30 Ways to Become a More Positive Person
Have you ever been pessimistic about a problem or life situation you faced? Have you noticed yourself inundated with negative thoughts at some point in your life? Most of us have. Life can be a test, especially of our minds and, specifically, our outlooks and mindsets. Ask yourself this: do you consider yourself to be a positive or negative person?
All human beings will, at some time or another, face tough challenges, obstacles and heartache in their lives. How we view and react to these situations is a choice we make, thankfully. We can choose to be either positive or negative when facing any predicament.
I know quite a few people who have experienced tremendous hardships in their lives, much more than the average person, in fact. Yet some of these same people are the most positive, upbeat and happy people I know. Despite some extraordinarily tough life experiences, they are optimistic about life. They exude a positive energy which affects others around them.
These positive people have two things in common: 1. They choose to have a positive outlook and 2. They commit to diligently performing certain practices daily in order to maintain and, perhaps even increase, their positivity. In other words, they make a personal choice to be positive and then train themselves to get good at it.
What I have learned is that a person can actually practice to become more positive and optimistic. There are many ways to do this and I list them below. But first, it is important to realize that you DO have a choice, even if you have experienced suffering and problems in your life. That ability to choose is your right and it is yours to claim. Victor Frankl, the famous neurologist, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, expressed this best when he said, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Our lives are influenced tremendously by our childhoods, our parents, our families, our childhood environments, our current environments, the people we associate with, and our life experiences in general. All these factors shape the way we think.
Most of the time, we are not even aware of our own mindsets and outlooks. We do not realize that we are being negative and pessimistic. Instead, our outlook causes us to feel frustrated, hopeless, sad, angry, desperate, and depressed. We blame others for our problems or think that we are unlucky and victimized. It never occurs to some people that their outlook and mindset is the filter through which they view the world.
Whether your glass is half empty or half full is really a matter of perspective. Fortunately, we can all choose the kind of mindset we want to adopt in life and this will greatly affect how we think, act and feel, regardless of the situation at hand. We can elect to adopt a negative mindset or a positive one. And both have serious repercussions.
So why should we choose a positive mindset over a negative one? First, let’s look at the disadvantages of having a negative mindset:
Disadvantages of a Negative Mindset
- It does not feel good and often leads to depression, anger, hurt, resentment, hopelessness, and frustration.
- It compromises our body and our immune functions, leading to more disease, lack of energy, chronic stress, less rested sleep, fatigue, high blood pressure, and even a reduced lifespan.
- It makes life less fun and adventurous.
- It makes positive people want to avoid us.
- It makes us myopic and less aware of opportunities around us.
- It reduces our ability to experience ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’, a trait that many positive people experience in their lives.
- It brings others down and creates a negative atmosphere around us.
- It can have a negative effect on our self-esteem.
- It can cause us to feel fearful all the time and not want to try anything new because a negative mindset often leads to not feeling ‘good enough’.
- It often exaggerates a problem or difficult situation and makes us feel worse than necessary.
- It can increase the tendency to constantly compare ourselves to others negatively.
- It leads to negative rumination about the past
- It discourages us from investing in ourselves over the long run.
- It can prevent self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others.
- It makes it more likely that we will fear making mistakes and, therefore, not even try.
- It affects our ability to solve problems and think clearly.
Now that we know all the drawbacks to being a negative person, let’s look at the advantages of being positive:
Advantages of a Positive Mindset
- Our vision expands (also known as the broaden effect) and allows us to increase our awareness and ability to engage in novel thoughts and actions.
- It encourages us to invest more in ourselves and see the long term benefits of doing so.
- It is better for our health, reduces our stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), improves our cardiovascular health, and increases life span.
- People who are positive have lower rates of depression.
- It boosts our immune functions and makes us less susceptible to diseases and illnesses.
- It facilitates better psychological and physical well-being.
- It helps us to cope better with genuine problems and challenges.
- It increases our overall productivity and performance.
- Positive people have better relationships with others.
- It makes us more resilient and increases our ability to ‘bounce back’ when we experience setbacks.
- It makes us happier, more calm, and more optimistic about life in general.
- It helps us to be more motivated.
- It reduces the need for external fixes such as alcohol and drugs.
- It makes us more attractive and approachable to other positive people.
Clearly, there are so many benefits to be gained from becoming a positive person. Most people who are negative do not realize that they have a negative mindset. This negativity has been honed over the years and become ingrained. It becomes their default disposition. Quite often, they are unable to see how their negativity has adversely affected their lives and they blame external circumstances.
Positive people take responsibility for their lives and find positivity in almost any situation. They know that their attitudes affect their lives substantially and, as a result, they choose a positive mindset. They do not blame the world around them and, more importantly, they spend time daily practicing being positive. That is why two people can experience the same setbacks or problems, but the more positive person is able to cope and even thrive in those situations. To use a simple illustration, think about how a negative and a positive person would each handle an unexpected traffic jam that is making them late for an appointment. The negative person might get angry, frustrated and stressed while the positive person stays calm, unflustered, and turns the radio on to their favorite music station or listens to an audiobook to take advantage of the free time.
