‘Having a positive mental attitude helps to combat depression and anxiety and have better relationships with other people’
When I was about 10, my grandmother gave me a book called The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. This book had a huge impact on my life and my thinking. He talked about how what we think can have such a massive influence on the life we have, and the way we become. As Shakespeare said: ‘nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.’
There are multiple benefits to thinking positively. Science now demonstrates that having a positive mental attitude helps to combat depression and anxiety; have better relationships with other people; and it can also have a positive effect on your health and your immune system as well. As research develops, I’m sure there are going to be lots more interesting findings.
Mindset is really key. We now understand the concept of neuroplasticity, where the mind is more malleable than we previously understood it to be. It means we can condition our thinking, to change quite radically the way that we think. So how can you cultivate a positive mindset?
What’s your self-talk?
First of all, we need to stop and think about the way we talk to ourselves. We literally have tens of thousands of thoughts a day and the quality of those thoughts are really important. In many ways they’re like little nutrients for the mind. Make sure they are positive and they’re healthy. If we’re talking to ourselves in a very negative way, then we’re going to self-sabotage. So flip some of those thoughts over and replace them with more positive vocabulary.
Turning problems into opportunities
I’m a big fan of the word probortunity – taking the word problem and the word opportunity and creating a hybrid. Apparently this came from the man who invented the post-it note. It’s really about looking at problematic situations, and how you can turn them into something more positive. You can play that game in your mind. Every time you have a negative thought, acknowledge that thought and then flip it over. What’s the positive side of that? What’s the opportunity?
Adopt a growth mindset
You may be familiar with the work of Carol Dweck, who is an American professor who wrote a very popular book called Mindset, in which she talks about the concept of growth mindset. This is where we open our minds to all sorts of possibilities, to new learning. That’s really important, because none of us are the finished article. We’re all people in progress, and we’re all learning all the time as dynamic human beings. It helps to keep our minds fresh, to keep our minds alert and most important of all, to keep our minds open.
This is an edited version of a conversation with Liggy Webb that appears in the Clear Lessons video learning library. The library contains more than 1,500 videos and is completely free to all voluntary sector organisations, their staff and volunteers. Corporate organisations can purchase a licence, which supports free access for charities. Please ask us for more details.
About Liggy Webb
Liggy Webb is an award-winning and bestselling author, presenter and international consultant specialising in behavioural skills. She’s recognised as a thought leader on resilience and behavioural agility and works with a wide range of businesses helping people to be more resilient, agile and healthy in a volatile, uncertain and highly complex world.
Organisations she works with include the BBC, the NHS, Macmillan Cancer Support, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, BNP Paribas, Sainsbury’s, Disney, Ralph Lauren and various universities.
Her book Resilience: How To Cope When Everything Around You Keeps Changing, is a practical and accessible guide for coping with change and offers advice on how to recover and flourish through challenging times. The guiding principles in the book are being televised for a series with the BBC world service, due out in 2019.
Liggy actively supports a range of charities as well as partnering with The Charity Learning Consortium to develop tools and resources for the charitable sector.