“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done.”
“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.”
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
My outlook on life was one of the first things that I worked on with my personal development.
It was over 15 years ago that I started to delve into this topic and to step by step – and while sometimes tumbling backwards – build a more optimistic outlook.
A stable and consistent attitude over time so I can not only see the world positively on good days.
It was also to keep me positive and constructive, even in difficult times, and continue working for something better.
In this article I’d like to share 19 of the best, smartest and most effective habits for doing so that I have learned during over more than a decade.
You will hopefully find here some helpful information on how to remain positive.
Bonus: Download this free step-bystep checklist on how to remain positive. It’s easy to save as a PDF or print out for whenever you need it during your day or week
1. Look for the positive in a bad situation.
In my experience, asking more questions that are helpful as much as possible is one of the easiest but most effective methods to develop a positive outlook.
When I am in what seems like a negative situation – maybe I have been lazy, made a mistake, failed or stumbled in some kind of way – then I like to ask myself questions like:
- What is the best thing about this situation or event?
- What is the opportunity in this situation?
This is much better than the way I used to react in these situations. Back then, I used to ask myself how bad I was and how it could be worse.
The questions I ask are not always the same.
Often, I need to take a little time before I can process the feelings and thoughts that are triggered by a particular situation.
Trying to force positive thinking when you are still in an emotional turmoil or a bit shocked usually don’t work that well.
2. Cultivate a positive atmosphere and try to live there.
Your outlook will be greatly affected by the people you spend time with, and what you learn from sources like magazines, TV and the internet.
In order to be able stay positive, you need to have people in your life who support and encourage you.
Consider carefully what you let in your mind.
Ask yourself, for example:
- What are the three most negative people that I spend my time with?
- What are three of the most negative sources I visit?
Answer the questions. Consider the answers.
How you can use the extra time to spend with the person or source that you find most inspiring.
I have found that when I go too fast, when I try to think, talk, eat and move around in my world really quickly then things don’t go too well.
Stress builds up. Stress builds up.
But if I slow down just for a few minutes – even if I have to force it by walking, talking and eating slower – then my mind and body calms down too. The ability to think clearly again, and find a positive and constructive perspective is improved.
4. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
It’s very easy to lose perspective, especially if you are stressed and you are going too fast.
A molehill in your mind can turn into a huge and frightening mountain.
A simple three step way to handle these situations so they don’t get out of hand is to:
In your mind, shout “STOP!” or “NOPE, we are not going down that path again!” as soon as thoughts of this kind starts to spin in your head.
When you have interrupted your thoughts by shouting Stop, sit down and remain still.
Focus on your inhalations and exhalations for about a minute to calm your body and your mind.
You can get a more realistic perspective by asking someone close to your heart about the thoughts you have. This person may be able to help by listening to what you are saying or giving their opinion.
You can also ask yourself the following question to relax and widen your view:
Does it matter in 5 Years? What about in 5 weeks?
5. Don’t let vague fears hold you back from doing what you want.
Sometime you might want to take risks in life. Start a new, unfamiliar habit or start your own side business.
When you are trying to accomplish one of these things, it is easy to become lost in your fears about what might happen if you took actual action.
Fear fuels the imagination, which creates a lot of nightmare scenarios as well as self-doubt.
I am familiar with the area. I’ve been there several times.
Since then, I’ve learned to ask myself: What could possibly go wrong?
After I’ve figured out that, I spend some time trying to figure out how I would react if this often very unlikely event were to happen.
Over the years I have learned that the worst possible thing that could happen in reality is often not as terrifying as the nightmares my fear-driven mind can create.
Finding clarity in this way doesn’t take much time or effort and it can help you to reduce stress and avoid much mind made suffering. Step outside your comfort zone. Take that chance.
6. Add value and positivity to someone else’s life.
You tend to receive back what you put out from the world.
Not everyone. Not everyone.
What you say matters.
What you give them and how you treat them is what you’ll get back. How you treat other people and what you think about them can also have an impact on how you view yourself.
Give value to others and spread positivity, by example:
Help a friend move. Give a friend the ride of your car.
You can help by searching for information on Google, or asking your friend.
You can also start a podcast or blog to tell others what you’ve learned in your life.