So what are some of the things we can do daily to practice becoming a more positive person? Here are 30 ways that really help, especially if practiced daily. I know that 30 ways is an extensive list and it is important that you realize that you do not have to practice all of them at once, or even at all. Pick the ones that feel right for you and stick with them. The more methods you use, the more effective they are and the sooner you will experience positive results.
There are many kinds of meditation and it is important to find one that you feel comfortable with. Personally, I meditate each morning by sitting in a quiet spot, closing my eyes, and focusing on my breathing. If my mind wanders (and it will), I simply become aware that my attention has strayed and I gently, without judgement, return my attention to my breath. Meditation helps us become aware of our thoughts and helps to prevent us from getting caught up with them. Instead, we are able to ‘watch’ our thoughts from a distance without reacting to them. Meditation also helps to keep us present, which is the next point in this list.
3. Be Present
Almost all our unhappiness, anger, resentment, and regret are caused by us thinking about the past. And almost all anxiety, worry, and stress are caused by thinking about the future. The only thing we have some control over is the present. Focusing on the present enables you to focus on the tasks at hand and not ruminate about the past or worry about the future, both of which we have no control over.
4. Distance Yourself from Negative People
All of us know someone who is extremely negative in their outlook and who seems to always have complaints and problems. Attitudes can be contagious and that is why I have chosen to distance myself from negative people.
5. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Try to surround yourself with people who have positive outlooks because they will be better influences in your life. Just as someone who stops drinking alcohol might choose not to go to a bar, if you want to become a more positive person, associate with like-minded people.
6. Eradicate Negative Media
A lot of the media the average person comes face to face with every day is highly negative, bleak, pessimistic, violent, and depressing. While it is important to be aware of what is going on in the world, it does not mean that we need to be constantly inundated with negativity. That is one of the reasons I suggest eradicating or reducing the amount of negative television and video you watch.
7. Engage in Positive Media
Thankfully, there are positive blogs, web sites, videos, TV programs, books, and magazines that have a positive spin. Many of these such as Ted.com, The Positivity Blog, Gaia, etc, offer wonderful resources that are educational, entertaining, and positive in nature. There also are wonderful documentaries and uplifting movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. The point is to be conscious about what media you allow yourself to engage in because the type of media you choose to surround yourself with on a daily basis can affect your psyche.
8. Help Others/Volunteer
Another effective thing you can do to become more positive is to volunteer and help others in need. Why? Because when you see others suffering and in need, it makes you aware that your life is not as bad as you previously thought. Also, numerous studies have shown that helping others and giving them our time and/or resources increases our own level of happiness and self-worth. So reach out to others and help as often as you can. You will reap immense benefits from doing so.
9. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Many of our negative thoughts are irrational and not based on fact. You might not think that you are good enough, worthy enough, smart enough, tall enough, attractive enough, etc, but there is a good chance that you are wrong. When you feel this way, sit down and make a list of reasons that challenge and disprove your beliefs. There are numerous ways to develop self-confidence and self-belief.
10. Deep Breathing
When we are stressed and upset, our breathing gets shallower and quicker. This is one of the symptoms of being in fight-or-flight mode, with elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol in our bodies. We can counteract this by remembering to breathe deeply and slowly. This actually calms us down and activates our parasympathetic system. Deep breathing is a powerful way to take advantage of our mind-body connection to lower blood pressure, relax our muscles, and induce the production of endorphins, hormones that improve our feeling of well-being.
Regular daily exercise is another fantastic way to help us feel better and become more positive. It helps increase our brains sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which help prevent depression. Exercise also increases our production of endorphins which trigger positive feelings in us. You will also experience less anxiety, better sleep, and a sense of accomplishment which will have positive effects on other aspects of your life. You do not have to start out by running a marathon. Start walking for a few minutes each day and slowly increase the length of time and level of exertion. Here are some helpful exercise tips to help you get on your way.
Human beings are not meant to sit at a desk for hours each day or lie down on the couch to watch hours of TV. We are built to move. In fact, movement actually positively affects our mood, our level of happiness and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and boosts our immune system.
14. Spend Time in Nature
All of us know the positive feelings we experience when we surround ourselves with nature. It could be a hike in the woods, a trip to the beach, a picnic by a lake, etc. Nature has a soothing and positive effect on our minds and bodies. Being in nature makes us less stressed, more creative, happier, more connected to the world, and more alive. In short, nature is good for us.
Believe it or not, smiling actually improves our mood and optimism. Studies have shown that, when we smile, our brain produces three neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin) that positively affect our mood. So, instead of waiting to be happy to smile, smile and you will find your mood will improve. Try it now.
17. Celebrate Small Victories
When someone has a negative mindset, they tend to focus on all that is wrong with their lives. It is as if their eyes have filters that do not allow them to see the positive aspects. They view their glasses as being half-empty rather than half-full. In fact, they often find reasons to discount the positivity they experience. This leads to even more negativity and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Instead, try to focus daily on small victories. For example, you could celebrate the fact that you cooked a nice dinner that your family loved; you could celebrate the fact that you successfully completed the report your boss asked for and complimented you on; you could celebrate a phone call from a friend; you could celebrate a small skill you learned today. The list of things we could all celebrate is almost endless and we simply need to have the right perspective. Take the time to celebrate your blessings and small victories. I guarantee you that you have much to be thankful for.
