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7 Effective Ways to Be More Positive and Happy: How to Become a Positive Thinker

Updated on July 31, 2017
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Jorge has been an avid reader of personal development literature for years. He likes to blather on about what he's learned.

Being a positive thinker largely means being happy with what you already have.
Being a positive thinker largely means being happy with what you already have.

How to Be More Positive

Are you trying to learn how to be more positive in your life, but the world around you just seems steeped in negativity?

This is a common struggle for people who are starting to wake up to their poisonous thoughts. Not only does life constantly throw you challenges that tempt you to be negative, but it's also very likely that the people around you are negative thinkers.

Negative thinking is the default in most cultures. If you doubt this, just turn on the evening news and count how many positive stories they're airing (almost none).

People love to complain about how wrong everything is without coming up with any solutions. Some people even bond with others through whining and complaining.

Being in this kind of environment can make it hard for you to adopt positive thinking patterns, though.

However, it's not impossible to be more positive if you truly are committed to making a change.

What Being Positive Means in the First Place

If you're wondering how to be more positive, a question of semantics will inevitably come up: What does it even mean to be positive?

Let's make this clear before we move on to the specific techniques: Being positive does not mean that you should be in denial of reality. Lots of people reject the idea of being more positive because they find it to be "unrealistic" and not reflective of the way things "really are."

This is not true, however, simply because your life situation is not "really" any particular way. Don't confuse your judgement of a situation for the actual situation.

No matter what you do, you are viewing life through some kind of subjective lens. Being more positive is simply the practice of choosing a more constructive lens that allows you to see solutions instead of just the problems.

For a classic example, let's say that there is a glass that can hold 2 cups of water, but there's only 1 cup of water in it. Is the glass half full? Is it half empty? Is it both?

The truth is that none of these is necessarily correct. There are some glass molecules and some water molecules involved, but whether it is half full or half empty is just a value judgement.

In the same way, saying that an empty glass is bad or that a full glass is good is also a random value judgement. For all you know, an empty glass could be useful for all kinds of reasons.

While you can't deny that there's water in the glass--that's the reality--you can change the emotional lens through which you view it. Many times, just looking at life through a different perspective can not only make you happier, but can help you solve problems with novel ways of thinking.

The methods presented below will help you switch to a more positive, solution-seeking lens, instead of the more common negative lens that society pushed upon you:

The media can give us a dreary, distorted look of the world.
The media can give us a dreary, distorted look of the world.

1) Unplug From the Matrix and Reduce Your Media Consumption

If you're going to be more positive, it's essential that you not let the media infect you with negative ideas.

For example, what do you see when you turn on the news? Death, torture, and people getting shot, right? This is all negative input that will subconsciously affect your brain.

"But the stuff on the news is real life!" you might protest. "I thought you said that being positive wasn't about denying reality!"

Be careful with your assumptions here. Is the stuff on the news actually real life? Or is it just a filtered, extremely biased representation of a handful of awful events?

Think about it. When was the last time you personally saw someone get maimed or shot in real life?

Chances are, you never have--and even if you did see something like that, it would be an unusual or exceptional event. It certainly isn't something you see every day.

And yet, do you still harbor the internal belief that "we live in a violent world"? Most people do.

If most people don't actually experience violence very often, and yet they somehow believe that the world is getting more violent every day, where do they get these ideas from?

That's right: the media.

The actual truth is that we live in the most peaceful period in human history.

Yup, no joke. This is not some "positive thinking" delusion, either. This is hard data. There is a lower murder rate and a higher infant survival rate now than at any other point in the history of our species. After all, if we really were killing and starving each other all over the place, there wouldn't be 7 billion of us.

If you have trouble believing this at first, that's not too surprising. You've probably been told all your life that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket and that there are creepy serial killers lurking around every corner.

You can thank your TV and your favorite hysterical news website for that.

You can't totally blame them, though. Humans seem wired to give disproportionate attention to threats, and the media is just trying to get our attention.

Almost All Popular Media is Largely Negative

It's not just the news that brainwashes you into letting go of all semblance of positive thinking. TV shows also do this. Movies, too. Popular music is often also extremely negative.

Though you may consciously know that your favorite show about a fantasy realm where tyrannical kings stab each other in the back is fiction, your subconscious doesn't care. The values that the media portrays will slowly begin to affect your thinking.

You are training your mind to see the world through a certain lens. This is something that happens below the level of your awareness.

So let go of your addictions to media, if you have any. Take a hard look at the shows you watch and the music you listen to. Does it present a negative world view? Does it promote violence or treating other people like objects? Does it promote a superficial lifestyle and destructive activities like murder and revenge?

2) Limit Your Exposure to Toxic People

Just like media can be toxic to your mind and rob you of the ability to be positive, being around negative people can do the same thing.

Just because someone is negative, doesn't mean they are a bad person. It just means that they're a bad influence if you're trying to be more positive.

Negative people can bring you down with their complaining and the "realistic" advice that they give you when you're making changes in your life. However, they can be hard to avoid if they're friends and family.