Sometimes people don’t want any direct help.
They simply want someone to listen as they vent.
Smile. Give hugs as appropriate. Play upbeat music while hanging out with your friends or suggest a film that inspires you for a movie night.
Encourage someone who is having a bad time or has had a difficult day.
7. Exercise regularly, eat well and sleep well.
This is a very obvious statement.
But I know the big, big impact a good night’s sleep or good workout can have when my thoughts are pessimistic and I have a lot of tensions on the inside.
It is much easier to be optimistic and think clearly when I am not hungry.
This is why I recommend that you be careful with these boring habits. They can have a big impact on your life depending on how well you manage them. There is a direct link between my mental and physical health.
8. Take criticism with a healthy attitude.
Fear of criticism is one of the most common anxieties. The fear of criticism can prevent people from achieving their goals.
Because having negativity flowing out of someone’s mouth or email and it being about you can hurt. Rejection can be a real pain.
If you want to do something about what you deeply desire, then criticism will be inevitable. It’s important to learn how you can handle criticism in a more healthy way.
You will feel less hurt if you are criticized.
When I get criticism, I follow four steps. Perhaps they can also help you:
Step 1: Don’t reply right away.
If you’re angry, upset, or riled-up then it is best to calm down before you respond.
Take a few deep breathes or take some time to consider the message before responding.
Step 2 – Listen to criticism.
Keep an open mind and see how you can benefit from this message.
What can I learn from this criticism? Can I learn something from this criticism that I might not like but which could be helpful?
Step 3: Remember that the criticism isn’t always about you.
Some criticism is useful. Some criticism is just a person lashing out or attacking someone because they had a bad job, day or year.
To lessen the sting of such criticism – often really angry or overly critical in an unconstructive way – I try to be understanding. I consider that the person is not feeling very well.
Step 4: Respond or let go.
I always try to be kind and level-headed when responding to an email, for example. I might add a few questions to get more specific and helpful feedback.
And if they don’t reply or I have simply gotten a nasty attack then it is time to delete it and to let that situation go.
9. Know what to do if you still feel something under your skin.
Even if you follow the steps above, something may still manage to get under your skin. You can still get hurt even if you follow the above steps.
The following two things have been helpful to me in this situation:
Let it out.
It can be helpful to bring the problem into the open and discuss it with a close friend. This will help you to see what it really is.
To find a more positive perspective on the current situation.
Enhance your self-esteem.
I have found over the years that with a stronger self-esteem things drag me down less and they don’t ruin my day as much anymore.
Negativity from others bounces off me much more often instead. For practical help, you can check out my 12-week step-bystep Self-Esteem Program.
10. Start your day off in a positive manner.
Your morning routine can have a big impact on the rest of the day.
You should be mindful of how you spend your mornings.
Stress, negative thoughts and a sense of loss of control over your life will increase quickly if you rush to the finish line, losing yourself in future worries.
You can start your day off by reading inspirational and helpful articles, listening to podcasts or having a positive conversation with a family member or friend.
11. Move mindfully throughout your day.
If you live in the present, it is easier to experience positive emotions and remain practical in what you can do.
If you spend a lot time in the past and future, as many of us do, then your worries can easily grow.
You can be dragged down by the failures of your past and mistakes you made.
You can be more mindful by moving slowly throughout your morning and, hopefully, the rest of the day.
One way to refocus your attention and reconnect with the moment you are in is to concentrate on what’s happening around you for a couple of minutes.
Hear it. It’s there. You can also smell it. Feel the sun, rain, or cold wind.
You might think it’s a trivial and unimportant thing to do. The simple act of reconnecting to the moment will have a positive impact on the rest your day.
12. Create a note.
It is essential to be aware of the challenge you face in order to achieve real change. But if you’re thinking that you’ll just remember to stay positive each day and week then you may be disappointed.
You can create a list of 1-3 of your favorite ideas from this article on paper or in an app on your smartphone (I like Google Keep).
13. Say stop if you can’t think straight.
Sometimes when I’m lying in bed and I’m about to go to sleep negative thoughts start buzzing in my mind.
Then I say to myself: No, no, we are not going to think about this now (let’s do it later on instead).
