If you’re anything like me, then you watch in a kind of amazement at how great leaders and innovators maintain a seeming unshakable positive outlook on life, no matter what setbacks they face.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re skeptical about all the “new age” ideas about how you can suddenly go from a realistic or negative mindset to a positive one by saying affirmations, or journaling, or any of the other fads that don’t seem to change anything.
And at the same time, you would like to feel more positive and optimistic. You would like to have that energy and buoyancy and resilience that can carry you through conflict and challenge the way that “winners” do.
Take This Quiz And Find Out Right Now: What’s Blocking You From Success?
Well the good news is that over the past 10 years or so, there has been a wealth of hard-headed research that shows not only how beneficial a positive outlook is, but how anybody can enact simple practices to increase his or her positivity.
The benefits are clear and public: greater perseverance, more personal magnetism and likeability, increased creativity and improved leadership. Positive emotions are frequently accompanied by what are universally considered fortunate circumstances such as close relationships, bigger business opportunities and larger social networks. Even more than that, the Mayo Clinic has published that these health benefits may all be linked to positive thinking…
- Increased life span.
- Lower rates of depression.
- Lower levels of distress.
- Greater resistance to the common cold.
- Better psychological and physical well-being.
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.
And of course the dangers of negative thought are legion – lethargy, defeatism, stagnancy, depression and reduced experiences of health, wealth and loving relationships.
But the switch from negative to positive thinking and optimism doesn’t just “happen”. Research shows that you can cultivate a more positive mindset with just a few simple practices. Here are some the most effective things you can do…
Do You Know The 5 Things Successful People Never Do?
Get Positive Tip #1: Be Vulnerable with Someone You Trust
Dr. Martin Seligman, the creator of Positive Psychology (which is focused not on how to go way back to fix our neuroses, but how to grow our happiness from where we are now) has demonstrated in his research that people with close friendships are happier than those without.
What makes a difference is not so much how many people you know but how deeply a few people know you. By taking a “risk” and telling our truths to others, even a very few others, and experiencing that we are still safe after we do, something switches in our brains and we believe that the world is safer place. Our optimism grows.
Get Positive Tip #2: Move!
This one is purely physiological. As Ann Cuddy’s wonderful ted talks have popularized, the mind often follows the state of the body. So if you throw your arms into the “victory position” or place a pencil in your teeth, forcing your rictus muscles to smile, your hormonal system will listen – and start pumping happy chemicals into your bloodstream. The result? You will actually feel victorious and happy.
On a larger scale, according to The Cochrane Review, the leading medical review of its kind, 23 studies on exercise have conclusively proven that exercise has a “large clinical impact” on reducing depression. Simply put, exercise reduces stress and lifts the spirits.
Get Positive Tip #3: Do a Kindness
It’s easy, especially in the fear-driven 24 hours news cycle, to believe that people are abusive and bad, communities are bad, states are bad, businesses are bad – and everyone pretty much is a creep. It’s easy to feel pessimistic about others when we get into this mindset – and the quickest way to break it is to prove it wrong by doing small acts of kindness.
Simply by bringing a smile to the face of another human being, your faith in the goodness of others is suddenly and subtly restored. It creates a “pattern interrupt” of habitual negative thinking. You’ll find yourself more optimistic about both the nature of others and of your place among them.
Get Positive Tip #4: Rediscover What You are Good at
Often we fall into negative patterns of thinking because we’ve left our comfort zone and feel “lost at sea”. In the midst of challenge, when we can’t quite see our way out yet, we tend to drop the blame for conditions on our character, or lack of it, on our abilities, or lack of it or on our ineptness in general. We forget our core competencies.
Dr. Seligman’s research shows that the happiest people are those who have discovered their unique strengths (such as resilience or empathy or problem solving) and virtues (such as compassion or stick-to-itiveness). Once you place your mind on what you are good at, you get your footing in a positive self-regard and tend to get into more productive action (not to mention increased self-confidence).
To amplify the positive feelings associated with this rediscovery, Dr. Seligman urges us to then put those qualities into service of the good of others. Which is the next tip…
Get Positive Tip #5: Be of Service
Martin Seligman, in his book, Learned Optimism , discovered that positive emotion separate from the sense of purpose or service to others leads to emptiness, inauthenticity, depression and a gnawing sense of meaninglessness (1).
We often are blind to the good we do ourselves, lost in habit or negative self-talk, but when we do good for others, we can see that our efforts create happiness and beauty in the world – which encourages our optimism that we can actually create good and make change.
Put bluntly, being of service to others distracts and counteracts our tendencies toward self-pity and a negative thought downward spiral.
Get Positive Tip #6: Magnify Love With Your Partner
Dr. John Gottman of the Love Lab up at the University of Washington is perhaps our leading researcher on what makes a happy couple. One of his key findings concerned how often we expressed positive and negative statements about our partners. The tipping point, he found, between couples who were doomed and those that flourished was a 5:1 ratio of positive statements to negative ones to each other (2).
In order to feel more optimistic about your relationships with a spouse, lover – or any family member, friend or colleague – boost your positive comments to them so that you are over that 5:1 ratio.
According to the research, the quality of your relationship will improve – and therefore, so likely will your positive feelings about it.
