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Published on February 13, 2019

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

There is so much material and content around us, spouting essential ingredients of how to be positive in order to gain the success in life you’re chasing. It’s actually overwhelming (not to mention a billion dollar industry!)

You might also have become tunnel-visioned to believe only the secret tips and advice prescribed to us by mindset gurus at sensationalized forums, seminars and conferences can help us. Such stage educators seemed so polished and poised that it’s hard to resist that we can change our thinking without their help.

The truth is that you don’t need to sacrifice your life savings with a coach to turn your mindset around. With this step by step guide, you’ll realize you already have all the ingredients within you and the opportunities around you to start cultivating a positive mindset today. (I’m not denying working with a coach can definitely help. However, you can take a faster route not to mention a less expensive one!)

1. Allow Yourself Feel Negative Emotions

Stop trying to be positive with everything. It’s exhausting, let alone an unrealistic expectation.

Stop listening to everyone’s advice on what you should think. Take back the reins on deciding how you want to feel about something.

Furthermore, you’ll start to be that person everyone wants to be around. To be positive all the time is trying to prevent yourself from being human. We are born with capacity to feel a full spectrum of positive and negative emotions because they all have value, meaning and guidance for us.

When you allow yourself time and space to feel the initial sting of unpleasant emotions, you will find their intensity lessens and their duration shortens. Then, you’ve got more space to start directing your thoughts and focus in a direction that better serves you.

2. Increase Awareness of Your Current Mindset by Seeking Feedback

From those who feedback you trust will be truthful and fairly objective, ask them about what positive and uplifting energy they might experience simply from you being you. Also ask if they can provide examples of how they feel your mindset hinders you rather than helps you.

Asking others for feedback can be a challenging step. By doing so you’re showing you’re considering change. Beware that friends and family can often be bulls in a china shop eagerly dishing you advice and criticism from every angle. If you’re not ready for this, your soft, tender emotional belly will become an unwilling punching bag.

Remember that regardless of who you’re asking, you’re not looking to solicit judgment or opinions. You’re asking them to share with you their observations and experiences. The exercise is purely to help you gain heightened insight and choose where you might start practicing making changes.

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If you do feel your feedback sources have misread the exercise as opportunity to stroke their ego, criticize you and lash you with an emotional cat-o-nine tails, don’t retaliate or respond. Thank them for their feedback, park it mentally into a box that you will go back to and review later.

Your after-thought might well be to simply empty the box! However, there also might be some truth the messages they’re giving too.

3. Recognize Unhelpful Thoughts and Language and Practice Reframing Them

Don’t hesitate to catch yourself mid-sentence and work on reframing your words and language.[1] Being able to catch yourself is a skill but you can become nimble with practice.

Go back to the unhelpful thoughts you came up with and see if you can make slight modifications to the hindering dialogue simmering in your head. “I can’t do this” might gently become “I feel like I can’t do this.” “That will never happen for me” might become “it hasn’t happened for me yet”.

Pay attention to the difference that different words make you feel. Notice how different sentences make you feel and look for the difference it makes to how others respond to you. Asking yourself if you would speak to a friend or child in the way you speak to yourself can draw incredible self-awareness of how your language works against you.

It can take a few training-wheel sessions with a coach or therapist to help you develop reframing techniques. Applying them long enough for you to start feeling and noticing a difference. The investment is well worth it. The benefit of this skill not only charges your positive mindset; it has a vicarious flow-on effect to those around you.

This guide on stopping negative thoughts maybe useful for you:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

4. Carefully Choose Situations to Plant the Seeds of Your Positive Mindset

Keep it simple to start with. Only choose one or two contexts in your life where you feel you could practice more positive behavior and/or language changes.

Choose wisely, though. Be careful to avoid starting with situations where you feel – or have been told – you should.

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‘Should’ is a word weighted with expectation. It also implies you need redemption because you made a lower-handed choice in the first place. You knew what you could do, be or say and you chose not to. That’s heavy stuff! It’s actually not the best starting point to try cultivating a positive mindset from. Trying to develop from situations tarnished with the stamp of reprimand always feels harder.

Avoid trying to make a massive mindset turnaround in a short space of time. It’s likely you’ll be met with raised eye-brows and a label of being inauthentic. Not being annoyed when your mother-in-law comes around unannounced and stays for hours yet again, might be too big a mindset challenge to start with.

Like a tree seedling needs a foundation of good soil for it to have a fighting chance, a neutral situation will give you a good foundation to practice and grow your positive mindset.

Consider a simple situation that is likely to repeat itself in your everyday life:

  • Greeting people at work when you arrive.
  • Picking up your coffee at the same café each morning on your way to work.
  • You and your partner’s morning routine before you both head separate ways to earn your living.

