As winter begins to creep its way in, the shorter days, the dark mornings, the cold weather… sometimes it all just makes me want to curl up under a blanket and hide away until spring. I love, love, love the holidays, but it’s easy to get sucked into the gloominess of this time of year, especially here in Michigan, where it’s going to be gray, cold, and wet for the next few months.
But I’ll have none of that! Not this year!
I’ve been trying to focus on being more positive these days. It’s not always easy, but it’s helping me in so many ways. My grandpa always talked about the Power of Positivity. Of all the wonderful things I learned from him, this is one of the most important. Always focus on the positive. Believe that good things will happen, and they will. He joked that he had parking angels that followed him around wherever he drove. He’d pull into a busy parking lot and, no worries, his parking angels would find him a good spot. And they did.
My Papa’s outlook on positive thinking has stuck with me. His advice has helped me through difficult times and personal struggles. When I’m facing something hard and wishing I could call him up for advice, I take comfort knowing exactly what he would have told me. Focus on the positive, look for the opportunity, believe that good will come of this.
This fall I signed up for Audible and began listening to an amazing book called The Happiness Advantage. I highly, highly recommend it. At the risk of oversimplifying, it basically discusses the advantage that you gain in work and in life when you have a positive mindset. When you are happy (and he defines happiness as “the joy one feels striving for one’s potential” – which I think sums it up just about perfectly), you will gain confidence in yourself, change the way you view the world, and unlock the potential for greatness within yourself and your life.
Here’s why a positive mindset makes such a huge difference: When you yourself are more positive, think more positively, and focus on positive things, it’s gonna become easier for you to see the positivity around you. And when you finally see all the positive things happening to and around you, you’re going to feel happier and more positive yourself, which will in turn help you to see more positivity!
Pretty sweet deal right?
When you have a positive outlook on the world, you’re going to see the good in the people around you and the situations you find yourself in. Even when faced with difficult situations, you’ll be able to see the wonderful, beautiful opportunities before you.
And so, with all that being said, I’ve been trying. Not always succeeding, but trying nonetheless. It’s a process and it takes work, every day.
Now, I can’t share this post without giving credit (and a HUGE THANK YOU) to my husband. Not only did he recommend The Happiness Advantage and help kickstart this positive journey for me, but he himself has been a daily inspiration to me, reminding me through his example to focus on all of the wonderful things in my life and be grateful for them. Thanks, love.
So how do you practice positivity in your everyday life? There are so many things you can do, and I really recommend reading The Happiness Advantage and other books on positive psychology. In the meantime, here are just a few ways that you can work on developing a more positive mindset for yourself.
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Five Ways to Develop a More Positive Mindset
1. Don’t dwell
If you catch yourself having negative thoughts, stressing over something you can’t control, overthinking something you need or want to do, or dwelling on something that’s already happened, STOP. Physically distract yourself. Go take a walk outside. Get up from your desk and walk around the office building. Put on your favorite song. Call your mom. Physically, actually do something to distract yourself from this loop of negative thoughts. Because as we all know, if you don’t, your mind will just keep going and going and going like the freaking Energizer Bunny.
2. Replace your negative habits with positive ones
For me, one of my worst habits is social media. I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but for a long time I spent much more time mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds than I’d like to. It was never a huge problem, but I always knew that I could be doing something so much more productive with my time. Yet even though I knew it, I would scroll, scroll, scroll. This made me anxious, and when I would finally lift my head up and snap out of it, I’d feel stupid, awful, lazy, ashamed, you name it (none of which are positive adjectives, if you didn’t notice).
Maybe you spend too much time watching TV, or you find yourself feeling jealous of your friends or strangers on social media. You eat crappy food and feel bad about it. You want to lose weight but you keep not going to the gym (<– me). You gossip about people. You procrastinate (definitely guilty). We all have habits that throw us into a cycle of negativity. The thing about habits? They’re hard to break. Really hard.
The Happiness Advantage talks about breaking bad habits and forming good ones using a technique called the 20-Second Rule. He gives lots of scientific evidence and psychology studies to back it up, but the gist of it is this: make your bad habits difficult to keep, and make your good habits easy to start. If it takes longer than 20 seconds to do, your likelihood of engaging in that habit drops significantly (for better or for worse).