Get Positive Tip #7: Curate Your Brain
All great leaders know that the only way to be effective is to guard furiously what enters their brain. If you surround yourself with whiners and complainers, you will naturally tend to whine and complain – and feel negative.
If, by contrast, you surround yourself with positive people who take responsibility for their lives and don’t mourn their state, you will – by pure association – drop the negative spiral thought habits of blame, shame and complain (3).
I learned this powerfully when I was leaving a 4 day conference of entrepreneurs. I was in wonderment about why I was so happy having spent 4 days cooped up in a hotel in a freezing Washington DC suburb with 600 guys (and barely any women). And then it struck me – for 4 full days, I never heard anyone complain! All I heard was enthusiasm for self-improvement and solutions.
Get Positive Tip #8: Reframe your Thoughts
How we self-talk is perhaps the most important thing we can change to increase our positive mindset. Several years after my divorce, I started saying “When I got single,” instead of “When I got divorced” – which focused both me and my listeners on the new possibilities and new life I had, not what was “lost”.
Similarly, you can “trick” your brain into the creative, productive state of positivity by shifting your own terms. So instead of saying, “Oh jeez, this is going to be painfully hard,” you can say, “All right boys and girls, this is going to be a fun challenge where we’ll probably discover inner resources we don’t even know we have!”
Get Positive Tip #9: Take the Wheel
Negative thinking can stem from what I call the “Eeyore” syndrome, where you just feel as if you have no inner resources at all and expect the worst. But for most people it tends to grow from a feeling of helplessness. That your efforts will count for nothing because you are at the mercy of “the system” or “the man” or “secret societies” or “vested interests”.
Nobody ever promised that the world was aligned to serve your best personal good, but when you take responsibility for every aspect of your life – your health, wealth and relationships for starters, you then see the world as your personal play-doh, not your cage. And you can create whatever wonderful, colorful constructions out of it you choose, should you choose.
But none of that will ever happen unless you take responsibility for how you create your life, right down to the food your eat, the people you hang out with, the way you spend your leisure time, the thoughts you entertain and swirl around in your head and the words that come out of your mouth.
Any time you feel tempted to blame others for your state, catch yourself, take the wheel of your life and find a way to steer it all in the direction you choose – if only for a few inches to start.
Get Positive Tip #10: Tap Into Joy
As we said above, your mind will almost always listen to your body. I’ve always said that it’s impossible to be negative or sad while jumping on a big trampoline. The same is true – for me anyway – listening to swing or boogie-woogie. Or watching laughing baby videos on YouTube. Or dancing under the stars or to thumping music. Or singing.
The very act of singing (or whistling as per Anna in “The King and I”) a happy tune will lift your spirits in an instant.
And, as it happens, it’s likely to lift the spirits of those around you.
Get Positive Tip #11: The Attitude of Gratitude
This should be taught from pre-school right through PhD studies and every single day. If you mull over how the world “done you wrong”, you will spiral down into negative thinking.
But if you remind yourself – when you wake, when you’re down, when you eat, when you lie your head down at night – of the gifts you already possess in life and give gratitude, your positivity will naturally rise. Having trouble thinking of what to give gratitude for? Start with oxygen and water. A warm home. A relatively stable society. The fact that bears are not eating your legs. And work your way up to your loving friends and family. There’s no shortage of what to be grateful for.
Get Positive Tip #12: Remember, This Here is Your Circus, and You Are the Monkey That Counts
You are at the center ring of your life’s three-ring circus. There is little good peering out your tent into the apparently perfect, shimmering, flawless life of others. It’ll only get you down. Stay focused on improving your life step by step, or as Al Pacino rasped through the words, “this is a game of inches”. You will feel positive when you see yourself advancing by inches or even millimeters rather than by gaping at the leaps and bounds made my the gorgeous millionaires next door.
And besides, what goes on beyond their closed doors or their eyes may not be so pretty after all. As the bit of wisdom goes, “never compare your inner life to someone else’s outer life”. It’s an unfair match up because you can’t see their inner turmoil, sadness or grief. But you sure can feel your own!
Get Positive Tip #13: Savor the Moment
Yeah, the Buddhists recommend that we float in the “now” and focus on our breath and this will help eliminate the suffering of the mind’s woes. That’s true. But we can not only empty ourselves in the now, we can fill ourselves with its gifts and beauty. The smell of flowers. The caress of a breeze on our cheeks. The texture of velvet, or camembert or carpet or grass or our lover’s skin. The sound of laughter rolling in from a nearby playground. The bark of a dog. The breath in your lungs.
Everything you experience in this world can be seen not as a punishment of unseen gods, which is how negative people reinforce their mindset, but the utterly free, unearned, unasked for, no-strings-attached gifts of a loving universe.
Life is blowing you a million kisses a day. Catch them.
Want to find out what’s holding you back? Click here to take our quick (and shockingly accurate) “What’s Blocking You From Success” Quiz right now and find out exactly what stands in the way between you and success…
Take The Quiz: What’s Blocking You From Success?
Here Are The Best Tips To Have A Positive Mindset
- Be vulnerable with someone you trust
- Do a kindness
- Rediscover what you are good at
- Be of service
- Magnify love with your partner
- Curate your brain
- Reframe your thoughts
- Take the wheel
- Tap into joy
- The attitude of gratitude
- Remember, this here is your circus, and you are the monkey that counts
- Savor the moment