18. Get Some Sun
I never knew the benefits of sunlight on our moods until recently when I did some research on circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight releases serotonin in our brain, which boosts our moods. A lack of exposure to the sun causes our serotonin levels to drop and that can lead to depression. This explains why people who live far north or south of the equator experience seasonal depression during winter when exposure to the sun is minimal at best. Try to get at least 15 to 30 minutes of morning sun each day. Better yet, kill two birds with one stone by eating your lunch outside in nature and under some sunlight.
The food we eat has a profound impact on the way we feel and the way our brains operate. Foods that can positively affect our moods include ones that contain probiotics such as kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut. This is because foods with probiotics help to improve our gut bacteria (microbiome) and that, in turn, affects our brains. Also, incorporate more vegetables and fruit in your diet and stay away from junk food, processed foods, caffeine, and sugar. Eat whole grains rather than white rice, white bread, etc. Here is some science on the relation between mood and diet for those interested.
23. Learn to Laugh at Yourself and Have a Sense of Humor
Nobody is perfect and, unfortunately, most of us have one thing in common: we tend to be our own worst critics. It is important to remember that life is an adventure and that all of us trip up. Learning to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously is another wonderful way to lighten our mood and become more positive about our lives. Some of the greatest achievers in history possessed a good sense of humor and were able to laugh at themselves.
24. Remember that Failures Are Valuable Lessons and Not the End Result
People who have a ‘growth’ mindset know that all failures offer important lessons to help us become better people. People with ‘fixed’ mindsets fear failure and, therefore, rarely take risks or try something new. They view failure as something embarrassing and threatening to their self-confidence. It is safe to say that the people we admire most in the world have all failed at some point or another. Rather than throw in the towel and stop trying, they learn from their mistakes and approach life believing that they are more experienced. As Thomas Edison famously said when he failed numerous times in the process of inventing the lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Show me someone who has not failed and I will show you someone who has played it safe and not tried.
25. Forget Perfection. Accept That We Are All Human and Focus on Progress Instead
As I mentioned above, all of us will fail at an endeavor at some point in our lives. Instead of focusing on attaining perfection (which rarely happens), focus on small steps and progress. For example, if you go to the gym and are not able to complete an exercise, focus on the fact that you showed up and were able to complete one rep more than you were able to before. Celebrate the fact that you had the discipline to show up at the gym in the first place. If you authored a book that did not sell as well as you expected, focus on the fact that you managed to complete the book in the first place, something most people are not prepared to do. Then learn from your mistakes and move forward. Almost all success is the culmination of taking small steps and making incremental progress.
26. Positive Reinforcement
When you make incremental progress, practice positive reinforcement. This will help to instill good habits. Much like a child who is complimented by a parent when they do something good so that they associate that deed with positivity, you can do the same in your life. For example, if you stick to your exercise routine this week, reinforce your behavior by treating yourself to a healthy dinner at your favorite restaurant. If you lose 5 pounds, reward yourself by buying a new pair of jeans. Positive reinforcement is a great way to help you become more positive and to see the good in yourself and the world at large rather than the bad.
27. Mindfulness/Become More Aware
Many of our negative thoughts occur subconsciously. Most people are generally not even aware that they are thinking negative thoughts. It happens automatically because that is the way they have become used to thinking. This can be compared to pressing the brake pedal when driving. You do it subconsciously without thinking. Be aware and mindful (meditation is a great way to become more mindful and aware). You can read more about cultivating awareness and mindfulness here.
28. Stop Judging and Labeling Everything
One of the best lessons I have learned is to stop labeling and judging everything in my life. Human beings tend to label everything as being either good or bad. For example, we see someone with their hair dyed green and we immediately judge this as being good or bad. We judge almost everything in our lives, from other people, to the gifts we receive, movies we watch, books we read, the weather, job titles, and the list goes on and on. True, we do need to judge certain situations that are dangerous in order to protect ourselves, but most people go overboard and judge everything they encounter. Just imagine how tiring that can get. It is often much better to accept what we cannot control and go with the flow. Try to count the number of times you judge something or someone in a day and you may be surprised.
29. Avoid Gossiping and Complaining
Another great way to become more positive by nature is to stop complaining and gossiping about others. All of us are guilty of this and the more we are able to reduce this, the more positive we will be. Become aware of all the times you complain about something or someone and practice acceptance instead.
30. Reward/Compliment Effort Rather Than Talent
Last, but not least, remember that effort is worth more than talent in the long run. Focus on your effort rather than your talent. Effort is what leads to proficiency. Talent is wasted if it is not backed up by solid effort. Stop thinking that others are more talented than you and focus on the actual doing. Every journey begins with taking the first step.
Even if you have been a negative person for a long time, rest assured that you can make positive changes. Our habits are learned and, therefore, can be unlearned and retrained. Research has shown that we can actually rewire our brains and change our mindsets. You really can be a more positive person and become happier and more optimistic. You deserve to live your life that way.