How To Achieve A Positive Mindset (Actionable Tips And Examples)
July 14 August 2019
by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.
Do you know that one person who always seems to have a positive mindset? That person who always reacts with bright humor, optimism and a positive mental attitude? Do you want to know how to be like this?
The 7 methods described in this article will show you exactly how to achieve this positive mindset. Even when you can't always fully control your mindset, you can at least do everything to understand your own mind. When you learn how to do that, you can apply that knowledge to become the happiest version of yourself.
If you can turn these 7 methods into habits for yourself, that's when you'll become the optimist of your group of friends or family. That's when people will think of you when asked to think about someone with a positive mindset.
Table of contents
- Can you create a positive mindset?
- Ways to achieve a positive mindset
- 1. Become self-aware of how you react to negativity
- 2. Be a source of positivity for others
- 3. Be grateful for the positivity you already have
- 4. Waste less of your time on TV or social media
- 5. Find the right balance between long-term and short-term happiness
- 6. Spend time with the people you love
- 7. Keep track of your positivity
- Closing words
Did you know that 40% of your happiness is a result of your personal outlook? Being aware of your own emotions is a vital step towards happiness. This subject is discussed in Chapter 2 of the biggest guide on how to be happy that's freely available online.
Can you create a positive mindset?
Before I dive into the methods, I want to answer this question first: can you even create a positive mindset?
Let's first explain why I think this is so important.
Some people find it really frustrating when they hear: "just choose to be a little more positive!" A lot of people think that positivity is 100% a function of your own mindset. They think that we have the ability to choose to be positive from the inside anytime we want.
That's not true. If you found out your partner was killed in a highway crash right now, would you be able to achieve a positive mindset at the snap of a finger? Of course not!
You may be able to act like you have a positive mindset by faking it, but it's the emotions that you're actually feeling that matter. It's not like you can stand in front of a mirror and repeat "I'm positive and everything that's happening is just perfect" thirty-five times and then POOF you're happy. It doesn't work like that.
In fact, it turns out our happiness and positivity are influenced by a lot of factors that we cannot control.
What influences a positive mindset?
It's very simple actually. They say happiness is determined as follows:
- 50% is determined by genetics
- 10% is determined by external factors
- 40% is determined by your own outlook
Notice how there's a significant chunk of your happiness that you can't control? You see, even though we sometimes have the ability to choose happiness (as shown in this article with actual examples in this article), the opposite is true in a lot of cases.
As hard as you might wanna try, having a positive mindset is sometimes more than just a decision.
This article focuses on the ways that you can still turn your mindset into a positive one.
Ways to achieve a positive mindset
Even when you consider yourself to be a realist - or at least not an optimist - I'm still sure you'll find these methods helpful to steer your life in a more positive direction.
Just know that you are not born with a positive or negative mindset.
You can influence the way you act in your life by building habits. Here are 7 habits that are key to achieving a positive mindset.
1. Become self-aware of how you react to negativity
Imagine this: You are in a hurry after a long day at work. You need to get back home as soon as possible because you need to do groceries, cook dinner and head out to meet your friends.
But traffic is extremely busy and you end up stuck in front of a red light.
Bummer, right?! There are a couple of things you can do here:
- You can be mad at this #*#@%^@ traffic light and be pissed off. This traffic light is ruining your plans!
- You can accept the fact that this traffic light is the way it is and decide to not let it influence your happiness.
We cannot control the traffic. But we can control how we react to it. And that's why it's a perfect example of how happiness can be a choice. We get to choose how we react to events, and by choosing a positive outlook, we can vastly improve our happiness when dealing with these situations.
It's difficult to be aware of the situation when such a scenario presents itself. However, this is something you can train. So the next time you recognize a situation like this, instead of becoming frustrated by this busy traffic, why don't you try to focus on things that actually make you happy?
- Put on some good music and just sing along.
- Give your friends a call and talk about your plans for the evening.
- Send a nice message to someone you love.
- Just close your eyes and take a deep breath. Allow your mind to rest easy, instead of being focused on the busy traffic around you.
