A quick glimpse at today’s headlines will quickly reveal what you probably already knew: division, hate, and intolerance are alive and well in our society. And the vitriol doesn’t end there— it often spills over into our social media in the form of sensationalized articles or belittling comments, and can even invade our workspace or circle of friends. Add to that the normal stressors and obstacles of life (relationships, personal development, finances, etc.) and the prospect of positivity quickly goes out the window. But there is an alternative. Just as negativity is a habit that can be reinforced until it takes control of your emotional life, positivity is also a skill that can be learned and developed until it becomes your default reaction to life’s many trials. These seemingly simple steps—when practiced consistently—will help you to battle the negativity that prevails in today’s world and help you choose happiness and inner-peace.
An attitude of gratitude
One of the quickest ways to dispel the dark clouds of negativity is to focus on the things in life for which you are grateful. Start small—if you have a warm bed to sleep in, eat three meals a day, and have more than 1 pair of clothes, you’re already better off than a large number of people. Maybe there are people in your life who lift you up. Let them know that you appreciate them! It might even help to keep a gratitude journal where you can write down a few things everyday that bring joy in your life.
Sounds easy enough. Maybe even too easy. Smiling—even when you don’t feel like it— has been show to improve one’s mood. Taking a moment when you’re feeling bogged down or stressed out can often be just what you needed to turn your day around and start focusing on the positive. But don’t keep it to yourself—share your smile with others. Smile at those you pass in the hallway, or at the car you let in front of you on the freeway. Brightening others’ day will also brighten yours.
Choose your tunes
Music can have an immense impact on our mood—for good and for bad. While listening to upbeat music can often make us feel energized, it might not be what’s right for you. Listening to slow or “sad” music can actually be very cathartic as it gives you an outlet for your sadness and can help you air-out your emotions, helping to put them behind you. What’s more important than the type of music you listen to is your interaction with that music. Find songs that put you in a good mood, regardless of genre or tempo, and have them ready for when you find yourself in need of a pick me up. Responding to sadness or negativity in this way will also teach you to pay more attention to your emotions, which in turn can help you have control over them.
Surround yourself with positive people
A network of positive, supportive friends can buoy you up during hard times. This isn’t to say we should abandon those who might be stuck in their negative habits, or whose own struggles are weighing them down. In fact, helping them see the silver lining or look for the light at the end of the tunnel can be a rewarding experience in and of itself. But try to balance that with individuals who you can count on to lift your spirits. We tend to take on the habits of those we spend the most time with. Try to spend time with people who make it easy to be positive and happy.
Having something to work towards can shake off those feelings of stagnancy that tend to accompany negative thinking. As you advance towards your goal, your self-confidence will improve. A good goal should push you to reach your potential, but trying to do too much too fast is a sure way to lead to feelings of failure. Be kind to yourself. Divide your goal into smaller, more attainable steps that will accumulate into the bigger overall goal. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress when you succeed, and use any set-backs as learning opportunities. Don’t punish yourself for having tried. Know that it’s perfectly all right to adjust your goals along the way if you find them to be too difficult or stressful. Remember, this is about staying positive.
Sharing is Caring
When we are feeling negative our perspective on things tends to contract until almost all of your attention is focused on what’s wrong. Sharing you problems with individuals who care about you will help you put your trials in a more manageable context. Often, it’s in talking about these issues with others that a clear solution presents itself. But even when it doesn’t, or if there is no immediate solution, talking about it can help alleviate the pain of the moment and may give you the strength you need to endure it without compromising your happiness.
Make sure that the places you spend the most amount of time (at work, at home) are places where you are able to feel comfortable and happy. Sometimes it’s as simple as hanging up pictures or sprucing up your cubicle with some new plants. These small touches can have big impacts on your mood and also serve as reminders of your resolution to choose positivity. If changing your physical space isn’t possible, make sure you’ve got a good outlet—taking a walk during your lunch break, or listening to mood-setting music to and from work.
Just like there are plenty of reasons to indulge in today’s de riguer negativity, there are also abundant reasons to choose happiness. We tend to find whatever it is we’re seeking; so look for the good. Use these habits to be a force for good in the world and lift those around you.