The Ultimate Guide To Be Positive
Starting With Yourself
1Accept where you are. You can't change the way you think if you can't (or won’t) identify the problem. Accepting that you have negative thoughts and feelings, and that you don’t enjoy how you’re currently responding to them, can help you begin the process of change.
2Make goals. Goals give us a more positive outlook on life. Research has shown that setting a realistic goal can make you feel immediately more confident and boost your self-efficacy, even if you don’t achieve the goal right away. Setting goals that are personally meaningful to you and align with your values will help you achieve them and move forward in your life.
- Try not to judge yourself for your thoughts or feelings. Remember: the thoughts that pop up or the feelings you experience are not inherently “good” or “bad,” they’re just thoughts and feelings. What you can control is how you interpret and respond to them.
- Accept the things about yourself that you can’t change, too. For example, if you’re an introverted person who needs quiet time alone to “recharge,” trying to be an extrovert all the time will probably just make you feel drained and unhappy. Accept yourself for who you are right now, just as you are. You can then feel free to develop that self into the most positive self you can be!
3Practice loving-kindness meditation. Also known as metta bhavana or “compassion meditation,” this type of meditation has roots in Buddhist traditions. It teaches you to extend the feelings of love you already feel for your closest family members and extend it to others in the world. It’s also been shown to improve your resilience -- your ability to bounce back from negative experiences -- and your relationships with others in just a few weeks. You can see positive effects in as little as five minutes a day.
- Start small with your goals. Don't shoot for the moon right away. Slow and steady wins the race. Make your goals specific. The goal “be more positive” is great, but it’s so huge you probably won’t have any idea how to start. Instead, set smaller specific goals, like “Meditate twice a week” or “Smile at a stranger once a day.”
- Word your goals positively. Research shows that you’re more likely to achieve your goals if you word them positively. In other words, make your goals something you’re working toward, not trying to avoid. For example: “Stop eating junk food” is an unhelpful goal. It can cause feelings of shame or guilt. “Eat 3 servings of fruit and vegetables each day” is specific and positive.
- Keep your goals based on your own actions. Remember that you can’t control anyone else. If you set goals that require a certain response from others, you may end up feeling down if things don’t go as you hoped. Instead, set goals that depend on what you can control -- your own performance.
4Keep a journal. Recent research suggests there’s actually a mathematical formula for positivity: three positive emotions for every negative emotion seems to keep you in a healthy balance. Keeping a journal can help you see all of the emotional experiences in your day and determine where your own ratio needs adjustment. It can also help you focus on your positive experiences so that you’re more likely to remember them for later.
- Many places offer courses in compassion meditation. You can also check out some guided MP3 meditations online. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center both have free downloadable loving-kindness meditations.
- It turns out that loving-kindness meditation is also good for your mental health. Studies have shown that compassion meditation decreases symptoms of depression, suggesting that learning compassion for others may also help you extend compassion to yourself.
- Mindfulness and meditation can help you deal with negativity and stress in a healthier way.
5Practice active gratitude. Gratitude is more than a feeling, it’s a doing. Dozens of studies have shown that gratitude is good for you. It changes your perspective almost immediately, and the rewards keep growing the more you practice. Gratitude helps you feel more positive, enhances your relationships with others, encourages compassion, and increases feelings of happiness.  
- Keeping a journal should be more than just a list of things you didn’t like. Research suggests that focusing only on the negative emotions and experiences in your journal will reinforce them, leading you to feel more negative.
- Instead, write down what you felt, without judging it as either good or bad. For example, a negative experience might look like this: “I felt hurt today when my coworker made a joke about my weight.”
- Then, think about your response. How did you respond in the moment? How would you choose to respond now, with a little distance? For example: “In the moment, I felt horrible about myself, like I was worthless. Now thinking back on it, I realize that my coworker says insensitive things to everyone. Someone else can’t define me or my worth. Only I can do that.”
- Try to think about how you can use these experiences as learning experiences. How can you use this for personal growth? What will you do next time? For example: “Next time someone says something hurtful, I will remember that their judgments do not define me. I will also tell my coworker that his comments are insensitive and hurt my feelings so that I remember my feelings are important.”
- Remember to include the positive things in your journal too! Taking even a few moments to note down a kindness from a stranger, a beautiful sunset, or an enjoyable chat with a friend will help you “store” these memories so that you can recall them later. Unless you focus on them, they’re likely to pass right by your notice.