You see where I'm going here, right? At the start of this article, you read that roughly 40% of your happiness is a result of your personal mindset. You can train yourself to take control of that 40% of happiness by embracing a positive mindset.
Happiness is a choice in a lot of scenario's, and recognizing when this is the case is a great first step in the right direction!
2. Be a source of positivity for others
On your pathway to achieve a positive mindset, you will encounter a lot of people that are dealing with similar issues like you. I want you to consider the possibility of being a source of positivity for these people.
You see, humans tend to unknowingly copy the behavior of others, and as some of you might know: emotions can be contagious!
If your partner or close friend is sad or angry then there is a possibility that you will feel that emotion as well. The same works for positivity, laughter, and happiness.
Your happiness can actually radiate to other people. Your smile has the power to bring a smile to someone else's face! How can you put this to practice?
- Smile to a stranger
- Try to laugh when you're around others. Laughter is one of the best remedies for sadness.
- Do something nice for somebody else, a.k.a. a random act of kindness
- Make a compliment to somebody else and notice how it affects their happiness
But wait. Why would you want to focus on the happiness of others while you're interested in having a positive mindset yourself right now?
It's easy: Spreading positivity to others will make you feel more positive as well. Teach by doing, and you'll learn something for yourself as well.
3. Be grateful for the positivity you already have
You've probably heard this one before, but I'm still going to include this as a method to achieve a positive mindset. Practicing gratitude can have a great effect on your mental health, as shown by numerous studies. I've covered the topic of being grateful and how it influences your happiness in this in-depth article.
How can you practice gratitude?
- Thank your family for everything they've done for you
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Look back at your happy memories and be grateful for those memories
- Think about and focus on the positive things you have going on in your life
I find that remembering good memories helps me maintain a happy mind. Thinking back about that time that I laughed my ass off about something silly brings a smile to my face. This is something I try to do daily, whenever I find a moment to stand still and think about my life.
One of the most well-known studies on gratitude was conducted in 2003 by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. They conducted a study in which they surveyed 192 participants - split into 3 groups - that were subjected to different situations. They were all asked to rate how they felt via a combination of 30 factors at the end of each day on a scale from 1 to 5. The answers were used to calculate a subjective well-being rating.
Of the 3 groups, one was asked specifically to find gratitude by means of this instruction:
"There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for."
The study shows that people who are encouraged to think of things they're grateful for are approximately 10% happier than those who are not.
A 10% increase in happiness as a result of practicing gratitude is very big in my opinion.
When was the last time you actually felt more positive after having consumed pointless media from Facebook or the TV?
I'll give you a moment to think about it.
Surprise: while reality TV, soaps and social media can be great for just passing the time, they are absolutely terrible for achieving a positive mindset!
Why? Because these types of media usually match one of the following criteria:
- It's mindless and unproductive
- The media is really just an ad that's disguised as something "organic" (looking at you, Facebook...)
- It's filled with people who are desperate for attention, and whoever screams the loudest generally end up on television
- People are only interested in sharing the "glamorous" side of their lives (Instagram?)
- More often than you'd think, the content that you're consuming is just dead wrong
This is more than enough reason for me to limit my time spent on these platforms. If you're looking to achieve a more positive mindset, I'd suggest you do the same.
Again, I'm not saying that it's all darkness and terror. These types of media do have their upsides, but it's important to consider how little this upside is for you personally, especially if you're spending a lot of time on these media types.
5. Find the right balance between long-term and short-term happiness
This one might sound a little weird. What's long-term happiness anyway?
Bear with me here, as this will be quite a thorough explanation
Imagine that you are 25 years old and extremely unhappy with your future prospects. You cannot find the motivation to work towards a better future and the most difficult part of the day is often the moment when you have to get out of bed. You think of 2 ways to achieve a more positive mindset:
- You invite a bunch of friends over, turn the music up and drown your sorrows in alcohol and drugs. At least, you'll be happy for the night. Have fun now, and worry about the rest of your life later, right?
- You force your life to turn around and work your ass off at your job every day. You work 60 hours per week, hoping you will get promoted. In your free time, you'll be in the gym working your ass off again in order to get fit again. You don't allow yourself to have any fun before you have reached some goals. You need to get your life in order first, you'll have fun later.