To help curb my social media addiction habit, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and turned off notifications for Instagram. I can still get to Facebook through my browser, but it’s more steps and it’s a bit harder. I still go onto Instagram, but it’s only when I choose. It’s not right there in my face, all the time, calling my name. I still find myself mindlessly scrolling every now and then, but I have cut down SO MUCH, and it’s helped me to do other, more productive and meaningful things with my time instead.
As for making good habits easier to follow, the concept is the same. Put your gym clothes out the night before and make yourself work out first thing in the morning. When you grocery shop avoid going down the aisles where all the processed and bad food is. I honestly literally avoid the salty snacks aisle at Meijer. I don’t even bother to venture down it and sometimes I even try to walk past at as quickly as possible without looking. No joke. I started plugging my phone in at night on the other side of my room to break my late night social media habit before bed. I finally got some bedside lamps for our bedroom and have been keeping a book out on my nightstand to read before bed instead.
3. Focus on the positive (no, really!)
Isn’t that what this whole post is about? Focusing on the positive? Well, yes. But I mean really, actually focus on the positive. Point it out! Is the weather sucky today? How so? Too hot? At least the sun is shining! Here in Grand Rapids, as the cold and gray winter creeps in, I’m thinking about the upcoming holidays. I’ve been burning candles, even baking every now and then, and enjoying being snuggled up in my favorite blanket. And I’m actually consciously reminding myself to think of these positive things to avoid slipping into the “omg it’s so freaking cold and it’s already dark out!” mindset.
By practicing finding the positive side of small things like this, you’re going to train yourself to find the positive in other, bigger situations.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
I’m not saying to ditch all your friends. But honestly, take a good look at the people you associate with. Friends, family, coworkers, and significant others. Chances are, you have at least one person in your life who is bringing you down. That one person who walks into the room and immediately points out all of the negative things.
I’m not saying to break up with people or to even necessarily spend less time with these people. But when they start to turn on the negativity, don’t partake in it. You can still be a good friend and listen, but (without being obnoxious about it) try to stay focused on the positive and change the subject when they start to turn into a Negative Nancy. You’ll not only be helping yourself, but hopefully helping them a little too.
But we’re focusing on the positive, right? So let’s do some addition instead of subtraction. Instead of spending less time with the negative people, try to spend more time with positives ones! They say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So if you want to be a more positive person, you have to spend time with more positive people. If you don’t have enough real-life positive associates to spend more time with, do it virtually. Listen to audiobooks, read books, read positive blogs and websites. Surround yourself with these people and you will start to become more like them.
5. Spread positivity
Make a conscious effort to display a positive outward attitude. Pay attention to your body language. I have been literally trying to smile more! Did you know that if you smile, you can actually trick your brain into believing you are happy? Another fun fact I learned from The Happiness Advantage, and that a quick Google search will tell you about if you want to learn more. By having a more positive/happy outward appearance, you will feel happier yourself, and you will spread that positivity to others. Ever walk in a room and just feel a negative vibe? Ugh. It’s the worst! Give off positive energy, people! It doesn’t have to be anything big. A smile, a pat on the back, a quick “thank you” to show appreciation, a compliment. Others will pick up on your positive vibe.
So there you have it. Nothing groundbreaking or life-changing. Just some little things you can try to focus on each day to help develop a more positive mindset. I’ll let you in on a little secret: positive things are happening all around you, all the time. You just need to look for them. We’re all so conditioned to focus on the negative. It makes sense, because not only have our brains developed this way for survival (look out for all the big scary things that are trying to kill you), but also because the negative is always right there, in our face, screaming at us for attention. But there is much more good in the world than there is bad. When you turn off all that noise and start to train yourself to look for the positive, the positive things are going to start jumping out at you. They’re going to become your norm. And that, my friends, can be life-changing.
Ready to bring some positivity into your life?
Download my free printable to remind you that good things are all around us! I created this in a few different color combinations so you can pick the one you like best, print it, and hang it up on your wall, put it in your planner, or set it out on your desk. I think these would also make a wonderful desktop background, don’t you?
To download, simply click the image to be taken to a full-size version. From there you can save the image to your desktop and print from your home computer, or set it as your desktop background (works best with the non-chalkboard versions and if you set the desktop background color to white).
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