If you’re currently in a negative rut, it can be hard to break out of it. Some people tend to have a positive outlook naturally, but others have a difficult time seeing the glass half-full. If you identify more with Eeyore than with Pollyanna, there are things you can do to improve your outlook on life. Being an optimist can improve your mental and physical health. There’s even some evidence that it can help you live longer! Check out these tips on how to develop a positive outlook and see if you can start seeing the sunnier side of life.
1. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
It’s hard to stay negative when you’re thankful for all of the good things in life. Make it a habit to be grateful. Try to find something each day to be thankful for; it might be as simple as a beautiful sunset or not hitting any traffic on your way in to work.
One way to remember to be grateful is to keep a gratitude journal. Make it part of your routine to write down one or two things that happened during the day that you’re grateful for. This can serve two purposes:
- You’ll begin to be on the lookout for small things to be thankful about.
- You’ll have a list of positive things to look back on when you’re feeling down.
That alone can pull you out of your negativity!
2. Use Positive Words Whenever Possible
It can be easy to default to using negative words when you’re describing things that have happened or things that you are expecting to happen. Try to put a positive spin on what’s going on. Instead of saying, “It’s supposed to be rainy and awful for the next three days,” try to focus on the positive: “We really need the rain, and my lawn is going to look so much better by the end of the week.” If your dog is shedding and has gotten into the habit of barking whenever anyone walks past your house, focus instead on what your furry friend brings into your life (love, companionship, laughter) and you will see a positive outlook form from this.
3. Say “I Get to,” Rather Than, “I Have To”
Thinking about all of the items on your to-do list, you might feel a bit defeated before you even begin. Driving the kids to school, going to work, mopping the floor, coaching Little League, and pulling weeds are all items to be checked off. But if you reframe things and say, “I get to…” rather than “I have to…” you might find yourself thinking more positively.
For example, you get to drive your children to school. You can send them off with a kiss goodbye and you don’t have to worry about them standing in the rain waiting for the school bus. You’re fortunate to have a job to go to, and there might be people who live alone and who don’t have pets who wouldn’t mind mopping up spilled milk and puppy paw prints from the floor. Try to think about the privileges you enjoy, even if you don’t particularly like doing the work that those privileges bring with them. Thinking like this will almost instantly create a positive outlook in your life.
4. Take Care of Your Physical Needs
If you’re not feeling well, not getting enough sleep, or eating foods that leave you lethargic, it’s no wonder that you’re not very optimistic. Taking care of your physical needs can give you the energy you need to smile.
Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night. This might mean going to bed earlier or even seeing your doctor if you’re struggling with insomnia. If you’re currently taking care of a baby who wakes you up in the night, look for ways to catch a nap in the afternoon. Getting enough sleep can do wonders for your outlook on life.
Eat the right kinds of foods. Going through the drive-thru can ease hunger pangs when you’re in a hurry, but it leaves you feeling bloated and maybe even guilty about what you’re doing to your health. Take some time in the evening to pack up a healthy lunch for the next day so you have something healthy and energizing to eat.
Finally, be sure to get some exercise each day. Whether that’s doing a video workout, going for a walk, or taking a Zumba class, moving your body for 30 minutes per day can ease anxiety and depression, boost your cardiovascular health, and just make you feel better in general.
5. Volunteer to Help Others
It’s hard to stay pessimistic when you’re volunteering to help those who are less fortunate than you are. Try to find time in your schedule to put in a few hours at the food pantry, to clean up after shelter dogs and cats, or to collect toys for disadvantaged children. Knowing that you are helping someone else can make you feel better about yourself and gives a positive outlook about life in general.
6. Notice the Helpers
Even if you’re not the one doing the helping, you can notice those who are. As Fred Rogers is lauded for saying, when something scary or negative happens, look for the helpers. There will be people at those food pantries handing out food to those who are hungry. There are also people who will help the homeless, adopt the stray kitties, and foster children whose parents are unable to care for them. Noticing the people in your community who are helping others can make you feel better about humanity as a whole which will help give you a positive outlook on life.
7. Seek Professional Help
Finally, if you are finding it hard to find things to smile about over a prolonged period, you might have depression. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling and ask him or her to screen you for mental health disorders. You might also talk to a counselor or another mental health specialist. There are ways that you can start to feel better, and you should not have to deal with feeling sad and pessimistic. Get yourself the help you need so you can have a bright and positive outlook.