6Use self-affirmations. Self-affirmations may seem a little cheesy, but research suggests that they work on a fundamental level; they can actually form new “positive thought” neuron clusters. Remember: your brain likes to use short-cuts, and it will short-cut to use the pathways that are used most frequently. If you make it a regular habit to say compassionate things to yourself, your brain will come to see that as the “norm.” Positive self-talk and self-affirmations can also reduce stress and depression, boost your immune system, and increase your coping skills.
- Some people are naturally higher in “trait gratitude,” the natural state of feeling thankful. However, you can foster an “attitude of gratitude” no matter what level of “trait gratitude” you naturally have!
- In relationships and situations, avoid approaching them like you “deserve” something from them. This doesn’t mean that you believe you deserve nothing, and it doesn’t mean you put up with mistreatment or disrespect. It just means that you should try to approach things without feeling like you’re “entitled” to a certain result, action, or benefit.
- Share your gratitude with others. Sharing your feelings of gratitude with others helps you “set” those feelings in your memory. It can also inspire positive feelings in the people you share with. See if you have a friend who’ll be your “gratitude partner” and share three things for which you’re grateful with each other every day.
- Make an effort to recognize all the little positive things that happen throughout the day. Write them down in a journal, snap photos for your Instagram, write about them on Twitter -- whatever helps you recognize and remember these small things for which you’re grateful. For example, if your blueberry pancakes turned out just right, or the traffic to work wasn’t bad, or your friend gave you a compliment on your outfit, note these things! They add up quickly.
- Savor these good things. Humans have a bad tendency to focus on the negative stuff and let the positive things slide right past us. When you note the positive things in your life, take a moment to mindfully acknowledge them. Try to “store them” in your memory. For example, if you see a beautiful flower garden on your daily walk, stop for a moment and tell yourself, “This is a beautiful moment, and I want to remember how grateful I feel for it.” Try to take a mental “snapshot” of the moment. Doing so can help you remember these things later, when you’re having a hard time or a negative experience.
7Cultivate optimism. Researchers in the 1970s discovered that among people who had won the lottery -- an event that most of us probably think of as incredibly positive -- were no happier after a year than people who hadn’t. This is because of hedonic adaptation: humans have a “baseline” of happiness to which we return after external events (good or bad). However, even if your natural baseline is pretty low, you can actively cultivate optimism. Optimism improves your self-esteem, overall sense of well-being, and relationships with others. 
- Choose affirmations that are personally meaningful to you. You might choose to use affirmations that show compassion to your body, to your thoughts about yourself, or to remind yourself of your spiritual traditions. Whatever makes you feel positive and tranquil about yourself, do it!
- For example, you might say something like “My body is healthy and my mind is beautiful” or “Today I will do my best to be kind” or “Today my deity/spiritual figure is with me as I go through the day.”
- If you struggle with a particular area, try actively focusing on finding positive affirmations in that area. For example, if you have body image issues, try saying something like, “I am beautiful and strong” or “I can learn to love myself as I love others” or “I am worthy of love and respect.”
- Optimism is a way of interpreting the world. Thanks to the human brain’s flexibility, you can learn different ways of interpreting! Pessimistic outlooks view the world in unchangeable, internalized terms: “Everything is unfair,” “I’ll never be able to change this,” “My life sucks and it’s my fault.” An optimistic outlook views the world in flexible, limited terms.
- For example, a pessimistic outlook might look at the big cello recital you have next week and say, “I already suck at cello. I’m going to botch the recital anyway. I might as well just play Nintendo.” This statement makes an assumption that your cello skills are innate and permanent, rather than something you can influence with hard work. It also makes a global blaming statement about you -- “I suck at cello” -- that makes it seem like your cello skills are a personal failing, rather than a skill that needs practice. This pessimistic outlook could mean you don’t practice the cello because you feel like it’s pointless, or you feel guilty because you’re “bad” at something. Neither is helpful.
- An optimistic outlook would approach this situation something like this: “That big cello recital is next week, and I’m not happy with where I’m at right now. I’m going to practice an extra hour every day until the recital, and then just do my best. That’s all I can do, but at least I’ll know I worked as hard as I could to succeed.” Optimism doesn’t say challenges and negative experiences don’t exist. It chooses to interpret them differently.
- There’s a big difference between true optimism and “blind” optimism. Blind optimism might expect that you pick up the cello for the first time and get admitted to the Juilliard School. This isn’t realistic, and such expectations could leave you disappointed. True optimism acknowledges the reality of your situation and allows you to prepare yourself to face them. A truly optimistic perspective might instead expect that you’ll need to work hard for several years and even then you might not be admitted to your dream school, but you will have done all that you can to achieve your goal. Read More