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Overly negative thoughts can contribute greatly to your overall happiness and mental wellbeing. Therefore, it is so important to be able to challenge negative thoughts in order to strive towards a healthier and happier outlook on life.

Did you know that mental illnesses are not as uncommon we might think? Mixed anxiety & depression, for instance, is one of the most common mental disorders (7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis) while 4-10% of people in the UK will experience depression in their lifetime.

In other words: you are not alone. Likely, your neighbour who you don’t speak to, or the lady sat opposite on you on the train is going through or has gone through exactly what you are. This can be comforting for a lot of people to know, as it means that the whole world isn’t against you – it’s against everyone at certain times. The downs are what make the ups, for you can’t appreciate the good in life without experiencing some challenges.

1. Live in the present

One of the main factors contributing to poor mental health, in general, is the way we frame our past and the future. In essence, we cannot change the past and we cannot control the future. Our thought processes can be clouded when we worry about something that has happened or might happen. This causes negative thinking to arise as well as assumptions that aren’t necessarily true.

Time machines (sadly) do not exist, so there’s no changing something that happened in the past. And as for the future – when you worry about an outcome you have made up in your head, you are essentially putting yourself through it twice.

2. Be grateful

As silly as it sounds, speaking into the mirror and voicing three things you are happy or grateful for can really change the way you see things. These are also known as positive affirmations. For example, if it’s self-esteem you are struggling with, find three (or more!) things you like about yourself.

Say them out loud, write them on a post-it and stick it where you’ll be reminded every morning. If it’s your social life you’re struggling with, think of things you enjoy doing. Then go out and do them! Happiness means different things to everyone. So, whether it’s a cuddle with your dog, cooking or watching your favourite show or being out in nature go and do it! Socialising and spending time out and about has also been proven to better physical health, especially for older adults.

Couple cooking food together

3. Avoid comparing yourself

We are all guilty of this, and it has to be one of the worst thinking patterns to fall in to. Constantly comparing yourself to someone you deem better looking, more successful or more content than you can create very low self-esteem and a constant need to be like someone else. Tiring, right? You are ditching yourself and what you could achieve for the feeling of being second-best and less than someone else. People grow at different rates, and everyone is on a different path to happiness. No one is like you, and that is your power. So, embrace, don’t hate, and work on yourself to become a better version of you, for you.

4. Surround yourself with positivity

If you are surrounded by a group of people who all use certain slang or phrases, chances are you’re going to pick it up on them at some point. This is the exact same for negativity – if you are surrounding yourself with people who bring you down and have an overall negative outlook, the chances of you becoming a Negative Nelly are very high.

Sit back and evaluate your relationships and friendships for a minute. Do the people around you lift you up? Do they want the best for you? Being around positive vibrations will eventually rub off on you, even without you noticing. If you’re starting to doubt some people and the way they treat you, don’t brush that under the carpet. No one is perfect all the time, but true friends and relations will treat you in a way that will always bring a smile to your face. Life is too short to be surrounded by Negative Nellys – find the positive people and become one yourself.

Group of friends laughing together

The faster you begin to make these changes, the faster you’ll feel like yourself again. Negative thinking can lead to you missing out on some great opportunities. It is a gradual process, and one that takes time and effort, but a developing a more positive outlook on life makes for a happier, more carefree existence that we should all strive towards.

If you want more tips and tricks for living positively, here are 5 more ways to live a happier life.