Learning to think positively demands a much different approach to your own brain than does reactive thinking. I think most of us, naturally, wait for thoughts to come marching across our heads, or get them started at some point in childhood and leave them tramping around, unherded ever after.
When we engage in positive thinking, the first and most difficult step involves corralling those thoughts into a cohesive order. The techniques to do this are many: in Buddhist meditation, you are to grab those thoughts and examine them as you would stones you pick up out of a pool, to release them again on their way when you’re done. In Western practice where psychology attaches itself to nearly all our meditative practices, you are to examine that thought, find where it came from and root out the emotions attached to it. By understanding the source, you are able to control how the source of the thought colors your mood and outlook.
But this is only the first step of a long process that might not be mastered in a lifetime.
Understanding your own thoughts, however, doesn’t entirely change their impact on you. It does, however, give you some leverage over your own mind and opens the door for you to become allies rather than adversaries.
You need to look at these and understand your thought patterns – are you prone to catastrophization and worry? Do you think about yourself too much? Are you constantly concerned what others around you are thinking? Are you overly focused on pleasure-seeking? All of these are natural, to a point, but can become a sort of intellectual nutritional imbalance – just like you should have a variety of fruits and grains, you need a variety of thoughts in your head.
In my own case, my bad thought-habit is catastrophization. I constantly catch myself envisioning the worst thing possible happening, because on some peculiar human level, I enjoy experiencing disaster. ((We will need to talk some other time about why we make enjoyable things destructive in human culture, or just enjoy destruction when it’s not at its most applicable.)) I finally managed to get a handle on it by applying a technique I read about in Christopher Penczak’s Instant Magick: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Spellcraft. It was one he picked up from Laurie Cabot years before, where you catch the catastrophic/worry-based thought and visualization (put it on pause) and say firmly “I neutralize that thought!” while visualizing an X over it.
Certainly worry is a function that reminds you to take precautions and consider safety – but set on overdrive, it’s much like being mentally chained to a wall when you’re not the kind of person who enjoys that sort of thing.
It took some practice to use, but I consider myself much more mentally functional now. With less worry clouding my head I can spend more time examining the other thoughts parading around my head and catching them and figuring out what, if anything, to do with them.