Down in the Dumps? How to Become a More Positive Person

Having a positive outlook on life has many benefits, both to your mood and your physical health. Personality traits like optimism or pessimism can have an effect on your overall well-being, so it’s important to cultivate a positive frame of mind. Health benefits of optimism and positive thinking include greater resistance to colds, increased life span, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and better coping skills during periods of stress.

Positive people tend to live healthier lifestyles, getting more exercise, eating healthier diets and avoiding excessive use of alcohol. They also enjoy better psychological well-being and suffer less depression. We can’t feel good all the time but there are ways to encourage positive feelings and overcome negative ones.

Being positive does not mean ignoring what’s going on around you, but it does mean that you approach the challenges of life in a more productive way. If you’ve been feeling down and wake up dreading what the day may bring, it’s time that you started adopting the practices of more positive people. Here are a few ways to make your outlook brighter.

Make a choice to be more positive.
The first step toward casting off feelings of negativity is to quit blaming your attitudes on outside forces like your family or your job. You must teach yourself that positivity is choice—and make that choice for yourself. You can’t change what happens to you, but you can change how you feel about it. You are totally in control of your attitude!

Dump negative people.
It’s hard to maintain a positive attitude when surrounded by people who constantly bombard you with doom and gloom. If those people are close relatives, you may not be able to totally avoid them, but you can stop their ongoing tales of woe by refusing to listen. Tell them nicely but firmly that you’re not going to buy into their negativity.

If the doomsayers are friends, neighbors or co-workers, you can take a more drastic approach and just distance yourself from them. Avoid them whenever possible so they can’t drag you down. Replace these gloomy Gus types with more positive new friends who share your desire for a happier life.

Drop negative habits.
It’s very tempting for negative people to try to lift their spirits with the help of alcohol or drugs when they feel lonely or anxious. This may make you feel better for a short time but can make you more depressed in the long run. Seek professional help if you have to, but make feeling good naturally part of your new, more positive life.

Accentuate the positive.
This is more than a lyric to an old song—it’s the secret to reinforcing positive thoughts. Look for the good things about yourself and your life. Appreciate what you have rather than lamenting what you don’t have. Remind yourself how lucky you are to have your friends, your family and your career. Congratulate yourself when you do something well. Stop beating yourself up when you make a mistake and instead count it as a learning experience.

You don’t have to convince yourself that everything is sunshine, lollipops and unicorns, but do open your eyes to the happy events and focus on those. Reinforce those positive thoughts until they become a habit. The more you become aware of the good things around you, the happier you will be.

Stop comparing yourself to others.
There’s always someone out there that’s richer, smarter, taller, thinner or better looking than you are. No one’s perfect, including those you envy. Count your blessings and make a list of the things that make you amazing and unique!

Educate yourself.
Feeling ignorant or helpless can contribute to negativity. Make it a habit to read books or take classes that improve your mind. If you find yourself feeling “stupid” about a subject, or become distressed when dealing with your finances, educate yourself by studying. When you know what you’re doing, you’ll naturally feel more confident and less depressed.

Shut down the voices in your head.
We all have voices in our heads, telling us to do things a certain way or don’t do them at all. For too many of us, those voices are telling us that we’re stupid and will never accomplish anything. If your parents were the ones who instilled these negative thoughts and habits, you may be hearing their voices in your head, even years after you’ve left home and they’re gone.

If this is the case, it’s time to stand up for yourself. When you hear a parent’s voice telling you that you can’t do something, speak up and state why you can. You don’t actually have to do this aloud, even though it may help you to squelch those spirit-dampening comments. Remind yourself that you’re the grownup now, and that you’re doing a fine job of running your own life.

Live in the present.
Too many of us waste time worrying over things that might happen in the future. This is counter-productive because even if those bad things do happen, you won’t be any better prepared for them just because you spent all that time worrying. If they don’t happen—which is more likely—you’ll have wasted all that time fretting over nothing. Another depressing time-waster is dwelling on the past. We all have regrets, but we can’t go back in time and correct our mistakes. The present is all we have, so enjoy it while you can.

Share your positivity.
One of the best ways to reinforce your feelings of positivity is to share them with others. Tell your family members how well they’re doing and how much you love them. Compliment them on little things, and try to cheer them up when they feel down. If someone close to you seems to be depressed, reach out to them and try to help them feel better about themselves.

Be nicer to others, including total strangers. Avoid being critical of people you don’t know, because you have no idea what they may be going through. Look for the good in people and you will find it.

Know when to seek help.
While practicing positive thinking is an ongoing challenge for many of us, there are some people who have deeper problems than just feeling down in the dumps occasionally. If you suffer from crippling bouts of depression or have thoughts of suicide, it’s important that you seek professional help. Too many of us put up with mental or emotional problems for years, when they could have been living happier, more productive lives.

Never give up.
Maybe if you’ve “failed” at something, it means you need a few more tries before you succeed. The only way you can truly fail is if you quit trying.

Written on 11/15/2013 by Linda Cauthen.

Photo Credit: Jon McGovern

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