A few months ago, I came out of a store to find I had a flat tire on my car. Believe it or not, I felt strangely happy about my misfortune. While I could have cried over the flat tire and the money it would cost to replace it, I was able to remain positive. I immediately identified the ways in which the timing and location of my setback made me lucky.
- I could have gotten the flat tire while driving down a country road in the middle of nowhere, but I was in the city across the street from a tire shop.
- I could have had no money in the bank, but I had just gotten paid.
- I could have been driving 50 miles per hour had an accident, but I was safely parked.
- I could have been on my way to work and ended up late, but I had the day off and was free to take care of personal tasks.
- I could have been stuck with nothing to do, but I was close to a restaurant that wanted to check out and needed to eat.
In fact, getting that flat tire taught me one of the most amazing lessons. Dwelling on the negative wouldn’t fix my tire any faster, but it would alter my mood in a very undesirable manner. Dwelling on the positive, on the other hand, empowered me. It made me efficient at solving my problem. It helped me appreciate my luck. It brought me joy.
Focusing on the negative comes so naturally that most of us do it without even realizing it. We make statements like,
- I have such bad luck.
- I can’t afford fancy new clothes.
- It’s a yucky rainy day today.
Sometimes all we need to do is search a little for the positive. What about the $5 you won last week? I get great clothes at the secondhand store. It’s a wonderful day for cozying up by the fire.
Staying positive in a negative world is all about perspective.
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
So How Do You Change Your Perspective to Live a Positive Life?
The first step to changing your perspective is to become aware of your negative statements. You can do this by paying attention to your vocabulary. Spend a day recording the negative things you think and say on a sheet of paper. At the end of the day, review your list and practice positive rephrasing by turning those negative statements into positive statements.
- I’m not good at this becomes practice makes perfect.
- My car is a lemon becomes thank you Betsy for giving me one more ride to work.
- It’s miserably hot today becomes It’s a perfect beach day.
It takes time and conscious effort to learn how to change your language, so you can live a positive life. First, even when looking for negative language, it’s easy to miss. For example, I told my coach the other day, “I’m just weird that way.” She replied by reminding me that “weird” has negative connotations, and while I take pride in being different, she is right. I was making a strong effort to remain positive with my self-talk and was still failing.
Second, your inner critic is often overly chatty. In fact, mine rarely shuts up. It’s a never-ending battle to correct her.
Third, bad habits, especially well-established habits, are difficult to break. Using negative language is a bad habit that develops over a long period of time.
Finally, as you become more confident with your ability to remain positive with your language, you slowly let your guard down. If you aren’t careful, you may, over time, find yourself slipping back into old habits. That’s why it’s important to add other techniques for staying positive.
Techniques for Staying Positive
The following 15 techniques for staying positive will teach you how to flex your positive perspective muscles while also lightening up the negative perspective load so you can stay positive in a negative world:
Set a positive intention: Instead of waking up and claiming, “Ugh, I have too much to do today,” set a positive intention. Say to yourself, “I’m going to have a great day with many accomplishments.” Then as your day progresses, remind yourself of the good intention to remain positive.
Filter the people you hang around: Positive people uplift you. Whereas negative people tend to bring you down. Limit the time you spend with people who constantly criticize, complain, and create drama. You may find this technique for staying positive difficult when the negative people in your life are your own family members or work colleagues. However, it’s sometimes possible to limit your time with them.
Avoid negative media: The news tells us that the world is filled with terrorism, wars, random shootings, and people who commit crimes. In fact, it uses these fear tactics to keep you coming back, and it works. One of the easiest ways to stay positive in a negative world is to limit the time you spend watching the news. Better yet, get a subscription to the newspaper. It’s easier to remain positive when you filter the news, only focusing on the stories you want to hear about.
