You know some of the things you need to do in order to build a more positive mindset.
Start a gratitude journal.
Look for the good in everyone.
Remind yourself that someone out there has it worse than you.
But seriously, with all the negative things going on in the world, isn't staying positive sometimes THE HARDEST thing to do?
Those of us who identify as “realists” may very well feel like it's impossible to consistently maintain a positive mindset.
On top of that, the media has a tendency to exaggerate negative news. To quote Steven Pinker from The Guardian, the nature of the news will make us think that the world is getting worse — whether or not it really is.
Listen to Justin address this topic on on Episode 76 of Optimal Living Daily.
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Include some of your friends or family members who are always airing their complaints and grievances, and your outlook on the world may be that it is a very negative place indeed.
So, what are some things you can do to stay optimistic in our fast-paced, chaotic world?
We posed this question to a panel of experts who generously shared their advice and strategies.
How To Stay Positive No Matter What
1. Meditate and Exercise
Briana Borten is the founder of The Dragontree, a wellness organization with holistic spas in Portland and Boulder and online resources for vibrant living. She says:
- The first is meditation. It doesn’t have to be this meditation or that meditation — just take time to still your mind. It’s so essential in a world where our minds are running non-stop most (if not all) of our waking days. To bring balance we must find stillness at least once a day. Meditation also makes us more effective, happier, kinder, and can give us a sense of deep connection.
- Next, move your body more — it doesn’t have to be “exercise” — but take a walk, garden, dance, anything that gets your body in motion. In a time where so many of us are sitting at computers to work all day, our bodies lack the movement they were built for. We have to prioritize it so we can, again, bring that balance into our lives.
2. Be Grateful… And Know Why
Declan Edwards, founder of BU Coaching, says that positive psychology has found that one of the most practical and effective ways for people to cultivate positivity in the face of challenge and hardship is to regularly practice gratitude.
“This could be as simple as taking time each day to ‘smell the roses' or it could be a more formalised practice such as filling in a gratitude diary each day,” says Edwards. “The reason this is so effective as a practice is that gratitude cannot co-exist simultaneously with stress. In fact gratitude practices have been linked with outcomes as remarkable as nearly doubling subjective wellbeing and nearly halving rates of depression and anxiety.”
For best results, Edwards recommends that you write down three things you are grateful for each day and *why* you are grateful for them.
3. Limit Your Media Consumption
Dr. Carole Lieberman psychiatrist, says that with all the negativity floating around the world these days, you have to make an effort each day to stay positive. Here are a few suggestions:
- Limit your daily intake of bad news — especially at night. Do not watch television news right before you go to bed because it becomes the stuff your nightmares are made of.
- Get a pet, preferably a rescue pet. It will make you feel good to know that you have saved this animal, and they will make you feel loved each day.
- Volunteer to help people whose world is likely more negative than yours — such as by fostering children, reading to the elderly, or feeding the homeless. Because brightening up their world will brighten up yours, too.
4. Focus on the Positive
Becky Blanton, TED Global Speaker and ghostwriter, spoke at TED Global in 2009 about HOPE. And she was homeless for over a year! She says:
“In the midst of negativity I learned to maintain a positive attitude by just looking for the good in situations rather than focusing on the negative. I kept a gratitude journal which forced me to find things to be grateful and positive about.
For instance, it may have been cold, raining and miserable, but I focused on the fact I had a van and had a warm sleeping bag. After I got into housing, I learned mindful meditation — the act of stepping back and looking at what’s happening. That helped me more than anything. Life can change in an instant. That’s why it’s so important to focus on the here and now, and on the positive.
What we focus on persists. So focus on the positive, even if there are 20 negatives. Studies have shown that our thoughts control our emotions, our hormones, and our mood. When you change your thoughts, you change your attitude.”
5. Stay Grounded
Belinda Ginter, Certified Emotional Kinesiologist, says:
- Keeping yourself grounded is key to your well-being and really realizing that self discipline is the same thing as self love. That one was preached by the amazing grounded Will Smith. If you want things to appear only positive in your life and outer world, then you must be committed to being only positive in your inner world.
- To stay grounded, spend time with your inner circle — the people in your life who are tried, tested and true. Spend time to commit to moving your body daily. Hydrate and fuel yourself properly.
