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February 26, 2020 7 min read

Positivity is powerful.

Positive people are more fun to be around, but positivity can have noticeable health benefits. Those that have a positive outlook tend to be less anxious and enjoy themselves more, which is good for your mental wellness. A consistent, positive attitude may even lower your risk of heart disease1.

But how can you become a positive person? If you've been more inclined towards negativity your whole life, breaking that cycle can seem impossible, but it isn't. Anyone can cultivate a positive mindset. It just requires determination. 

Like with all things, strengthening your ability to think positivity takes time and commitment. You may find it challenging to overcome negative thoughts, but never give up. Continue to practice the tips, and they will soon develop into lifelong habits. 

Believe 

It's quite simple: you need to believe in yourself. Yes, it sounds like advice you've read on the cover of every self-help book ever published, but there's truth to this old adage. Having faith in yourself is the key to succeeding in this world. 

Angela Passarelli, professor at the College of Charleston, has studied the science behind believing in yourself and a positive future. People that focus on a vision of a positive future feel happier, are more determined to pursue their goals, and found more joy in doing so2. It's all about training your brain to think a certain way. Too often, we focus on how the environment and events shape how we feel, and we rarely take advantage of how our mindsets can effect changes in the world around us. 

It may sound easy, but breaking yourself of the "I'm going to fail" mindset can be difficult. To get started, try practicing once a day with a small, relatively innocuous goal. Tell yourself, "I can get this report done in an hour," and then buckle down and check that box off your list. Over time, you'll build confidence in your abilities and that your ambitious goals will seem more achievable. 

Grow Your Skills

Positivity won't make up for a lack of hard work. Challenging work may sound scary to some, but just remember to believe in yourself.

You can help bolster your positivity by backing it up with solid skills and abilities. Whether it's communication at work or a casual violin performance at home, practice the things that help you be your best self. You'll find a positive mindset comes much easier when you are confident in your abilities. 

Make practice a part of your routine. Identify downtime. There's usually more time available than you think. Use this free-time to perfect your skills and ambitions and try to fit training into your day-to-day life without having to "make time" for it. (Of course, you'll still want to keep some time in your day for pure relaxation. Burnout is real and helpful to no one.) 

Wake Up Positive

Never underestimate the power of positive affirmation. In other words, try to get up on the right side of the bed each morning. 

For those of us who aren't morning people, this can be easier said than done. Yet we must begin our days happy. Find something that brings you joy, such as reading, exercising, or even eating a favorite snack, and then incorporate that into your morning routine. 

Try beginning each day by writing a little note about the good things in your life, or pen a short thank you to someone special. Even if you have to wake up five minutes earlier, make time to put yourself in a positive mindset. This little bubble of positivity can act as a shield, helping you get through everything the day decides to throw at you.

Grow From Failure

Self-criticism is an important skill to have. We need to be able to appraise our flaws so we can grow and learn honestly. Many people also fixate on their failures to be humble. Yet this mindset can be detrimental if it goes unchecked. 

A modest amount of self-critique now and then is healthy, but odds are you're way too hard on yourself. No one is perfect, and failure is one of our best teachers. Try to divorce yourself from your failures and acknowledge the opportunity to be better prepared next time. 

When things don't go perfectly, don't blame yourself. This self-shaming rarely leads to anything productive and won't help you next time you're up to bat. Fear of the shame associated with failure can cripple your productivity and make you less likely to take risks3. So work to focus on the reasons why you failed. Were you unprepared? Did you lack support? Maybe the timing just wasn't right. Take notes, get ready, and try again. 

Focus on the Good (all of it)

In other words, look on the bright side of things. We understand that changing your mindset can be difficult, especially when your well-laid plans have just blown up in your face. You must keep moving forward. Sift through the potential downsides of your current situation and focus your attention on something good that's come out of it. 

There's always a positive side if you look for one. The positive could be something incredibly small (like the two-hour road construction delay giving you time to finally finish that audiobook). Still, the importance of the silver lining isn't the point. The point is to care for your mental and emotional wellbeing by not letting yourself ruminate on negative things that you can't change. 

Psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez details ways to fend off pessimism and focus instead on the positive aspects of a situation4. In her words, try to banish the negative by examining it. Ask yourself if you have any real evidence to support your worries or pessimism. The answer is usually no!

Live in the Present 

Past, present, and future. Our brains need to devote a little time to each. Yet many of us get too hung up on the past and the future, forgetting the present. There's a difference between acknowledging the past and fixating on previous failures. Even too much forward-thinking can be detrimental as it increases anxiety about the future.

Find your balance. Remember to enjoy your life as it happens. Taking advantage of the present doesn't mean going in for 100 percent hedonism with no thought for the future. Just remember to reorient yourself and live in the moment at least once a day.

Focusing on the present means turning your thoughts inward. You can check in with your mind and body using simple meditation techniques5. Research has shown that making a habit of meditating for just five minutes a day can increase overall positivity as well as reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation. 

If you're unfamiliar with meditation techniques, a guided meditation may be perfect for you. There are many free apps you can download on your phone. Or, if you'd prefer, simply plug in your favorite music and meditate solo. 

Make Time For You

It's important not to lose yourself in the shuffle. Part of maintaining positivity is being in a relaxed headspace. Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, and if you don't take the time to care for yourself, they can become overwhelming. 

Many people take relaxing baths or curl up with a good book, but your "me time" can take any form, so long as it works for you. 

Build a Positive Support Network

Our environments have a significant influence on our mental wellness. When the people around us are negative or stressful, we tend to take on these feelings in turn. Build a peer group of positive people for yourself. Seek out friends, colleagues, and mentors who can be constructively critical without being a source of anxiety. 

For all the introverts out there, don't panic. You don't need to be continuously surrounded by a positive mob. Some of us thrive with large friend groups, and others prefer to have fewer people in our lives. The number of people in your support network is less significant than the positivity, joy, and support that they lend you. In short, it's about quality over quantity.

As for family members, we know that it can be a hard line to walk. We don't choose our relatives, and navigating familial relations can get tricky. Just remember that you only have control over yourself and your actions. Avoid trying to fix or change the negative family members in your life and try to remain positive for your own sake. 

The Best Version of Yourself

Don't set goals that are beyond your reach. Instead, establish goals that represent the things you can be and accomplish them. What do you picture when you think of your ideal self? Are you accomplished in your field? Are you the anchor of your family? Are you a trustworthy community volunteer? Create the best version of yourself in your mind and then begin to lay goals for becoming that person.

Set goals for self-improvement. Ideally, these goals can be easily measured. Don't just vaguely say, "I want to be a more positive person," because you'll have no way to mark your progress.

Instead, set tangible goals like "I will meditate for five minutes before bed each night." Remember to celebrate wins by rewarding yourself as you make progress towards your goals. 

Significant Change Comes From Small Steps

No change will happen overnight. Sculpting yourself into a more positive person will take time. Establishing new habits (especially good habits) is challenging and takes determination. 

Don't be discouraged by how insignificant small changes may seem. Making time for a relaxing bath now and then might not seem like a big deal. Still, it will work in tandem with all the other small positive changes you make. Before you know it, you'll be growing into that ideal positive version of yourself that you have in your mind.



(1) Johns Hopkins University (2020) The Power of Positive Thinking
(2) Boyatzis R, Smith M, Oosten E (2019 Oct) Coaching for Change
(3) Gilbert P, Procter S (2006 Nov) Compassionate Mind Training for People with High Shame and Self-Criticism
(4) Tigar L (2016 Jul) How to find the bright side of any situation
(5) Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness


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