Cultivate Positivity

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

Winston Churchill spoke of the incredible power of optimism in the following terms, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” A positive attitude is as essential to your life as the air you breathe. A pessimistic attitude will stop you and paralyze you at every turn, while a positive outlook will give you the energy, the grit, the self-confidence, and the inspiration you need to overcome, and most importantly, to learn from any challenging situation life may be throwing at you. Positivity is the cornerstone of your success and your happiness. It is like a powerful guiding light that will get you through pretty much anything in your life. It doesn’t grow on trees, however. It is something you must choose to acquire and integrate into your life. Don’t put it off, train your mind to think positively now, today. The rest of your whole life will thank you for it.

Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself whether you have a glass half-full of half-empty approach to life? Are you an optimist who sees the opportunity in every difficulty or a pessimist who sees the difficulty in every opportunity? If you tend to be the latter, then you should know that you are not doing yourself a favor. Indeed, research shows that pessimism can have a significantly negative impact on your physical and mental health. Just think about that and see if maybe now wouldn’t be a good time to reconsider the way you think about things and turn your pessimism into optimism. As you would expect, that positive thinking is not a magic wand that will make all your problems go away. What it will do, however, is make those problems seem more manageable and help you approach adversity in a more effective and constructive way.

Simple ways to cultivate it!
Keep a journal.

In order to change your thoughts so they will be more positive and constructive, you first need to become aware of those thoughts. You just cannot change something you’re not even aware of. To help you with this, you may want to start a journal in which you will record in the evening the thoughts you remember having that day. It will allow you to keep track of your negative thoughts and to become aware of them. When you’ve identified them, try to label the negative emotions associated with your thoughts such as anger, frustration, fear, disgust, guilt, etc. Then try to identify how those emotions make you feel (i.e. sad, down, depressed, anxious, etc.) Becoming aware of the nature of your thoughts and being able to label them is the very first step you must take to change them. Try BLOOM’s daily self-discovery journal.

Practice gratitude.

Develop positivity by cultivating gratitude. Professor Robert Emmons from University of California Davis, conducted some famous research on the benefits of gratitude and showed that practicing gratitude can change your thought patterns in a significant way. It seems that when you’re actively appreciating the good things in your life, your mind doesn’t have any “room” left for negative thoughts. Your mind just cannot think positively and negatively at the very same time. In order to help you with your practice of gratitude, you can start a Gratitude Journal. Doing so was found to improve well-being, optimism and positivity. Try to write in your journal every evening and simply list two or three good things that happened to you that day. Think of people, situations, or things that made you feel good and uplifted. And while you’re at it, let those people know you’re grateful they’re in your life, and that you’re thankful for all the times they do nice things for you. It will brighten their day instantly as well as yours!

Imagine a positive attitude.

Ask yourself what kind of positive person would you like to be? Make a list of the positive attitudes you’d like to have. Being positive can take many different forms. To help you identify the positive state of mind you’d like to adopt to replace your negative thinking, try to make a list of the kind of positive attitudes you’d like to have and make yours. Set some time aside and start writing your list. Be creative and open-minded. Imagine what the positive you would look like.

Here are a few examples (Jarrow, 2012) to help you jump start your list.

  • Being kind and friendly to people around you or people you don’t know.
  • Being a source of positive energy that lifts people around you.
  • Motivating people around you with positive words.
  • Being happy for someone else’s success or good fortune.
  • Complimenting people who have done something good or well.
  • Not letting negative people bring you down.

This list is not exhaustive, add other attributes to it. The more positive attributes you can think of, the easier it’ll be for new ones to come to your mind thereafter. Write them all down and read them every day, if possible. As you generate new items to add to your list, you will notice how your mind gradually shifts in order to adopt those attributes you’d love to have.