mood.
  • Learn how to create relaxing and cozy spaces.
  • Learn how having multi-purpose products can help you de-clutter and create harmony in your home.
  • Learn how to create a bedroom that promotes relaxation, sleep, and intimacy.
  • Learn tips for cleaning and de-cluttering to free up space in your life and mind.
  • Learn how to turn your rental into a home you love.
  • Learn how creating a home you love will help you with positive thinking, self esteem, and positive mental health.

But you can get started right now! Declutter things that cause you stress. Add soothing colors and fabrics. Add things that clean easily so you don’t add excess stress to your routine.

positive thinking starts at home
Positive thinking starts at home. Create an environment that will change the way your brain processes information.

Adding Trusted Products to Your Life

I absolutely hate a gimmick. I recently joined a mailing list for a problem I had. They seemed great that first email, but EVERY SINGLE EMAIL since then was just a sales pitch for something new and fresh. Not only did I feel like a sucker for trusting them, but I didn’t feel heard. My problem didn’t matter to them, just their desire for a quick buck!

I have slowly been finding products that are trustworthy and worth talking about! With Love, Me is sharing product reviews so you can get honest thoughts on products, not gimmicks and sales tactics.

We will help you find great products to make your life easier, help you sniff out product scams, and tell it like it is so you can live a happier and more productive life. And it’s 100% honest. If I hate it, I’m going to tell you why. If it’s the most amazing thing I have used, we will discuss why.

What does that have to do with positive thinking? Well, how do you feel when you go out and are hassled by sales agents, ads, crowds, noise, no parking, etc? I come back feeling drained and defeated.

With Love, Me’s product reviews can help you solve your problems without adding to your stress levels. And watch for our links in our blog posts. I own EVERY single product I promote so you can trust that it will help you and help you promote that new positive mindset. Bonus: I’m not going to pitch you anything that isn’t going to help you bust stress.

Product reviews that will help you trust again and think positive.
With Love, Me gives honest product reviews so you can learn to trust again and think positive.

Taking Time for Self Care

Modern day lives are so busy now. We have high stress jobs. We have kids at home that need us. Pets that want attention and need care. Bills need to be paid. Maintenance on home and vehicles. Homes that need cleaning. Social activities. And it goes on…

-Anyone else feel like they need a break just from reading about life’s stresses?-

Self care is more than just bubble baths though. It’s making little choices that will help you set yourself up to succeed!

Self Care will help you create a positive mindset and create positive thinking.
Self Care is more than just bubble baths.

Thoughts and Ideas to Promote Positive Thinking Exercises and Mental Health

Positive thinking is more than flipping your happy switch to on. It takes time, effort, and dedication to being your best self.

  • It’s having a good mental health team to help you reach your goals.
  • It’s knowing when your mental health team is hurting your mental health.
  • It’s learning about tips to achieve a positive mindset.
  • It’s learning that no is not a bad word.
  • It’s setting boundaries so others are not constantly taking advantage of you.
  • It’s knowing your limits.
  • It’s identifying your weaknesses and knowing they do not define you.
  • It’s accepting your true self.
  • It’s creating opportunities to thrive.
Taking care of your mental health promotes a positive mindset.
Take charge of your mental health, and create a life you love.

My Final Thoughts about Positive Thinking Exercises

I have been there. I was depressed, anxious, and traumatized for many years of my life. There were times I just wanted to disappear. I wanted to be someone else. I wanted my life to just get better.

These positive thinking exercises helped me create a life that I fight for now. A life that I love. And I can now show that love to the world.

With Love, Me hopes that these positive thinking exercises help make your life just a little bit easier.

What is your favorite positive thinking exercise? Leave a comment and tell me!

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Krystian Howe

Hi Lovelies! My name is Krystian and I’ll be your guide on this self care journey. Our destination: positive mental health so you can start living a life you love. We will discover tips & tricks of mental health together, and I’ll give you an exclusive peek into life with a service dog. Get ready to improve your mental health, one step at a time.

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Comments

  1. These are great ideas. I deal with anxiety and depression from past experiences. I’ve learned that I’m the one who has to deal with my emotions. Thank you for the post. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  2. This post is excellent. You have given a very extensive list of tips and resources that can help anyone to achieve a positive mindset. Mental health conditions are an epidemic and the more equipped we are the better the chances of improvement. Thank you very much.

  3. So beautifully written! Sharing first hand experience of making such a life changing shift will help motivate so many people.

  4. Such a wonderful and in depth post. I love how you speak from your personal experiences. All of these positive thinking hacks are great! Thank you for sharing them!

  5. I love these hacks! I used to hate the frequent negative thoughts I had, and then a friend told me that my brain is created that way to keep me safe. These things that are threats, the brain focuses on to ensure I am safe, that is the brain doing its job. Now I appreciate the brain doing its job, even though the negative thoughts can still be hard to take, but it was a great mind shift of perspective for me. Thanks for these great positive thinking hacks!

  6. Wow, soooo much good here! I absolutely love the idea of a stress journal! I’m all about journaling but have never considered journaling in this way. It will be such a good way to provide clarity so I can better anticipate stress. It’s scary what stress can do to our health, but so encouraging that there’s so much in our control about how we respond to stress! Wonderful post 🙂

  7. Positive thinking works wonders for your health and productivity. I like how you mentioned that even small steps like losing 1lb mean your a little closer to your goal. I’ve really been focusing on celebrating the small wins and being grateful for everything I accomplish.

  8. Wonderful post! It’s true that we are not our thoughts, so I’m glad you mentioned these words of wisdom. Overall, this is such a great mental health resource, so thank you for sharing it!

    • This for me was a huge helper! I didn’t realize what tiny things were effecting my mood until I wrote them down! Now I am a more relaxed journal keeper, as I only need it if it will not leave my mind at bedtime.

  9. Finding the silver lining in situations that don’t turn out as planned is so helpful, especially when others around you immediately have a negative reaction. Thank you for these great tips!

  10. Great post! I work in my cozy electric recliner with a desk that swivels over my lap so that I can sit with my little bald Sphynx on my lap and put my heated blanket over both of us. It definitely helps me feel cozy… and actually productive. Looking forward to your next post!

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