- Lastly, remember that your own happiness is no one's job but your own. Do things that make you feel independently happy, positive and joyful daily.
6. Choose Positive Self-Talk
Anna Hennings, Mental Performance Consultant, says to choose productive and rational self-talk.
“Self-talk is what we say to ourselves, both out loud and in our heads,” says Hennings. “You are the most important person you talk to day in and day out. All too often, we talk to ourselves in a way we'd never speak to anyone we love: extremely critically and negatively.
This unproductive self-talk can lower your overall motivation, decrease your confidence, affect your attitude, and ultimately, affect how you show up in life or perform whatever task is at hand (in work, in life, in relationships…etc). What you think influences how you feel and ultimately how you behave.”
7. See to Your Mindset First Thing in the Morning
Valeria Weber Williamson is the CEO of Do A Shot of Yoga!
She shares that building positivity starts with an honest assessment. “Where is this negativity coming from? At work, at home, in the community? If I’m feeling that negativity is coming my way from every direction, what role am I playing?”
Protecting ourselves from negativity means acknowledging when we are playing a role in the process and choosing to make intentional changes.
A great way to do this is to set your mindset on a positive track for the day first thing on the morning. Take 20 minutes to:
1) find some movement (e.g., gentle stretching or yoga) for 5 minutes,
2) sit quietly and focus on the breath and positive mantra that will guide your day for 5 minutes,
3) journal out whatever is in your heart and head by hand for 5 minutes,
4) choose the top 3 things you want to accomplish that day and plan out your schedule.
8. Have a Code of Conduct
Steve Taubman, Mindfulness Expert and Bestselling Author, says:
- Clean up your act, outside and in. By choosing to act with integrity, honor, and morality in all things, you begin to simplify your life. Having a code of conduct from which you never stray is an act of love and respect for yourself and others.
- Sharpen your focus. Just like exercise, mindfulness practices such as meditation strengthen your focus muscles and keep you from being drawn into negative mental states. Don't forget to take a break from your digital devices as well.
- Assemble your lifeboats. Decide in advance who or what helps you get through those times of being negative when you can't do it alone. That way, you can get support whenever you need it. If your friends have agreed to be there for you during tough times, don't forget to be there for them as well!
9. Choose Simplicity
J. A. Plosker, Writer and Mindfulness Speaker, says to choose simplicity.
“Positivity isn't just found in personal growth retreats or years of complicated spiritual practices,” says Plosker. “Although those can be useful, positivity really begins right in your everyday life with a choice — a choice to find something simple that makes you feel good right now. Positivity can be created while relaxing with a cup of tea or when taking a morning stroll with the sunrise. Don't take a long journey to positivity and happiness. Start with something simple right in the life you have.”
10. Count Your Blessings
TJ Menhennitt, Author of Taking The War Out Of The Warrior, says:
“I lived a chapter of my life what I called the trenches. Negative thinking was my one of my many worst enemies. I truly believe that escaped out and shifted my life to a positive and inspirational because of changing my thought habits.
One way that I do this is seeing everything as a blessing in my life. Yes, the hardest battles I ever fought are now looked at as a blessing instead of a failure or regret.
I find the good in everything, and I made it clear that I don’t need to know immediately what the good is. Sometimes it’s a day later, and others might take months, and yes, some are still on hold! But I don’t sweat it. There truly is good in everything, if you have the mindset that believes it will manifest.”
11. Take Time to Smile and Laugh
Dr. Gayle Carsen's Spunky Old Broad philosophy was born when she was looking for a unique way to describe the inner spark that just seemed to keep her going!
She advises that there is nothing that says you have to buy into the negativity of the world. She advises you to stop watching the news, watch shows that make you laugh, and to have coping mechanisms that make you smile (hers are pets and exercise).
12. Talk to People and Purge Negative Vibes
Nooria Khan, Content Marketer at GigWorker, says to talk to people. “Sometimes we are viewing the situation from only one perspective, which can be negative. Perspective matters a lot when it comes to a change of habit or viewpoint.”
She also recommends purging negative vibes. “Eliminating negative forces is a must. It can be your colleague, group or even 9 to 5 workplace. Alienate people whom you feel may not bring about happy or positive feelings in you. You deserve to feel good and be around sincere people who take you in confidence when you make decisions.”
