1. Find the optimistic viewpoint in a negative situation.
One of the simplest but most effective ways to build a more positive outlook has in my experience been to ask more helpful questions as often as possible.
When you’re in what seems like a negative situation ask yourself questions like:
What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
What is one opportunity within this situation?
Process your thoughts and feelings first. Trying to force optimistic thinking when you are still in an emotional turmoil or a bit shocked usually doesn’t work well. Calm down first.
2. Cultivate a positive environment.
Who you choose to spend your time with and the input you get from further away like the TV, the internet and magazines will have a huge effect on your outlook.
To be able to stay positive it is essential to have influences in your life that support you and lift you up instead of dragging you down.
So carefully consider what you let into your mind.
You can for example ask yourself:
Who are the 3 most negative people I spend time with?
What are the 3 of most negative sources of information I spend time on?
Consider the answers. Then think about how you can start spending less time with one of those people or information sources this week.
And how you can spend more of the time you have now freed up with one of the most positive sources or people in your life.
3. Go slowly.
Stress builds up. Negative thoughts about just about anything can start to well up.
Slow down for a few minutes – walk, talk and eat slower – then your mind and body calms down too. It becomes easier to think things through clearly again and easier to find the optimistic and constructive perspective.
4. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
It’s very easy to lose perspective, especially if you are stressed and you are going too fast.
A simple three step way to handle these situations so they don’t get out of hand is to:
Say stop. In your mind, shout “STOP!” or “NOPE, we are not going down that path again!” as soon as thoughts of this kind starts to spin in your head.
Breathe. After you have disrupted the thoughts by shouting stop sit down and just be still. Breathe with your belly and focus on just your in-breaths and out-breaths for a minute or two to calm your mind and body down.
Refocus. Question your mountain building thoughts by talking to someone close to you and getting a more grounded perspective on the situation by just venting or by getting his or her input. If you don’t have anyone to talk to search for a free counseling hotline.
Or simply ask yourself this to widen your perspective and to chill out: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks?
5. Don’t let vague fears hold you back.
Sometimes you may want to take a chance in life. Start a new habit that feels unfamiliar, your own business on the side or ask someone out for a date.
A common trap when you want to do one of those things is to get lost in vague fears and about what could happen if you actually took action.
And so the mind runs wild fueled by fear and it creates nightmare scenarios and plenty of self-doubt.
Ask yourself this: honestly, what is the worst that could happen?
When you figure that out, spend a bit of time on trying to figure out what you could do if that often unlikely thing happens.
You will discover that the worst thing that could realistically happen is usually not as scary as the nightmare a fear-fueled mind could produce.
Finding clarity in this way doesn’t take much time or effort and it can help you to avoid much mind made suffering. And help you to get going, step outside of your comfort zone.
6. Add positivity to someone’s life.
What you send out you tend to get back from the world and the people in it.
Not from everyone. And not every time.
But what you send out there matters a whole lot.
What you give them and how you treat them is what you’ll get back. And the way you treat others and how you think of them also tends to have a big effect on how you treat and think about yourself.
So give value and spread the positivity by for example:
Help out. Lend a hand when moving. Give a friend a ride in your car. If he or she needs information then help out by checking it up on Google or ask a friend.
Just listen. Sometimes people don’t want any direct help. They just want someone to be there fully and listen as they vent for a little while.
Boost the mood. Smile. Give hugs when appropriate. Play uplifting music when hanging out with a friend or suggest an inspiring movie for your movie night. Or encourage someone who has had a bad day or is going through a tough time.
7. Exercise regularly, eat and sleep well.
This is very obvious of course.
A good night’s sleep or good workout can have a big impact when your thoughts are pessimistic and you have a lot of tensions on the inside.
Be mindful about these basic habits, because they do have a huge effect on your mind.
8. Take criticism in a healthy way.
One of the most common fears is the fear of criticism. It can hold people back from doing what they want in life.
Because having negativity flowing out of someone’s mouth or email and it being about you can hurt. And being rejected can sting quite a bit.
But if you want to take action on what you deep down want then criticism is pretty much unavoidable. So the key is learning to handle it in a healthier way.
By doing so your fear of it will lessen and it will hurt less if you do get criticized.
Here are four healthy steps to take when you receive criticism:
Step 1: Don’t reply right away.
When you are angry, upset or riled up then is time to calm down a bit before you reply. Take at least a couple of deep breaths or a little time to process the message before you respond.
Step 2: Really listen to the criticism.
Try to remain open and level-headed and figure out how this message can help you.
Ask yourself: Is there one thing I can learn from this criticism? Is there something here that I may not want to hear but could help me?
Step 3: Remember the criticism isn’t always about you.
Some criticism is helpful. Some is simply attacks or someone lashing out because they are having bad day, year or job.
To lessen the sting of such criticism – often really angry or overly critical in an unconstructive way – I try to be understanding. I think to myself that this person might not be feeling so good at the moment.
Step 4: Reply or let go.
No matter the content of for example an email I try to keep my reply level-headed and kind. I may add a question or two to get more specific feedback that is helpful.
And if they don’t reply or I have simply gotten a nasty attack then it is time to delete it and to let that situation go.
9. If something still gets under your skin then know what to do.
Sometimes something can still get under your skin and hurt you. Even if you use the steps above.
Two things can help with that challenge:
Let it out. Just letting that issue out into the light talking it over with someone close can be very helpful to see it for what it actually is. And to find a healthier perspective on the situation.
How you start your day usually sets the tone for the rest of your day.
So be careful about how you spend your mornings.
If you get going at full speed, lost in future troubles in your mind then the stress, perceived loss of power of over your life and negative thoughts will ramp up quickly.
If you on the other hand start your day by moving slowly, by having an uplifting conversation with your family or friend or you spend some time with reading or listening to inspiring and helpful articles or podcasts over breakfast it can make a big difference for how your whole day will go.
11. Mindfully move through your day.
When you spend your time in the present moment then it becomes so much easier to access positive emotions and to stay practical about what you can actually do about something in your life.
When you get lost in the past or future like so many of us have spent a lot of time on doing then worries very easily become bigger. And failures and mistakes from the past being replayed over and over in your mind drag you down into pessimism.
By moving slowly through your morning and hopefully through much of the rest of your day it becomes easier to mindfully stay in the moment you are in.
Another simple way to reconnect with the moment you are in and to put your full attention there again is to focus just on what is going on around you right now for a minute or two with all your senses.
See it. Hear it. Smell it. Feel the sun, rain or cold wind on your skin. Be present.
It might sound like a small and insignificant thing to do. But this simplifying reconnection with the moment can have a very positive effect on the rest of your day.