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Sunny Self-Talk: Seeing Through the Storm

How much control do you have over your negative feelings? According to research, a lot more than you might think. In fact, there is always more than one way to view an event, and how you view any situation has a lot to do with how you then feel.

Your views also influence your actions. Let's say on the day of one woman's wedding, it rains. She might think, "Oh, this is awful. My wedding is ruined." She might even think, "Bad things always happen to me!" But, what if the woman thought this instead? "The rain is a disappointment. Still, I'm going to make the best day out of this anyway." Which way would you view the situation?

The dark cloud of negativity

Negative thinking patterns can distort your view of what's really going on in your life. They can make you feel down, worried, or stressed-out, and they can provoke you into ill-chosen actions.

Learning to take a positive view on life and on yourself has major rewards, not just in terms of happiness, but also in terms of health. Studies support this. Research has linked a positive outlook with a number of health benefits. Positive individuals with medical conditions ranging from AIDS to post-surgery pain cope better than those with a negative view. Healthy individuals who have positive thoughts have higher levels and better functioning of key immune cells—and fewer physical problems.

Talk back for a rosier view

For some people, the slightest mistake automatically leads to harsh, self-critical thoughts that distort reality. Many blow a sense of threat out of proportion, discount the positive, magnify the negative, or anticipate failure as the likely outcome. These kinds of thoughts can keep you from achieving high self-esteem, your goals, and good relationships.

So how can you become a more positive person? The key is to learn to recognize what distorted thoughts you have. Ask yourself, "What evidence do I have for this?" "Is this really true?" and "Is this thought hurting me?" Then learn to substitute more realistic thoughts. It's a very simple idea—pinpoint your distorted thoughts, dispute them, then replace them with realistic thoughts. Below are some examples of how to challenge some common negative thoughts.

Negative thought: I never do anything right.

Evidence: None.

Positive thought: I do plenty of things right.

Negative thought: I'm not okay unless everybody likes me.

Evidence: None.

Positive thought: No one person is liked by everyone. It's unrealistic to expect that.

Negative thought: My accomplishment is not enough. Anybody could have done it.

Evidence: None.

Positive thought: I still accomplished something and I deserve to be proud.

Negative thought: I should do this perfectly.

Evidence: None.

Positive thought: There is no such thing as perfection. I can only do my best.

Learn to challenge your negative thoughts. As you practice on a daily basis, you'll automatically have more positive, realistic thoughts.