You might be tempted to tell people off as you become more aware of the benefits of being positive, but try to resist this urge. Trying to change someone is a fool's errand.

Just focus on changing yourself and limit the time that you spend with negative people as discreetly as you can. You can also try subtly changing the subject when someone starts ranting pointlessly about a negative topic.

Your Positive Self

Do you consider yourself to be a positive person already?

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Gratitude is one of the most positive emotions available to you.
Gratitude is one of the most positive emotions available to you.

3) Start With Gratitude

One of the most important changes that you can make in your day to day life to become more positive is to be grateful for what you already have.

Start a morning ritual where the first thing you do is think of five or ten things to be grateful for. When you're in a state of gratitude it's hard not to be more positive and happy.

If you're struggling to come up with things that you appreciate about your life, remember that it doesn't have to be anything "important" or dramatic. The little things can add up.

Even being grateful for something dumb like how minty your toothpaste is or how comfortable your pillow was last night can help you get into a more positive mood. In fact, noticing these small things that you otherwise wouldn't can help you be more mindful. Think of it as stopping and smelling the roses.

Meditation can help you stay balanced.
Meditation can help you stay balanced.

4) Build a Meditation Habit

Speaking of mindfulness, getting into the habit of meditating every day can also help you be more positive.

Meditation helps us learn to be in the moment. If you think about it, most of your supposed problems and negative experiences aren't happening right now anyway.

The fact that you embarrassed yourself in a meeting at work isn't happening now--it happened in the past. The fact that your lover could leave you for someone else isn't happening at this very moment--it's a fear that you have about the future. Maybe you're thinking about it right now, but it doesn't exist right now.

Meditation allows you to quiet those intrusive thoughts about a past that's gone and a hypothetical future that doesn't exist, and it lets you live in the now.

5) Get Enough Sleep, Eat the Right Foods, and Take Care of Your Health

You need to cover the basics. While you can still be positive when your health is bad, it will be an uphill battle.

Your mind is not separate from your body; in fact, they are intimately connected.

Getting good quality sleep and waking up at the same time every day can help you start the morning on a positive note. Similarly, eating foods that are nutritionally dense will help energize you and keep you healthy.

It's much easier to be positive when your body is not dragged down by poor habits. Avoid the ups and downs that you get from indulging in drugs, too much sugar, and other similar addictions. You might get a moment of pleasure, but it's not worth it in the long run.

6) Practice Self-Awareness and Catch Your Negative Thoughts

If you've laid the groundwork by living a healthy lifestyle and meditating, then you will naturally increase your ability to be self-aware. This is where the real changes can happen.

Deprogramming yourself from negativity can be hard, but it will yield some of the best results out of all of the listed methods. Here are some ways that you can catch your negative thoughts and retrain yourself to be more positive:

  1. Start a journal. Every day in the evening, make a list of some of the biggest problems you encountered throughout the day. As you rant about them in your journal, you might start to notice common negative patterns of thought that you have. For example, are you always blaming issues on your parents? Do you constantly curse your boss in the back of your mind? Dive as deep as you can.
  2. Notice negativity in others. Most of the time, it's easier to notice other people's flaws instead of your own. How are the people around you negative? As soon as you realize that someone is complaining, ask yourself: Do you complain about the same things? How are you similar to this person?
  3. Re-frame the negativity when you find it. Whenever you discover negative thinking patterns--whether through journaling or some other means--make a conscious effort to re-frame the thought into a positive or neutral one. For example, let's say that you notice that your mother is a bit too clingy and this bothers you. Instead of letting this be an annoyance, consider the fact that you are lucky to have a parent who cares about you so much.

At first, changing the "flavor" of your thoughts will be difficult. Old habits die hard. With some time, though, you will find that it will get easier and easier to be more positive.

Your environment has a lot to do with your ability to stay positive.
Your environment has a lot to do with your ability to stay positive.

7) Make It A Priority to Build a Positive Environment

Finally, in order to maintain the changes that you make and to help hasten even more positive changes, you need to be in a positive environment. Without this, you will more than likely fall back into old patterns.

Unplugging from popular media and avoiding negative people can go a long way in this. However, just deleting stuff from your life leaves a void. With all of that extra time, you will be tempted to go back to your old ways unless you replace your old negative environment with a more positive one.

So go out there and make some friends. Seek out people who will match your current positive vibe. Look for people who are trying to make a difference in the world or are looking to start up exciting projects. Volunteer for an organization that wants to change people's lives for the better. This is where you will find a positive crowd to hang with.

As far as media consumption goes, you might want to reduce it in general, but definitely make more conscious choices about what you watch and read.

Instead of watching TV, why not watch instructional videos that will teach you a new skill? Instead of reading random news articles about the politician that you love to hate, why not read a book about a subject that you're fascinated with?

Guard your mind and put yourself in the most positive environment that you can. From there, it becomes much easier.

Being More Positive in Practice

Will you implement any of these suggestions on how to be more positive?

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© 2017 Jorge Vamos

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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I think starting a journal is a good idea. You've made some good points here, thankyou.