How to Be (and Stay) Positive: 10+ Habits for a Happier Life

Be Positive written with wooden letters

Are you a positive or a negative person?

If you tend to be negative, it would be best if you “converted” yourself to positivity. Why? If I had to give you only one reason, it would be that being negative doesn’t help you accomplish anything remarkable, while a positive mindset does.

Now, if you tend to be a positive person, it’s important not only that you understand if you’re actually positive , but also that you learn how to stay positive during both good and bad times. 

That’s why today I will show you some habits that will help you become more positive and maintain that positivity even during difficult times. 

Let’s dive into it.

Be Proactive

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

— Anais Nin

Being proactive means acknowledging that we have the responsibility and the power to choose how we respond to everything in life, that our behavior is dictated by our own decisions, not our conditions, that we have the responsibility to take initiative and make things happen.

To be a more proactive and positive person, stop being acted upon. Stop blaming. Stop being influenced so much by your conditions and circumstances, as if you didn’t have a mind of your own. 

Choose your responses and make your decisions based on your own values, priorities and goals. Let them guide you in every day of your life and in every decision you make. 

Many people are used to letting all sorts of things influence their everyday life so much that, after a long enough period of time, they basically forget what their true values and goals were in the beginning, and end up spending their days passively reacting to whatever happens to and around them.

Well, you don’t want that. You want to follow your own compass (values, goals, dreams) and never lose your way. 

Find Your Sources of Negativity (and Make Them Smaller)

We all have something or someone that generates negativity in our life every now and then (or worse, every single day). In order to stay positive, we have to reduce our sources of negativity.

I said reduce and not eliminate because the point is not to reject negativity altogether (since, as we already know, negative emotions can be useful sometimes). Instead, it means trying to avoid, if possible, things that are 100% guaranteed to generate negative energy. 

The most common sources of negativity are, of course, people and social media, so it’s best to start from those.

Spend less time with negative people

Most of them tend to feed off of negativity, as if they find satisfaction in it. If you’re often around them, their negativity will rub off on you. The more time you spend with negative people, the more you will start to complain about everything, blame everything and everyone, be a constantly angry and stressed out person, and often ruin the mood of the people around you.

Spend less time on social media

Look, social media is great if used correctly and moderately, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Other than making you waste ridiculous amounts of time, it seriously compromises your happiness.

Those who spend a lot of time on social media tend to develop low self-esteem, bad self-image, and unhealthy envy.

Not just that. When using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, the risk of bumping into (or participating in) futile discussions with toxic people is always high. When this happens, it can take your mood from 10 to 1 extremely quickly.

So try to spend less time on your smartphone, on the Internet, and on social media. You will find it much easier to stay positive.

Watch your language

Sometimes (very often actually) we are our own source of negativity. The language we use when talking to ourselves and/or other people can have a tremendous effect on our overall mood. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, makes a clear distinction between reactive and proactive language.

Reactive language is all about saying things that absolve one from any responsibility and closes a person’s mind to every possibility. A reactive person will often say things like:

  • “That’s just who I am.”
  • “I’ve always been like this, I can’t do anything about it.”
  • “If only I had the time/money/skills, I too would do ____.”
  • “It’s not my fault. If he were less obnoxious, I would also be more friendly.”

A reactive person can’t—or, more accurately, doesn’t want to—change and improve, because everything is someone or something else’s fault and they can’t do anything about it, “so why even try?”. They only react to what happens to and around them; they don’t have a personal compass guiding them through the events of life.

Proactive people are different. They take responsibility, they make decisions based on their own values and goals, they take initiative and bring solutions to problems. They follow their own compass. Examples of proactive language are:

  • “I can improve.”
  • “Let’s try a different approach.”
  • “This is not easy, but if I try my best, I think I can do it.”
  • “I can choose how I get affected by this situation.”
  • “If I want him to be more patient and understanding, I can be more patient and understanding, first.”

To become a more positive person, make sure you don’t use reactive language, as it can really take a toll on your long-term happiness.

The biggest problem of reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because we humans always tend to look for (and create) evidence to support our beliefs. That’s why a prolonged use of reactive language will make you feel more and more out of control and not in charge of your destiny, and you will end up blaming everyone and everything for your own situation, while never doing anything concrete about it.