As an example, I will do this in the morning when I am rested. In 80% of cases, the problem is small or nonexistent when I revisit the situation after some rational thinking.
14. You should be grateful for things that you take for granted.
When you wake up in morning or go to sleep at night, spend a moment focusing on some of the things many people in the world don’t have. Or things you may be taking for granted.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Three regular meals every day.
- The roof above my head is a must during the cold, long seasons in Sweden.
- How much water do I want?
It is an easy way to divert your attention from any negative thoughts that are bouncing in your mind and snowballing. You can also start your day in a positive way and keep the positivity going throughout the day.
15. Use a gratitude journal for 3-5 minutes.
If you’d like to extend the habit of gratitude, you can create a journal in which you write down answers to these questions for 3 to 5 minutes every morning or night:
- What are three things that I am grateful for today?
- What are three people in my life that I am grateful for?
- What are three things about myself that I am grateful for?
Use a journal on your phone, a notebook for example.
16. Try to be as positive as you can.
It makes a difference how you speak to yourself.
There is an inner critic in everyone. It can pop up at any time and criticize what you do (or don’t do) or what you didn’t accomplish yesterday.
As I said in tips #4 and #13, a quick way to reduce that inner critic’s influence is to stop. Some of the best stop phrases for me include:
- Nope! Nope! Nope!
- We will not go down that road again!
It also works when you have a negative thought that can grow quickly into a snowball.
So stop negative self-talk quickly and you’ll have more space, time and energy to spare to focus on the positive thoughts and taking positive steps forward in your life.
You should also talk positively to yourself.
- Encourage yourself by taking a tiny step forward.
- Tell yourself that you can take the next step forward and that you’re a smart and capable person.
- Praise yourself for a job well done.
- Be kind and helpful – as mentioned earlier – when you have a setback.
You’ll not only feel a lot better if you focus as best you can on positive self talk but also perform a lot better in my experience.
17. Focus 80% your attention on the solutions.
It’s easy to get dragged away into making a mountain out of molehill, to feel powerless or like a victim if you dwell too much on your problems or challenges in life.
A good rule is to only spend 20% of the time on it and focus 80% of that time on finding solutions to your problems.
It’s possible that you won’t be able find the perfect solution for every problem, at least right now. You can usually do something to make the problem easier to handle or reduce it.
18. Remember that a bad morning is sometimes just a bad morning.
Sometimes, even if you use a handful of the powerful tips and habits in this article your day or week will still be kind of bad.
That’s OK. It’s normal. The natural peaks of life are a part of everyday living.
It is not always going to be good.
But here’s two interesting things:
Reminding yourself of this simple fact of life can help you to also remember that you’re not alone in this. Even if people claim otherwise, every human being on Earth goes through ups-and-downs.
If you accept that life is just like this sometimes and you let go off that dream of perfection and of everything being awesome all the time you’ll create less suffering for yourself and your life be lighter and happier.
19. Celebrate your small successes and larger ones.
If you only celebrate when you’ve had a big win or overcome some huge challenge then it becomes very easy to lose that motivation and positive attitude that you know helps out a lot in many areas of your life.
You can increase your supply by celebrating small and large successes.
You can celebrate by:
- Taking that first step forward with something you’ve procrastinated on for some time.
- A good grade in your last test at school.
- At work, I signed a new customer.
- First time I’ve done a 3-minute jog in a while.
- This week, we brushed every day.
Celebrate this occasion by:
- Lunch with your favorite foods.
- Enjoying a tasty treat.
- Spending some time on your hobby.
- You can go to the cinema tonight or this weekend.
- Buy yourself something that you’ve wanted for weeks.
I know, it might seem a bit silly to celebrate small victories – it did to me, at least – but you’ll really be helping and strengthening yourself, your motivation levels and your positive mindset if you do.
Here’s the next step…
You might be thinking:
“This is really helpful information. But what’s the easiest way to put this into practice, actually stick with it and stay positive even on tough days?”.
Well, I’ve got something special for you.
The top steps from this article are included in a free step-bystep checklist. You can save it or print it so that you always have it with you for daily use and when you are stuck in negative thoughts.
Download the checklist for free by clicking the image below:
Image at the start of the article by Sterlic (license).