It’s a cold, cruel world out there. Isn’t it?
It seems like there is an unending stream of negativity, violence, and ugliness that tries to invade our space through social media, the news, and personal experience.
The problem with that perception is that it is inherently harmful…
The world is not actually a cold, cruel place. It’s just the world. It’s indifferent to our successes and failures, our joys, and suffering. The world simply is and will continue to turn no matter what we experience.
No, it’s not the world. It’s people. People are cold and warm, kind and cruel, optimistic or pessimistic, negative or positive.
Making the transition from a negative mindset to a more positive one is a long, challenging journey that many struggle hard for. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to accept things as they are or find the silver lining in the grayest of clouds.
And you know what? Not every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes things are just awful, and that’s just the way it is, though there are always people lining up to tell us how it isn’t so bad or that other people have it worse. Turns out, people are pretty bad at being emotionally supportive.
And that’s why it’s so important to work on your own mindset. No one else is going to live in your head 24/7 to try to pull you out of whatever hole you find yourself in.
Few people will provide meaningful or quality support for the length of time required to really change the way you view the world and the problems that come with it.
You have to do that for yourself.
And it’s going to take a while, possibly years, to shift the way you perceive the world. Don’t expect it to be fast. It won’t be.
But you can make significant gains by doing small things that will add up over a long period and shift your perception into a more positive place.
Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you make that change.
1. Address potential mental health issues.
A whole lot of people are living with untreated mental health issues and trauma. Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high thanks to the state of the world, a questionable economy, and an unsure future.
Some of that is situational; some of it isn’t. Some of it is undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.
If you’re having a hard time finding any joy and haven’t felt happiness in a long time, it would be worthwhile to get a mental health screening to see if you need some additional help from a certified professional.
You can’t out-think mental illness, and trauma just doesn’t go away on its own. It usually just quietly compounds into a much bigger problem you need to deal with later.
2. Embrace the power of gratitude.
Gratitude is a common talking point for building a positive mindset. It’s so common that it’s almost easy to tune out because so many people, articles, podcasts, and motivational speakers reference it but don’t necessarily detail how it benefits you.
Gratitude is powerful because it forces your mind to look for something other than the negative.
And whatever you look for, you’re going to find. If you look at every situation through negative lenses, what you’re going to see first is negative.
Maybe there’s opportunity hidden in there. Maybe it could have been much worse than it was. Maybe this terrible experience is something you needed to grow and prosper.
Or maybe none of that is true. Maybe it’s just a terrible circumstance that you shouldn’t be grateful for. Don’t try to feel positive about a wholly negative situation – that’s unhelpful and unhealthy.
3. Amor Fati.
In the philosophy of Stoicism, there is a principle called “Amor Fati” which means, “Love your fate.”
The idea behind the principle is that whatever you encounter in your life is yours and yours alone, and the best way to survive it is to learn to love it.
It doesn’t have to be fair, kind, or peaceful. You don’t have to like it at all.
There is a lot about love not to like, such as your spouse being diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer or experiencing a personal traumatic circumstance. These things are terrible, but they are still yours, and you can choose how you want to deal with them.
To love your fate is to embrace what you cannot avoid instead of running from and trying to avoid it. Because you can’t. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you.
4. Limit your time with negative people.
There is a saying that goes something along the lines of, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time around.”
That line is speaking to the direct and real effect that other people have on who we are as people, how we see the world, and how we choose to interact with life.
If you are surrounded by negative people, you will have a difficult time staying positive.
Negative people love to drag positive people down to their level because surely life can’t be that good; you can’t actually be that happy. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that people are suffering! Losing their jobs! Getting sick and dying!
5. Be mindful of the diet you feed your mind.
The mind is not too different from the stomach. If you feed it garbage, then you get garbage.
Eating unhealthy food too much can you make overweight, lethargic, not provide the energy you need, and even make you sick.
You can’t feed your brain negativity and expect to get anything useful out of it, either.
The media you consume matters. Suppose you’re always watching the news, reading negative things on social media or websites, and listening to negative things. In that case, you’re going to have a much harder time pulling your brain out of that dark hole.
Yes, we know that a lot of the positivity-oriented stuff is cheesy and corny, but there are realistically positive things out there too. You just have to keep looking around until you find them.
