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Mind over Mood: Six Ways to Think Positively

service member looking towards mountains

Source: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alexander Naylor/ Released

Positive thinking can improve your mood and help you keep stress in check. Here are six ways you can turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts:

1. Don’t Overgeneralize. Overgeneralization is the belief that because something happened once it will happen again.

  • You have trouble sleeping this week and think “I will never get a good night’s sleep.” Instead, replace never with more accurate words such as sometimes or occasionally.

2. Manage your Mental Filter. Using a mental filter means focusing on the negative details of a situation and ignoring the positive aspects.

  • Your children say they love you but wish you would not yell so often and you think “I am a terrible parent.” Instead, challenge yourself to use a calm, positive tone in the future.

3. Avoid Jumping to Conclusions. Jumping to conclusions is quickly making assumptions without all the facts.

  • A friend has not returned your phone call and you think “I must have done something to anger him.” Instead, allow yourself time to rethink what may have happened and check in with him again.

4. Beware of Magnification. Magnification is blowing negative situations out of proportion.

  • Your boss points out an area where you can improve and you think “I am awful at my job.” Instead, choose not to let a small mistake overshadow your accomplishments.

5. Drop the Labels. Labeling is attaching a general label to yourself or others based on a limited amount of information.

  • You forget about a doctor’s appointment you scheduled and you think “I am an idiot.” Instead, remind yourself that you only missed one appointment and come up with a reminder system for the future. 

6. Relieve yourself of Blame. Blaming is holding yourself responsible for an act you did not do or placing your pain onto others.

  • You and your spouse get in an argument and you think “It’s all your fault. You always make me angry.” Instead, use your energy to solve problems together instead of placing blame.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Support

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of counseling used to help you understand and change the way you think and behave. Try the following strategies on your own to increase your positive thinking:

  • Identify Your Negative Thoughts. Write them down and determine which forms of negative thinking you use often. Use the above examples to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Examine the Evidence. Ask yourself if your negative thoughts are actually true. List the evidence that supports and goes against your thoughts. Come up with a more balanced thought that takes all the evidence into consideration.
  • Show Yourself Compassion. Avoid putting yourself down. Treat yourself in the same kind way you would treat a friend.

The way you choose to think about an event in your life can influence how you feel and act. Challenge yourself to recognize and change negative thoughts as a way to improve your mood and behavior. If you or a loved one needs additional support, remember that reaching out is a sign of strength. You can contact the DCoE Outreach Center to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020, using the Real Warriors Live Chat or emailing resources@dcoeoutreach.org.

Additional Resources

Sources

  • Burns, D. (1989). You Can Change the Way You Feel & Ten Ways to Untwist Your Thinking. The feeling good handbook: Using the new mood therapy in everyday life (pp. 8-11 & 118-119).New York: W. Morrow.
  • Treatment of PTSD. (2014, Feb. 27). Department of Veterans Affairs.
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