She's serving up some "real talk" for anyone who struggles with negative thinking.

By Julia Guerra
August 22, 2019
Amy Sussman/Staff/Getty Images

Many celebrities would have you believe that life is like a box of chocolates. But Kristen Bell is not like most celebrities. The Veronica Mars actress will be the first to admit that famous people feel all the things—the good, the bad, the ugly—and just like you, they're always looking for healthy ways to cope with the ups and downs of life.

Bell recently opened up on Instagram about how she navigates moments of anger. She shared a screenshot of a tweet that reads: "You can care about things without being upset all the time. I feel like people might not know this."

The Good Place star said she thinks about this sentiment "a LOT." (Related: Kristen Bell Shares Ways to Check In with Yourself Amidst Her Own Mental Health Struggles)

"I know from personal experience, when I'm feeling angry, I look around for things to be angry about, to justify my feeling that way. Obviously when you look for things to be angry about, you're gonna find them," Bell wrote.

But the same concept applies to positive emotions, she added. "When I'm feeling joyful, I seek out evidence to support this feeling, which just increases the intensity of the emotion."

In other words, it all comes down to perspective. If you change your mind, you can change your world. (Related: These Three Little Words Are Making You a Negative Person—and You Probably Say Them All the Time)

"I've found the trick is to, when I'm feeling angry, seek out, or do things that bring me joy," Bell wrote. "I act how I want to feel, instead of acting how I already feel."

The mama-of-two definitely has the right idea. Intentionally shifting your perspective from a negative to a positive mindset can literally rewire and retrain your brain to naturally be more positive, explains Catherine Jackson, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist.

The first step is to realize that the negatives "only account for a small fraction of all that is going on in our lives," says Jackson. The second step: Refocus your time and energy on things that bring you joy and gratitude. (Related: 5 Proven Health Benefits of Gratitude)

In theory, there's something to be grateful for even on your worst days. But if in that moment of anger you still struggle to come up with thoughts that spark joy, try looking to your body as a starting point, suggests Jennifer MacLeamy, Psy.D., executive director at Newport Academy, a teen rehabilitation center in California.

"A body-based technique is often helpful," she explains. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and consciously relaxing your physical body, which can then send a message to the mind that it's okay to let go of any negative emotions and stress you might be harboring. Deep breathing exercises, as well as visualization practices that bring you to a place of relaxation, can also help foster feelings of calm and promote positivity, adds MacLeamy.

And if it's still hard to shake anger or negativity, try finding a gratitude partner: someone who will hold you accountable to building this practice, who won't be afraid to call you out when your perspective is needlessly fixed on negativity, explains Jackson. "Gratitude takes practice," she says. "And like any other skill, the more practice given to feeling, expressing, and receiving gratitude, the more the brain adapts to this positive, more joyful mindset."

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