Choose contexts where you are emotionally and mentally indifferent where you could – not should – test simple behavior or language adjustments. You’re looking for calm steady waters you can set sail on to test new positive mindset strategies, and then observe how people respond to your changes, without pressure and without expectation.

5. Examine Positive Mindsets of People You Admire but Set Your Own Goals

Now you’ve chosen your context to start practicing changes, you now need to decide what changes you’re going to make.

Brainstorming possibilities can be challenging from your current mindset. Make it simpler. Look outside yourself for clues and suggestions.

Whose books inject energy into your soul through their written words? Whose TED talks, interviews and podcasts make you nod in agreement? Who has inspired you to at least make plans to take action toward doing or being what you have always wanted to do? Who are those people? What is it about them that resonates with you strongly?

Study them. Observe their behavior, their language and how they respond to setbacks and adversity. Watch them closely. Now compare what they do to how you normally react in similar situations.

The comparison is to help you gauge what changes you want to aim for in your behavior, your communication and your thinking. Remember, you are not looking to copy these people. The world needs the best of you not a carbon copy of Oprah, Tony Robbins or Jack Canfield!

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Besides, there would be nothing more irritating than seeing a highly respected industry expert’s protégé start dressing the same way, trying to call everyone ‘pal’ because the expert addresses his or her trusted staff this way.

People see through copy cats. They are inauthentic and boring at best!

Taking the example of your greeting people in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, your current start to the day may unfurl follows:

  • You don’t acknowledge or talk to anyone in the lift.
  • You say ‘hi’ to the receptionist, Anna, en route to your desk.
  • You robotically say ‘Hi Mary, how are you?’ to your colleague without looking at her, put your bags down, place your suit jacket on the back of your chair and turn on your computer.
  • You sigh as you sit and think to yourself: ‘Same thing, different day; here we go again.’

Now, if you were to put an Oprah-like spin on this same situation, what changes might you aim for? What might feel most natural to you? What changes in your behavior, communication and thinking could you plant here? Let’s play the game again with two potential levels of change:

    Do the above mild and marked examples of changes sound and feel like you? If not, rework the possibilities.

    Turning up with a coffee unexpectedly for someone could be deemed creepy and very uncharacteristic of you. Changes you make need to feel like you can own them. They might feel strange at first but as people start to respond differently to you, you’ll want to keep exercising these features of your new positive mindset!

    6. Exude More Positive Energy Through Your Combined Thoughts and Actions

    Spending too much focus on trying to change yourself can derail you. It’s exhausting especially if you’re trying to exercise introspective reflection 24/7!

    Ditch that idea and once again, turn your focus outward.

    Look at those around you who you feel could do with an emotional or mental hand-up. You’ll not only be helping others, you’ll be greatly benefiting yourself.

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    In fact, researchers Naomi Eisenberger and Tristan Inagaki found giving can actually be more emotionally and psychologically satisfying than receiving. Their study examining neural activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging found that those who were in receipt of help experienced less stress-related activity, and higher reward-related activity in certain brain parts than those who gave the help.[2]

    Being generous with your thoughts and actions not only provides a time-out from your own cognitive swamp. It can kick start your momentum to feeling good about something to start with. When you’re on a roll, you’ll be in a better place to starting doing inward repair work.

    7. Be Wary of Unhealthy Co-Dependent Relationships

    Whilst it feels good to be needed, it can become dangerous to be needed and depended upon too much.

    Looking to sustain relationships where we fall short of experiencing the support, care and understanding fractures our self-esteem. We are prone to developing dysfunctional attitudes and patterns of thinking in such relationships, creating more opportunities to develop depression and other mental health ailments.

    Think of the girlfriend who rings up to whinge and complain yet again about how she constantly dates losers or the best mate who’s always asking to borrow $100. She knows you will always listen and will be the shoulder she can cry on, and he is eternally grateful but never pays you back.

    It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive. It’s another to make yourself an emotional and mental dumping ground and enable yourself to be taken for granted. In fact, research has shown that sustaining negative relationships long-term can give rise to serious physical ailments.[3]

    If you find yourself more often than not to be drawing the short straw, that’s a hint the foundations of your self-worth and esteem might need a review.

    Starting to cull such dynamics in your relationships will feel difficult at first. However, a liberating feeling of freedom automatically clears for positive thoughts, ideas and possibilities to organically float into your mindset.

    The Bottom Line

    A positive mindset is not like a switch that you can just turn on and you suddenly become positive. Building a positive mindset is about taking baby steps in your everyday life.