Khan shared a couple of her favorite quotes with us:
“The one constant in my life has been perspective and gratitude. That's what drives me. That's what I'm about.” — Gary Vee
“Don't let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out!” — Robert Tew
13. Be Consistent
Lisa Sansom, MBA, MAPP, PCC, says that looking at yourself is the first step.
“If you have the mindset and belief that this is a negative world, then that is what you are looking for and it's what you will find,” she says. “The world is full of beauty and humanity and generosity and kindness — you just have to be open to it and look for it.”
If you have a positivity journal or take photos to remind you of positive things, the key lies in consistency.
“Do this every day to get into the habit,” says Sansom. “Over time, your brain will actually change. You will become more sensitive to the positive things in life, and then you will see them more easily. Your stress levels will likely go down, you will surround yourself with other more positive people and you will feel better and more appreciative.”
14. Stay Present
Elizabeth Fournier, owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services, says that she's often faced with this question as a lifetime mortician.
“When I’m having a trying moment,” she says, “I walk over to my office window and gaze outside. Maybe I’ll spot a family of quail enjoying the suet cakes I’ve left them. One day I was ecstatic to see a bright pink kiddie-amusement-park ride breeze past on a huge flatbed trailer.”
Fournier says that we tend to view our burdens as more intimidating than they actually are. Taking a moment to stop and simply observe the world in all its beauty and strangeness is one of the best ways she knows to get perspective.
“The point is,” she continues, “is that there is no pain in the present moment. We are either reflecting back to something that happened, or forecasting into the future. Stay present, and remember that you are alive. And here. Any day above ground is a great one!”
15. Listen to Motivational Content
Karlisha Hurley is an LA based 19-year-old actress who plays a lot of roles related to mental health.
She listens to motivational speakers every morning as soon as she wakes up.
“It has really impacted my life,” says Hurley. “I’m obsessed with listening to people like Leslie Brown who always puts me in a positive mindset. It reminds me to be humble, to love what I have and where I am in in my life.”
Something Will Smith said in an inspirational video which has always stuck with Hurley is that “the best things in life are on the other side of fear.”
“I can assure you,” says Hurley, “if you can find the courage and take that step, once you get to the other side it’s an insane, beautiful feeling. Do things that you wouldn’t normally do because I promise it will change your life.”
16. You Control You
Steve Harper, founder of The Ripple Effect, says that it's crucial to focus your time, energy and attention on BEING positive and not allowing yourself to be sucked into the negativity that seems to make up the vast majority of our everyday life.
“You have to be determined to rise above the noise of negativity,” says Harper. “It is possible to do this by not spending time in areas where negativity is allowed to seep into your mind and affect your attitude.”
Harper says he's not suggesting being a Pollyanna who assumes you can control all aspects of the world and make it better just because you're happy and positive. “What you have the ability to do,” he says, “is to effect change in your immediate world. Don't dig your head in the sand but don't let the sand monsters suck you in either. You control you.”
17. Unplug from Social Media
Dr. Catherine Jackson, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Neurotherapist, says that social media has changed the way we communicate and go about our everyday lives.
“Too often, we are too concerned about getting the perfect moment to post online rather than actually enjoying the moment,” she points out. “Everyone seems to try to keep up with everyone else to appear to be happy and having fun. So, unplug.”
Dr. Jackson says that all of the devices, calls and emails create a wealth of distractions which take the mind away from the present moment and can often lead us to feeling overwhelmed or depressed. “We become less social in face to face situations, as we continue to check our devices and respond to people and things not in our physical presence.”
She recommends scheduling times for when you will check messages. For example, check your devices once when you are home from work for 15-30 minutes only. And consider taking a social media sabbatical a few times a year.
A thank you to everyone who shared their tips and experiences in this post.
The truth is that nobody is perfect and none of us are happy for every single second of our lives. However, when you work on your own mindset, you have full control over what your thoughts and outlook on life will be.
Instead of feeling like the world is a bleak and hopeless place, ask yourself how you can improve your life. Creating positive changes in your own life will help you make positive contributions to the lives around you and in your community as well.