6. Start and maintain an exercise routine.
There are countless studies out there that tie physical health to your mental health.
The body produces a lot of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals when it is working and exercising. Human beings are not built for a sedentary lifestyle, even though that is what a lot of people have nowadays.
Get up and get moving regularly. It doesn’t even have to be anything complicated. A 20-minute walk a few times a week can be enough to get things jump-started in your body. That exercise will help you feel better, both physically and mentally.
7. Develop a healthy sleep routine.
A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour routine that is part of the body’s internal clock. Throughout it, the body is firing off different internal processes that need to happen to ensure you stay healthy and functional.
The most well-known of these is the sleep-wake cycle. Your body has ideal times where it wants to sleep and wake up. The closer you can get to those ideal times, the healthier you can be.
The brain replenishes many mood balancing chemicals that it uses throughout the day during the deepest stages of sleep. It is much harder for your brain to get to those deep stages of sleep if you are constantly interrupting your sleep-wake cycle by sleeping irregular hours.
8. Start your morning with a positive routine.
Early morning routines get a lot of coverage because they are an integral start to having a good day. After all, it’s challenging to have a good day when you’re trying to overcome a bad morning.
A positive morning can carry a lot of the weight of the challenges that are coming from the day. Take some time to do something positive in the morning for yourself.
Reading, exercising, journaling, even just sitting quietly with your cup of coffee or tea are all reliable ways to get the day going.
You should avoid diving immediately into the worries of the day and avoid the negative news and media. That can come later if you feel the need for it.
9. Focus on being present.
Mindfulness can help foster a positive outlook on life. To be mindful is to be present and in the moment, right now.
It’s not worrying about what’s happening on the other side of the world, dwelling on past mistakes, worrying about the future that isn’t here yet, or wondering what’s going to happen next.
You have no control over any of those things. All you can control is what you have right here and now.
But even then, that’s not always true either. Sometimes things are out of your control, and all you can do is go with the flow and see where the flow takes you.
When you find your mind drifting to those other things, focus it back into the present moment and what’s around you.
10. Reframe failure into important lessons.
Failure. It’s something no one wants to experience or deal with. Seems like a universal truth, doesn’t it?
It really depends on how you look at it. A positive person who is focused on success does not fear failure. They understand that failure is part of the process of success.
It is the rare person who sets out to do something and succeeds on the first try. Most of the time, you’re going to end up failing a couple of times before you can get something right.
Failure can teach you so much about yourself and whatever it is that you’re failing at so long as you keep your mind open and look for the lessons in the failure. Then you take those lessons and apply them to your next attempt.
Failure is nothing to be afraid of. It’s part of the journey toward success.
11. Build your self-esteem and self-love.
A surprising amount of the negativity of the world falls away when you build your self-esteem and self-love.
All those negative people that want to tell you that you’re less than? It means nothing if you know that you are a quality, capable person.
Many people fall into an unhealthy pattern of judging themselves as a good or not good person. The problem with that is that you will rarely get a fair assessment in line with your beliefs.
To be a good person means you need to accept a concrete definition of what it means to be a good person. And that means that you’re going to get different definitions depending on who you ask.
What’s most important is that you can look at yourself in the mirror and love the person you see – cracks, blemishes, and all.
12. Remember that positivity and happiness is about the journey, not the destination.
Most likely, you’re not going to find happiness when you finally reach the destination you’re striving for.
What happens is that you get to that destination, experience some happiness for a little while. Then the shininess of the experience dulls with the real-world expectations that go along with it.
That career you’re dreaming of will still have tedious, annoying work and coworkers to deal with.
More money is great, but it comes with more responsibilities and more problems.
That vacation is going to be great! It’s going to be fun! You’ll see new things, experience new things, and hopefully have some joy of it. But it won’t last forever.
The key to developing a positive mindset is to understand that it is a constant work-in-progress. It’s something you choose to do every day by the actions that you take.
It’s making a choice to feed the positive thoughts and experiences that you can find every day if you choose to look. And as you do that, you will retrain your brain to naturally find these things.
It’s not easy. It will take a long time. But it is something you can do if you focus and keep working at it.
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