Building a positive mindset is more than just feeling happy and adopting a more optimistic outlook. Want to lose weight, sleep better, and lower your chances of cardiovascular disease? Nope, I’m not talking about exercise, positive thinking can help you achieve all of those (and several other benefits too)! Here are 5 actionable steps to build a positive mindset to create a better life.
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Positive Mindset: 5 Steps to Creating a Better Life
Because a positive mindset sets up the expectation for success, you’re more likely to persist and achieve your goals. Therefore, making positive changes in your life can make you more confident, motivated, and productive. And the desire to continuously explore different areas of life helps you grow intellectually. Similarly, this same desire can also help you stick to a diet or exercise plan, fueling even more positivity, confidence, and energy.
Benefits of a Positive Mindset
- More happiness and fulfillment in your life
- Weight loss success
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced risk of depression
- Improved social relationships and connectedness
- Better coping skills during stressful times
- Improved immunity
How Can You Create a Positive Mindset?
Most people are not born as a “happy person.” On the contrary, optimism and positive thinking are learned skills. Start implementing these 5 tips to create a more positive mindset for a better life and reap all the benefits that come with positive thinking.
1. Identify your negative or limiting thoughts
To build a more positive mindset, you need to first identify your negative thoughts contributing to a negative mindset.
Are you ruminating about past mistakes or bad choices?
There’s nothing negative about reflecting on past experiences as long as you have the intention to learn from the experience. However, dwelling on the past and becoming fixated on bad choices may only intensify feelings of guilt and shame.
Do you beat yourself up for not sticking to your workout plan or giving into temptations and straying from your meal plan? Do you tell yourself you’re not good enough/strong enough/smart enough to do something? Are there certain thoughts or behaviors you identify as “good” or “bad?”
The only way to transition from a negative mindset to a more positive one is to recognize the negativity. First, make a list of each of your negative thoughts and actions. Next, make the conscious effort to trade them out for more positive ones.
Keep a list of your negative thoughts
For an entire day, take stock of your negative thoughts and actually WRITE THEM DOWN (or jot them in a note on your phone). I know it seems daunting, especially because if you’re like most people, 80% of your thoughts are more negative than positive. Then at the end of the day, take a good look at them:
- Which thoughts come up the most often?
- Are they even true?
- How can you grow from them or turn them into positive thoughts?
Make the positive mindset switch
The next day, try to implement a positive mindset flip to your negative thoughts. Recognize if it’s true or false. Identify how you can learn or grow from it or put a more optimistic spin on it.
Consciously try to change your thought pattern every time you catch yourself thinking a negative or limiting thought. Above all, notice how it affects your energy, focus, and results.
Keep doing this until positivity becomes more of a habit and negativity occupies fewer of your thoughts.
2. Express Gratitude
The practice of expressing gratitude is one of the single biggest indicators of happiness. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. Spend just a minute or two each day to reflect upon people, things, or situations you are grateful for.
You can write it down in a gratitude journal, share them with loved ones, or just think about them while laying in bed before going to sleep.
Benefits of Gratitude
What’s more, gratitude won’t just make you happier. People who take the time to express gratitude experience more positive emotions and social connections, have higher life satisfaction, sleep better, and have stronger immune systems. Furthermore, people who keep gratitude journals are more likely to exercise due to a more positive disposition and motivation.
How to express gratitude
Try to think of new and novel things you are grateful for each day.
Even if you’re always thankful for your family, think of something specific from the day that you noticed and appreciated.
- “I’m grateful that my husband did the dishes after dinner so I could sit down and relax for 5 minutes after a long day.”
- “I’m grateful for the sweet baby snuggles (this is one I try to think about when my kids are sick and extra clingy!).”
Stop and Smell the Roses
Take a moment to appreciate or enjoy the little things that usually go by unnoticed. Relish these little things and dwell on the enjoyment it brings you
- A beautiful sunrise or sunset
- The warmth of the sun on your skin or wind in your hair
- The smell of freshly brewed coffee
- The stillness and quietude of morning when you wake up before everyone else.
Contemplate death and destruction
Yes, this sounds very morbid, but it’s one of my favorite gratitude tips from Christine Carter, a happiness researcher and author of The Sweet Spot. When you start taking something for granted, you appreciate it a lot less. Imagining your life without someone or something will make you feel a lot more grateful for it!
- How would your life be different without your husband or kids?
- What if a positive life event (job promotion or birth of a child) never happened?
When Lindsey was 3 years old, she thought it was hilarious to include “potty” in our bedtime gratitude. But that got us thinking about how thankful we are for modern plumbing. Particularly the fact that we can conveniently use the bathroom indoors, and that we don’t have to go dig, maintain, or clean a latrine outside.
Meditation lowers stress and can help you become a more positive person. But sometimes not knowing how to meditate (or thinking you need to do it for 30 minutes a day) is a roadblock.
How to Start Meditating
Start with just sitting still with your eyes closed and focusing on your breathing. When your mind starts to wander (and it will!), gently remind yourself to focus on your breathing again. Start with just one minute then add one minute each day until you get to 20 minutes.
Many studies show that 20 minutes of daily meditation has a positive effect on not only your mood but also your body.
Meditation for people who think meditation is too boring
If meditating on your own is too hard or boring (yep, that’s me!), try a guided meditation. Many apps like Calm or Headspace are designed for this.
My personal favorite is the mediation category in Aaptiv (yes, the workout app I love so much also has meditation!). The best part is they have different kinds of meditation (even walking mediations) by different “coaches” so you’re sure to find some you love.
4. Exercise (even if it’s just 10 minutes!)
Exercise has so many benefits for your body and mind! Not only does exercise promote a healthy weight, but it also lowers stress and elevates mood. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can boost mood for 2 hours. And more intense exercise can prolong the positivity until the next day.
Even though 30 minutes of daily exercise is recommended, you might not always have time for that. But a quick yoga session or HIIT workout in the morning, a brisk walk during your lunch break or mile run on a treadmill is better than nothing. Not to mention it can substantiate the benefits to reinforce exercise as a lifestyle and start building a positive mindset toward exercise.
Don’t look at it as something you “have to do.” Instead, start seeing exercise as something you “get to do” for the physical and mental benefits you’ll reap. Soon, you’ll start to crave the exercise high from the endorphins.
5. Minimize your interactions with Toxic people
Get rid “friends” who make you feel bad. Anyone who drains your energy and constantly manipulates or takes advantage of you is not your friend. Cut these people out of your life if possible, or at least try to minimize your interactions with them.
I get it, it’s tough and makes you feel like you’re being the terrible person by being busy every time they want to hang out or not returning their phone calls or texts, but you have to do what’s healthiest for YOU!
Breakup with toxic people
Maybe they’ll eventually get the hint, but if they don’t, you will have to tell them that you’ve moved on. Luckily, this will probably be a very quick conversation, although it’s definitely an awkward one. Jen Sincero, author of You Are A Badass Every Day, describes this uncomfortable conversation as “two minutes of pain for a lifetime of freedom.”
Surround yourself with positivity
Positive people, positive things, and positive situations lift you up, motivate you, and improve your overall outlook on life. Fill your life with more of them!