Welcome More Genuine Positivity Into Your Life

Reducing our sources of negative energy is crucial, but not enough. If you remember how habits work, you might recall that, as long as you don’t actually replace a bad habit, you can’t get rid of it effectively. 

It’s the same here. If you seldom get in touch with positivity, then negative emotions and thoughts will have more opportunities to show up and ruin your day.

Here are a few ways to increase your exposure to positivity:

Spend time with positive people who think, say, and do uplifting things.

While negative people drain your energy, positive people will do the opposite; they will help you see the bright side of life, motivate you, and lift your mood when you’re feeling down. They are the ones who can really help you achieve your wildest goals, unlike negative people who will try to bring you down for no reason other than wanting someone else to give up just like they did.

Laugh

Watch and listen to funny things and do fun stuff. Laughter improves your mood and it can lower stress and anxiety, too. So stop sulking, and open up to humor!

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

— Charlie Chaplin

Try to see the positive point in a negative situation

Almost every situation, no matter how bad it is, comes with a hidden opportunity. Always look for that.

Remember: the way you see the problem IS the problem. If you only focus on the bad, you won’t see anything else and you will only worsen the problem.

Ask yourself, “Is there anything positive about this?”:

  • If yes, learn from it and see how you can turn it into an opportunity.
  • If not, just acknowledge the situation and see if and how you can fix it. If you can, do it. If you can’t fix it because of things outside of your control, then just go on with your life. Don’t be held back by things you can do nothing about.

Find inspiration in other people’s stories

Read, watch, or listen to stories of people who started in a similar or even more difficult situation than yours, but who didn’t let that affect them negatively, and instead kept going forward, until they were able to achieve great success. Don’t be jealous, don’t get demotivated, don’t hate. Instead, appreciate what they’ve done, learn from their story, and be motivated. If they can do it, there’s no reason you can’t do the same.

Play

A huge mistake that most self-improvement “newbies” make is that they schedule time for work-related tasks, but not for playing. They go from focusing too little to focusing too much on work and on being productive. Time dedicated to simply having fun and relaxing is seen as wasted time. 

But this kind of mindset is wrong. There’s a time for hard work, and there’s a time for relaxation and fun. Both are important. 

Every day, you should set aside at least 1 hour that you’ll use to relax, play, and pursue your hobbies and passions.

This is one of the best ways to ensure that you experience happiness every single day.

Please note: your playtime should be considered as a reward for your hard work, not as something that you must do no matter what. So let’s say you haven’t completed at least 2 or 3 of your most important tasks on your to-do list; in this case you should call off your daily “fun time”, and use that extra time to focus on what you should have worked on in the first place. You don’t want to give your brain the wrong idea that it’s ok to do otherwise, or it will start to think that “There’s no need to work hard if I can get my reward anyway”. Yup, our brain can be that simple-minded (pun intended).

Be Kind

Kindness is a superpower we all have, but it’s so underused. That’s because being kind is not always easy, so most people often choose the shorter route of getting angry, of being harsh, of scolding and reproaching. Even though this shortcut is easy to take at first, it often ends up consuming much more energy than if you had simply decided to be more patient.

To be a more positive person, you need to learn to be kind not only to yourself, but to others as well. Here’s how to do that:

  • Pay attention to how you treat yourself. Do you tend to have negative self-talk and beat yourself up when you make mistakes? If yes, stop immediately. The Golden Rule states that you shouldn’t treat others in ways that you wouldn’t like to be treated yourself, but I believe that it’s equally important that you don’t treat yourself in a way that you wouldn’t like to be treated by others.
    So be kind to yourself. Know that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes, that what is important is to acknowledge them, and then commit to do better next time.

Do not treat others in in ways that you would not like to be treated yourself, and do not treat yourself in ways that you wouldn’t like to be treated by others.

— The Golden Rule (improved)

  • Do the same with other people. Be kind to them. Don’t be harsh, help them free up emotional resources as well, so they too can stop being held back by their negative thoughts. You will soon realise that when you lift another person’s mood, you become happier, as well.

Take A Few Moments to Say “Thanks”

Practicing gratitude every day is really easy to do, and it can have life-changing effects. All you have to do is to take as little as 5 minutes every day to write down things that you’re grateful for. 

