Wouldn’t it be nice to be a little more optimistic?
To not jump to the worst-case scenario? To have a sunny disposition? To not rush to criticise yourself in the harshest terms?
It’s tempting to think that a tendency towards negativity is just ‘who you are’, that being positive isn’t for you.
But that’s not true. You can tweak your thought patterns, challenge a negative inner voice, and develop a more positive outlook.
For clarity, we’re not talking about putting a plaster over genuinely bad things or engaging in toxic positivity – looking on the bright side 100% of the time isn’t a fair or realistic expectation.
Instead, we’re aiming for a mindset shift that allows us to not go right to the worst possible outcome.
Dawn Baxter is a certified positive psychology coach, and as such is a big believer in thinking a little brighter.
‘Having a positive outlook on life is about more than just being optimistic or trusting that good things will happen,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Finding that mindset shift to a more optimistic outlook takes work, from reducing negative self-talk and removing toxicity from your life to focusing on what brings you happiness and enjoying those simple pleasures.
‘It’s no surprise that workaholics and those who struggle to practice self-care find themselves at higher risk of burnout, fatigue, and stress-related health issues.
‘But did you know that boosting positivity can help with your mental health, reduce stress and bring you more peace?’
Sounds good to us. So, how do we get to a more positive place, mentally? Dawn shares five tips.
Tackle negative self-talk
‘Criticism, self-doubt and harsh inner monologues are common, so having them is nothing to beat yourself up over,’ Dawn says. ‘However, we can be our own harshest critic and often what our thoughts are telling us isn’t the reality.’
‘When you find yourself talking negatively about actions you have done or thoughts you have, firstly stop. Then ask: “would I say this to my six year old self?” and you’ll quickly realise your inner monologue can sometimes be bullying and damaging, not supportive and caring.
‘Even phrases such as “I can’t do this” or “I shouldn’t have done that” can instil a sense of wrongdoing in us. Next time, try “I will try and do that next time” and move on.’
Let go of perfectionism and comparison
Skew towards optimism (‘I can achieve more than I think’), not perfectionism (‘I have to achieve this extreme, lofty goal’).
And ditch the constant comparison. Focus on what you’re doing, not anyone else.
‘We are constantly surrounded with the image of people having perfect lives, whether that’s on Instagram or other social media or even on TV,’ Dawn says. ‘However, while wanting to do things right or well is seen as a good trait, focusing on things looking or feeling perfect can sometimes become obsessive and it stops us from seeing the bigger picture.
‘Remember, what we see on social media or from others is often the highlights or the best version of themselves, and realising this is the first step to breaking the perfectionist cycle.
‘Often social media doesn’t show the terrible night of sleep someone had, or the numerous failed attempts that happened right before getting something right.
‘It’s easy to get caught up in thinking we must do exactly as others do to be “perfect” but I guarantee you one thing, focus on yourself, not on others and you will notice an energetic shift.
Change the structure of your day-to-day life
‘Often those looking to embrace positivity are finding their current routine or lifestyle doesn’t work for them anymore,’ Dawn says. ‘It could be that you’ve fallen into habits that are leaving you stressed or anxious and they’re not giving you an opportunity to relax or unwind.
‘It’s really important to separate the parts of your day such as your work from your personal life, and managing these boundaries.
‘Don’t look at your work emails in the evening if you’ve made a conscious decision to log off, it keeps the nervous system active and engages the fight or flight mode in our brains.
‘One key step to feeling more positive and happier is to restructure your life. This doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul, it can be as small as starting your day with enjoyment, meaning having your favourite breakfast, going to the gym or going for a walk to start your morning.
‘It also doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the day, for many people who are more of a night owl than an early bird, it might be about incorporating a little bit of self-care at the end of the day.
‘Anything from a long bath, making your favourite meal or reading a good book can all be classed as adding joy to your routine.’
Remember small steps can lead to big results
When making changes, start small and build from there.
‘This can make a seemingly big task of “being positive” feel more achievable and help you to break it down into manageable goals,’ says Dawn.
‘Focusing and building on small tasks or steps is known as habit stacking, and is the method of building up habits to form an overall routine.
‘This can make it easier to slowly build up to a fully positive day by adding in habits as you go and removing toxic traits that no longer serve you.
‘Even if it doesn’t feel like things are changing, it’s important to remember that every step is still progress and moving forward.
‘Feeling more positive doesn’t happen overnight but taking a step in the right direction can help you feel like you’re saying goodbye to a negative routine.’
Sleep your way to positivity
Tired people are grumpy people. If you’re constantly exhausted, you’re going to really struggle to change your mindset… or do anything you want, to be honest.
‘Sleep is one of the biggest things you can do to embrace positivity and feel happier,’ Dawn notes. ‘Lack of sleep can lead to feeling grouchy, down or even snappy and unable to cope when things don’t quite go to plan.
‘The average night of sleep is supposed to be between six to eight hours for us to feel fully rested, but the reality is we don’t always manage that.
‘It can sometimes be hard to switch off. Creating yourself a bedtime routine such as journaling or mind-mapping can help to remove thoughts or worries and have you fast asleep before you know it.
‘Waking up fully rested will mean you can embrace the day and any challenges that might get thrown your way too.
‘Creating a more positive outlook and focusing on being positive can all start with some small and simple steps, and before you know it you’ll see the rewards; whether that’s better sleep, feeling more relaxed or being able to react more positively when problems do come your way small simple changes will soon help you to see bigger rewards.’
Dawn Baxter is the founder of Beyond The Dawn Digital, a digital marketing expert, and a certified positive psychology coach.