Smile: According to a study performed in Sweden, smiles are, in fact, contagious. In the study, the researchers show pictures of different facial expressions to volunteers. The volunteers had difficulty not smiling when shown a picture with a smile in it. (https://scienceblog.com/176/a-smile-really-is-contagious/). Furthermore, smiles are known to boost your mood. Psychology today writes that when we smile, our brains produce the “feel-good” chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that help us live a positive life. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile).
Develop a learning attitude: My mantra is “a bad experienced not learned from is a missed opportunity.” As a result, to remain positive I look for something to learn from everything I do. For example, when I make a bad choice, I don’t dwell on how stupid I feel. Rather I focus on how I can do better next time.
Write in a gratitude journal: It takes less than five minutes each morning to list five things you can be grateful for. You could be grateful for anything from waking up early to having a tank full of gas. The benefits include joy, a positive outlook, and practice for seeing positive aspects of a negative event.
Give yourself positive affirmations: While you’re writing in your gratitude journal, go ahead and list five things that are great about you. These statements don’t even have to be true, but they will help you remain positive. Napoleon Hill writes in his book, Think and Grow Rich, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
To create good affirmations, write them in the present and using positive language. For example, instead of writing, “I want to be rich one day,” write, “I am financially abundant.” Instead of saying, “I will lose ten pounds,” write “I am ten pounds lighter today.”
Build a positivity chain: It’s always uplifting to get a good message from a friend. Find five friends you can count on and make a pact to send a positive message to one of them each day. When that person receives your message, they send one to the next person, and this continues until you receive one back, and the loop is completed. This technique for staying positive is not only fun, but it will help others around you to stay positive in a negative world.
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Practice living in the present: Chances are that in this moment, nothing bad is happening to you. Embrace that by connecting with the “now” instead of dwelling on past regrets or fearing future events.
Take care of yourself: I used to feel guilty when I did good things for myself, but now I realize that it’s important that I take care of myself so that I can live a positive life and be better for the people around me. Get a massage, relax on the beach, take a quiet walk around the neighborhood—these activities all help you connect with yourself, so you can remain positive.
Get a pet: My dad used to say, “The only person happy to see me when I get home is the dog.” In fact, Misty would run to the door, tail wagging and excited, the second she heard his car pull up. A dog’s positive attitude can lift your spirits so that you see the good things in your life.
Be mindful of what you can control—and what you can’t: Imagine spending thousands of dollars on an outdoor event, only to have ruined by rain. There are things you can control in this situation including preparing for the rain with tents and the perspective you take when the rain starts pouring down. The one thing you can’t control is the rain itself. When you embrace the fact that dwelling on this unlucky chance will do nothing to change the weather, you can let go of your negative thoughts and begin to find ways to improve the situation.
Breathe: When negative thoughts start to creep into your mind, take a moment to pause and breathe. This will give you time to re-center yourself and remember to focus on more positive thoughts.
Don’t be so hard on yourself: Often we beat ourselves up when things go bad by saying things like “I’m so stupid,” or “I’m not good enough.” Other people play the victim saying, “why do these things always happen to me.” This negative perspective only lowers our self-esteem and makes it difficult to live a positive life.
Give yourself a break. Making one bad choice doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you not perfect, and no one is perfect. Not good enough? According to who and what standards. The most important thing you can do is try your best. If you have done that, you can take pride in knowing you gave it your all.
Never play the victim: It won’t get you anywhere. Things don’t happen to you. They happen for you. With the right perspective, losing a job can push you to get a better one, a break-up from your boy- or girlfriend frees you to find the right one, and a car breakdown prompts you to buy a new one. Trust me. I experienced all three of these events recently, and I am better off because of them. You could be too.
Don’t Give In
It’s difficult to stay positive in a negative world. After all, we are constantly bombarded with news about crimes, people who focus on putting things down, and that never-ending inner voice telling us that we aren’t good enough. Fortunately, with a little effort and the right techniques for staying positive, you can learn how to live a positive life.
How do you remain positive? Let us know in the comments below. We are always looking for new techniques for staying positive.