7 Positive Thinking Exercises for Anxiety

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by anxiety? Do you sometimes find your mind clouded with negative thoughts that seem impossible to shake off?

If so, you're not alone. Anxiety is a common mental health concern that many people grapple with daily.

However, the good news is that there are practical steps you can take to manage these feelings and foster a more positive mindset.

In this article, we will explore seven positive thinking exercises designed specifically to combat anxiety.

These strategies are not only scientifically-backed but also easy to incorporate into your everyday routine. Let's dive in!


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Joel Harms, MA, LPC

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Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

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Maria Roncalli, LPC

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1. Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude journaling is a powerful practice that can significantly transform your perspective towards life.

For instance, you might wake up feeling anxious about a presentation at work. Instead of dwelling on this stress, you start your day by jotting down three things you're grateful for in your journal.

Perhaps you write about the comfort of your warm bed, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting from the kitchen, and the sound of birds chirping outside your window.

These simple but meaningful aspects of your life serve as reminders of the positive elements surrounding you.

As a result, instead of starting your day with anxiety, you begin with a sense of appreciation and positivity.

This shift in focus can help alleviate stress and equip you to handle the challenges of the day more effectively. 


2. Mindful Breathing


Mindful breathing is a form of meditation that involves focusing on your breath as it flows in and out of your body.

This technique can help ground you in the present moment, preventing anxious thoughts from spiraling out of control.

There are several mindful breathing techniques that you can use to cultivate mindfulness and reduce stress.

One such technique is deep breathing, which involves taking slow, full breaths, and controlling the length of each inhale and exhale.

This method not only helps to calm the mind but also has physical benefits, including lowering heart rate and blood pressure.

Another effective method is the "4-7-8" breathing technique, where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.

This technique slows down your breathing rate and helps you to concentrate on your breath, promoting relaxation and mental clarity.

A simpler yet powerful technique is to just observe your natural breathing without trying to control it.

Pay attention to how the air feels as it enters and exits your nose. Notice the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen with each breath.

This non-judgmental observation can bring a sense of peace and calmness, making it a handy tool for instant stress relief. 



3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working up to your head.

This practice helps you become more aware of physical sensations and can effectively release the physical tension associated with anxiety.

Here are a few techniques for practicing PMR:


  • Toe Tensing: This may seem like an odd place to start, but many people carry tension in their feet without realizing it. Sit comfortably and focus on your toes. Curl them tightly for a count of five, then relax. Repeat this cycle a few times to relieve any tension.

  • Progressive Relaxation: After you've relaxed your toes, move upwards through your body - to your legs, abdomen, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and finally your face. For each area, tense your muscles tightly and hold for a count of five, then release and relax.

  • Deep Breathing: While you're tensing and releasing muscles, remember to breathe deeply. As you focus on each muscle group, inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a moment, then exhale through your mouth.

  • Mental Focus: As you work through your muscle groups, maintain a mental focus on the area you're working on. Visualize the tension leaving your body as you relax each muscle group.

  • Practice Regularly: Like any skill, practice makes perfect. The more you practice progressive muscle relaxation, the more effective it will become as a method to reduce your overall levels of stress and anxiety.


4. Positive Affirmations 

Positive affirmations are powerful tools for cultivating a positive mindset and boosting self-confidence.

For example, you might create a list that includes affirmations such as, "I am capable and resilient," "I handle difficulties with grace," "I am worthy of success and happiness," "I am learning and growing each day," and "I choose peace over worry."

By repeating these affirmations daily, you reinforce these positive beliefs about yourself in your subconscious.

Over time, this practice can help reduce anxiety and self-doubt, replacing them with a strong sense of self-belief and confidence.



5. Visualization

Visualization is a powerful technique used for stress reduction and relaxation.

To practice this, close your eyes and picture a place or situation that brings you tranquility and serenity.

It could be a lush green forest, a serene beach at sunset, or even a cozy nook in your own home.

Engage all your senses in this mental image - hear the rustling leaves or the soft waves crashing against the shore, smell the fresh earth or the salty sea air, feel the cool breeze against your skin, taste the freshness of the air.

The more vivid your visualization, the more immersive and effective the experience.

By focusing on these calming visuals and sensory experiences, you can disengage from the stressors of the present, anchoring yourself in a peaceful and calm mental state.


6. Positive Reframing

Positive reframing is a powerful technique that involves identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.

It's about shifting your perspective to view situations, experiences, or challenges in a more positive or productive light.

For instance, rather than succumbing to thoughts like "I can't handle this", you reframe that thought into something more empowering such as "I've handled tough situations before and I can do it again".

This simple shift in thinking can significantly affect your emotional response to stressors, boosting your confidence, resilience, and overall mental being.


7. Practice Self-Compassion

Practicing self-compassion involves being gentle and understanding with oneself, particularly during episodes of anxiety.

It's about acknowledging that anxiety is a universal human experience, something that everyone encounters from time to time.

Instead of being harsh or critical about your feelings, self-compassion encourages you to embrace them with kindness and patience.

Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Instead of dwelling on them, acknowledge them, learn from them, and forgive yourself. 

Remember that being imperfect is part of being human.

Develop a self-care routine that includes activities you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself. This could include reading, journaling, taking a warm bath, exercising, or cooking a healthy meal.


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Conclusion

These seven positive thinking exercises can be powerful tools in managing anxiety. From positive reframing to practicing self-compassion, each technique offers a unique approach to alter your perspective and cultivate a healthier mindset.

However, remember that change doesn't happen overnight and consistency is key.

Practice these exercises regularly and you'll likely notice a shift in your thought patterns over time, leading to lower levels of anxiety and an increased sense of well-being.

It's also important to remember that while these exercises can be highly beneficial, they are not a substitute for professional help if your anxiety is severe or persistent. Always reach out to a mental health professional if you need additional support. 


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June 21st, 2024

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