How to Foster a Healthy Mind

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

Changing your thoughts is a powerful way to increase your self-esteem. Your thoughts can make you feel like a helpless victim or a strong, confident success.

There’s more than one way to look at life and focus your thoughts. A person with healthy self-esteem can take control of those untamed thoughts that seem to come from nowhere and aim them in a positive direction.

Talk to yourself the way a loving parent or best friend would

One of the best ways to nurture yourself is to talk to yourself the way a loving parent or your best friend would talk to you. Even if you feel that your parents or the people who raised you weren’t very loving or you don’t have a best friend, imagine how they would talk to you. This is the way you should be talking to yourself.

Consider each of the following traits of people who love you and feel them deeply. Then write in your notebook how you can express them to yourself. A loving parent or best friend would

  • Care about you very much

  • Support you in expressing yourself

  • Value and respect who you are

  • Appreciate your talents and skills

  • Be patient with you

  • Remind you about some triumph that makes you feel good about yourself

  • Give you inspiration to take on the world

  • Love you unconditionally, no matter what you do

  • Commend you for your achievements, even if they’re not perfect

  • Always be there for you

Find positive meaning to events

There’s an old story about a farmer whose horse ran away. His friend said, “That’s terrible luck!” and the farmer replied, “Perhaps.” The next day, the horse returned, bringing with it a wild horse.

The farmer’s son tried to ride the wild horse, fell off, and broke his leg. Again, his friend said, “What an awful thing!” and the farmer again replied, “Perhaps.” The next day, military officers came to the village to draft every young man into the army. Because he had a broken leg, the farmer’s son didn’t have to go.

The farmer was very happy and saw how these events led to this outcome. Even though they seemed negative at the time, these events ended up being positive.

Reality is actually looking at what happens around you and assigning meaning to it. You interpret what happens, emphasizing some things and disregarding others. You then assign either negative, neutral, or positive meaning to events and situations.

Interestingly, studies show that your brain highlights negative interpretations more than positive ones, so you tend to focus on the negative. And what you pay attention to increases. So when you focus much more on negatives, they strengthen in your mind, whereas when you focus on positives, they intensify in your mind.

Finding an alternative, more positive meaning to negative events that happen in your life helps you be more upbeat and optimistic. It’s often difficult to see the silver lining in a challenging situation. Asking yourself these questions helps:

  • How can this experience teach me something I need to learn?

  • How will this situation strengthen my character?

  • Can I interpret this as an indication to change course?

  • How can this negative experience affect me in a beneficial way?

  • What can I smile about concerning this event?

  • Will this matter in a week? A month? A year?

  • What areas of this situation do I have control over to influence even a small change?

It’s healthy to be an optimist. Optimists tend to explain positive events as having happened because of their own talents or actions and believe that positive things will continue to take place in the future and in many parts of their life. Optimists see negative events as coincidences that won’t affect their future or other areas of their life.

If you think in this way, you won’t focus on negative events, and you’ll see positive events as sustaining your belief in yourself and the goodness of life as well as your confidence that good things are happening to you now and will continue to happen in the future.