Being grateful will help you see what’s important and what is not. You will be able to stay positive even during difficult times, you will appreciate positive events more, and you will be more calm and relaxed in general.

Gratitude can really make or break your life. Ungrateful people, for example, don’t appreciate what they have, so they often feel dissatisfied. This leads to negativity, which leads to unhappiness, which leads to low motivation, which leads to a tendency to give up easily, which in the end leads to not achieving a single remarkable goal in life. 

You see, it’s not just about thinking and writing “I’m thankful for this, this, and that”. Gratitude—like all the habits in this article—is able to generate a ripple that touches and influences positively several other areas of your life.

Write

Writing, other than being a great tool for organizing your thoughts and gaining clarity about what’s going on in your life, can help you stay positive.

Why? Because writing allows you to let it all out. It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are, you will always have annoying and stressful things happen to you. 

Positive people are not immune to negativity, anger, stress, insecurity, frustration, etc. They are humans just like everyone else.

What they do differently, however, is that they don’t let negative emotions consume them. 

Now, you must not suppress this kind of emotions, because they will only build up over time and suddenly explode, often generating grave consequences.

To stay positive in life, you need to let it all out in a healthy way. That is, without hurting others.

Some people do that by talking to a friend, some prefer to go for a run, while others decide to see a therapist. You can choose the method you prefer, but I still recommend writing. It’s easy to get started with, and it’s free! 

Just rite down your thoughts, your anger, your worries, your ideas… everything. 

Remember That Things Happen, Time Passes, Life Goes on

No matter how you feel, the world won’t stop or slow down for you; not even a single bit. You can be sad, angry, frustrated; you can complain about how hard your life is and waste all your time blaming your circumstances; or you can decide to be positive, to live in the present, to focus on making a better future. It’s your choice.

Regardless of what you decide, life will always keep going forward. It won’t wait for you, so you’d better not slow down too much.

In order to not fall behind, follow these simple steps:

  1. First of all, make peace with your past. What is done is done, you can’t change or undo your past mistakes and negative experiences; there’s no Ctrl+Z in real life. What you can do, however, is to not allow your past to ruin your present and your future. 
  2. After making peace with your past, it’s time to live in the present. Turn your focus away from your past, and commit to making a better future. Focus on what you can do now to make it happen.
  3. Don’t take things personally. To live in the present and work towards a better future, you also need to learn to not take everything personally. Most things are not that serious, and many are not even actually about you. Sometimes, annoying stuff just happens, and it really isn’t worth your time and energy. You have more important things to focus on, after all.

“When you aim high, sometimes you come across fights not worth fighting.”

BONUS TIP: Learn How to Play Piano

Hand playing piano

Ok, not just piano. I only said piano because it’s my favourite instrument, but you can choose the one you prefer, of course.

But what does playing an instrument have to do with being more positive? Glad you asked!

First of all, it’s good for stress relief. Music, especially slow, relaxing music has calming effects on your mind and body. 

Also, it’s a good way to let your emotions out. Whether you’re feeling happy, sad, angry, or frustrated, playing an instrument—just like with writing—allows you to take your feelings from the inside to the outside, thus freeing up “emotional space”, so that you don’t get crushed under the weight of all those heavy emotions.

What’s more, playing an instrument makes you build patience, perseverance, discipline, and it also helps you become more confident. All these qualities are actual skills that will guarantee happiness and satisfaction in the long term.

Finally, being able to play something that you couldn’t play before gives you a sense of achievement that makes you feel good and proud of yourself. 

So go and learn pian- I mean, any musical instrument you like! It doesn’t matter how old you are… It’s never too late to learn, and it’s going to be one of the best decisions of your life.

Ready for a More Enjoyable Life?

Having a positive mindset allows you to live a better life, because look, there’s no way around it: a negative and pessimistic person will NOT be able to enjoy life as much as positive and optimistic people do, even if they are rich, smart, talented, and whatever people are normally jealous of.

When you have a negative view on life you will be unhappy regardless of how objectively good your life is.

On the other hand, if you have a positive mindset, you can see the good of life, you appreciate everything more, you don’t allow negativity to hold you back.

Does a positive mindset automatically solve every problem in life? No, it doesn’t. But it does make you approach life and its numerous hardships more effectively and without holding you back.

Life is short, better enjoy it with a positive mindset. Don’t waste it in negativity.

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