These are two extreme examples. Example one focuses on short-term happiness, while example two focuses on long-term happiness.
Do these examples sound like a good idea to you?
No! They are both completely unbalanced and will not lead to sustainable happiness. They say that the journey is much more important than the destination, right? I say that both the journey and the destination can (and must) be fun. You should be happy while working towards your future happiness.
What does this look like in real life?
I like to use another example for that:
Imagine that you have set clear and actionable goals and are working diligently towards reaching those. Then, one day, you wake up and feel like shit. You have zero motivation to force yourself to work on your goals and just want to slack off for the day. You might be thinking "here I go again..." or "there goes my progress... back to square one".
If you experience a bad day where you don't feel motivated to do anything productive, you shouldn't feel bad about yourself! Instead, just own it. "Yeah, today I did nothing but binge-watch Netflix, but fuck it, it is what it is and I at least enjoyed it". There is a time for everything, so that includes wasting time. I want to be happy now, without having to constantly worry about my future happiness.
I have thought about it a lot of times, and "wasting time" should not be a reason for negative thoughts as long as you at least enjoyed that time. At the very least, that "wasted time" managed to keep your thoughts in a positive place instead of thinking about your misfortunes.
You have to allow yourself to be happy. Do not beat yourself up over a single "failure". We are not robots. We are entitled to occasionally give in to our weaknesses. We all do it. And we shouldn't feel bad because we do.
With that said, it is important to limit your time on distractions that do not make you better in the long run. And please notice how I say "in the long run". It's okay to binge-watch series or play games the entire day, but just remember that tomorrow's a new day. Create a new set of small and achievable goals that you want to achieve the next day and do your best to reach those. It's perfectly fine to drop the ball every once in a while, but try to limit it to a single day if you do!
6. Spend time with the people you love
In a world filled with negativity, it is obviously quite common for someone to be surrounded by negativity. In fact, spending time with negative people who continually see the bad in every situation is the quickest way to become a negative pessimist too.
There’s this old saying:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
I couldn’t agree more. If you hang out with pessimists, it’s likely you’ll slowly turn into one yourself.
It luckily works the other way around too. Surround yourself with positivity, and you'll slowly embrace that mindset yourself as well!
My actionable advice to you?
- Spend time with people you love in a setting that you enjoy. From my personal experience, spending time with people I love has a huge influence on my happiness. Whether I'm with my girlfriend, family or close friends, I almost always notice that I'm happier after spending time with these people.
- If you're anything like me, you don't want to meet up with your friends in a club (I absolutely hate clubs). If a quiet night playing board games together sounds more fun to you, make sure you meet up with others under these conditions. Don't associate and mix up good things (your relationships with the people you love) with potentially bad things (like spending time at a club).
- Unfriend people who add nothing but negativity to your life! Pay attention to only the people who mean something to you and have a positive influence on your happiness! If you're currently not happy, you have to distance yourself from people who don't add something to your life. You can decide who you spend time with, so choose the people who will actually add positivity to your life!
7. Keep track of your positivity
Did you know that I've been tracking my happiness for the last 6 years?
(okay, actually 5 years and 8 months at the time of writing).
What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:
- How happy and positive was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What factors had a significant effect on my "rating"?
- I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.
This allows me to learn a ton of interesting things about my life, especially how certain things or events shape the way I feel. If I ever feel negativity on a day, I write about it in my journal and I track the factors that influenced it.
By doing so, I've been able to determine the top 10 biggest factors that influence my life, positive mindset and happiness on a daily basis.
Why is this helpful?
Because it allows me to steer my life in the best direction possible, by creating habits that last. And I believe you can do the same.
You can be happier. Discover how with my free template!
- Track your happiness every day
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There you have it. With these 7 tips, I'm sure you'll be able to achieve a positive mindset. However, you have to know that this will not happen overnight. A positive mindset is achieved step-by-step as you create habits that last.
By using these methods, I'm sure you'll find something that works for you.
With that said, I'd love to hear from you. Was there anything that I missed? Do you have a story that you feel like sharing with the rest of us? Or do you just want to chat and say "Hi"?
Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!
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