Sometimes, life can be wonderful, and it feels like everything’s going our way. But other times we’re left feeling hopeless, depressed and negative. While it’s perfectly natural to feel sad at times, we don’t want to get in a habit of fueling this negativity.
And this is easier said than done! It’s crazy how easy it is to become pessimistic. Have you ever noticed that you can be having a good day, and suddenly - like someone flipped a switch - absolutely everything seems terrible? It can be triggered by almost anything, whether that’s an event, an unexpected failure, our own overthinking, or perhaps just the wrong word from somebody at class or work. It’s so easy to be negative.
So today, let’s talk about building our positivity muscles. That’s right, positivity can be trained and developed, so that we can battle against those feelings of negativity creeping in our heads. It’s not a quick fix, so you may not finish this post and immediately break out in song and dance. But these tips, if practiced, have been scientifically proven to make you a more positive person.
You’re Saying Sad Is Bad?
Nah. We’ve seen Inside Out. Sadness is a beautiful emotion that’s just as valid as happiness. We’re not shooting for that creepy Stepford Wives kind of happy (2004 movie reference! Look it up!). This is not about projecting perfection. We’re pursuing authentic positivity that helps us appreciate and enjoy the life we’ve been given. Big difference.
When you’re developing your positivity muscles, a great first exercise is active gratitude. When we say active gratitude, we’re talking about pursuing the opportunity to be grateful. Don’t just let it happen to you. If you’re new to this, start with a gratitude journal. At the beginning of each day, simply write down the things you’re thankful for. This can be the big things, like your significant other, your job, your grades, etc., but it can also be things you may take for granted: legs that can walk, a roof over your head, knowing where your next meal’s coming from, and so on. Simply focusing on these good things in your life adds up in a big way.
Don’t believe us? Then have a taste of PEER-REVIEWED SCIENCE! In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers investigated how people responded to gratitude journaling. In a test group, the subjects were asked to journal what they were grateful for, while in the other group the test subjects were asked to write about their hassles and irritations. After 10 weeks of this, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better overall about their lives. The even exercised more! The results of the gratitude group suggested that consciously focusing on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
So grab a pen and a journal. Radiate positivity by first focusing on the ways you’ve been blessed.
Set Goals And Then Pursue Them
Setting goals does a wide variety of good things for our brains, including better focus, productivity and self-esteem. And these side effects will naturally make it easier to be a more positive person.
That said, if you’re starting from a place of negativity (and it’s okay if you are - this is a safe place!), the idea of setting goals may make you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. So don’t be afraid to start small. If you’re looking for some inspiration, have your goal be to write in a gratitude journal every day. That’s easy to achieve and already has benefits of its own!
Aspiring to do something is great. Actually taking steps toward those aspirations is even better. When you achieve your goals, your brain produces a pleasure neurotransmitter known as dopamine (nice), and you’re training your brain to fend off hopelessness. After all, if you can achieve this one thing, what’s to stop you from achieving the thing and the next thing! It builds and grows as you do.
Your brain is a real sucker for a smile. Even if you’re not actually feeling cheery, turning on a grin can actually make you feel more positive and happier. According to Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles, “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle (activity) and assumes that humor is happening.” And suddenly your brain begins to release dopamine and serotonin, which basically ups your happy vibes and mellows out your stress vibes. And if the goal is to be a more positive person, that’s so much easier to achieve when you’re feeling happier and stress free.
But don’t forget - we said no Stepford Wives happy. So we’re not suggesting a happy mask that you where for the benefit of others. Instead, think of this as a tool to get your mind and heart in the right spot for the day. Maybe before writing in your gratitude journal each morning, you could try smiling for 60 seconds. Even something as simple as this can put you on the path to a good day.
Downsizing the Friend Department
As a wise story goes,if you drop a crab in a bucket, it’s usually able to climb out on its own. But if you stick another crab in the same bucket, neither of the crabs will get out. One will try to escape, but the other will pull it back down.
In the same way, if you surround yourself with negative people, it will be difficult for you to escape your own negativity.
Being around negative people can make it tough for you to truly radiate positivity. This can come from your family, peers, friends, people at work - anyone you spend time with, really. Sometimes, it’s better to separate yourself from those who are keeping you in the bucket of negativity.
Real and consistent friendship makes you feel like a more positive person, and it’s one of the best things you can do for your overall mental health. But if the people you call friends are in a constant negative state, they may be dragging you down with them.
Congrats on starting your journey to positivity! Following any of these exercises will get you ready to take on the bad vibes that come your way. Again, it may not be an instant transformation, but when you start working at your positivity like a muscle, it will grow, and you’ll be able to find a positive outlook on the situation.