    With this guide, you will be able to cultivate an unwavering mindset and tackle any challenge, obstacle or goal no matter how hard times may become.

    More Resources About Staying Positive

    Featured photo credit: Parker Johnson via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Helen D'Silva

    Performance Psychologist for Business and Entrepreneurship, Sport and Personal Development

    How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide) How to Cope with Anxiety and Stress at Work: 5 Psychology Techniques The Scary Truth About Nightmare Disorder And Top Treatments that Work

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    Last Updated on April 23, 2019

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    Let me begin by being 100% frank with you – everyone is capable of happiness.

    Happiness is first a choice but it also takes persistence to maintain. Happiness is our birth right and my mission is to help as many people as I can live their happiest life.

    My mission is to spread the message that everyone deserves happiness.

    To live a happy life; however, you must do the work, gain the necessary knowledge, and increase your awareness.

    You must fully embody this state and begin to think and feel happiness on every level of your being.

    Often times, excuses present themselves and our mind gives us the reasons why we can’t be happy:

    “I am too busy right now to focus on happiness”

    “I will be happy when I finish school, when I have the money, when I am in the right relationship, when I have kids, when my children are older….”

    “I would have had a happy life if this traumatic event had never happened”

    “I don’t deserve happiness”

    EVERYONE deserves happiness. The reason that you are here right now is because you have a purpose and you are on the earth to enjoy your journey.

    Think BIGGER than your excuses. Push FARTHER than your complaints.

    Don’t be pulled away from greatness. Get uncomfortable. At least these are what happy and successful people do on a daily basis.

    This article highlights the top 13 tips and tricks of how happy people think and feel.

    If you would like to begin embodying this life-changing state, then… Here are the 13 ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently:

    1. Happy People Put Happiness First

    Happy people have made the decision that their end goal is happiness.

    Every situation, event, bad day ultimately ends with happiness.

    To them, happiness is equivalent to sleep and water – it is a necessity to their life. To live an unhappy life is to have never lived at all.

    The happy person asks,

    “What would be the point of living if every day and moment were filled with negativity?”

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    “Why would I deplete my energy on negativity when I expend less to be positive?”

    They make happy-based decisions which means in EVERY MOMENT they choose happiness.

    If their circumstances can’t change then they instead change their perspective, they look for the silver lining in the negative.

    Happy people don’t let negativity steal their moments away – a positive mindset always prevails.

    If you ask a happy person how their day was, they will always answer your question with a highlight or a lesson learned.

    2. Happy People Embrace Pain

    I know what you are thinking –

    “No one is ALWAYS happy”

    or …

    “Even happy people get in bad moods”

    and …

    These statements are absolutely accurate.

    Happy people aren’t always happy and they DO get into bad moods. They get overwhelmed, they feel defeated, and their feelings get hurt.

    Happy people aren’t invincible and they feel pain just like everyone else. The only difference between happy people and people who let negativity run their lives is that…

    Happy people quickly acknowledge their pain and they make a decision to find a way to transform their pain into something greater. They also use these 13 simple ways to shake off the sadness.

    Happy people admit the negativity they feel and they do what it takes to get back into their natural state: happiness.

    When your end goal is happiness, then you will find a way to achieve it no matter how much strength you have to muster.

    3. Happy People Have a Happy Self-Image

    We all have an image in our minds that we subconsciously live up to.

    The reason that change is so hard is because our subconscious mind is programmed to live by how we define ourselves.

    How are you currently defining yourself?

    For happy people, they see themselves with a smile, positive outlook, and/or a bounce in their step. When an event or situation arises that brings in a negative emotion, they quickly change their state to resemble their natural self-image.

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    When happy people are in a bad mood, it feels unusual to them because feeling negative isn’t aligned with how they see themselves.

    When they feel upset, they acknowledge the negativity and look for a solution to bring their emotions to the level of how they perceive themselves.

    Look at how you define yourself today – your mind and body are always trying to live up to the definition it is taught to believe.

    Your body’s job is to keep you in a “normal” state because this is where it feels most comfortable.

    If your self-image is happy, then your mind and body will naturally be brought back to where it feels at home. Your actions will be a clue to how you define yourself.

    4. Happy People Have a Strong Support System

    The happiest people know that it takes a village and they lean on others for support.

    Happy people feel comfortable reaching out for help when they feel that their resistances are overpowering them. They quickly sense their negativity and they tell somebody.

    Happy people ask for assistance when they can’t figure out a problem. Seeking help takes strength and it never gets in the way of their self-worth. Happy people appreciate the wisdom that their support system provides.

    They have strong connections with the people who are close to them. They never trudge through tough times alone because jeopardizing their happiness for too long would be detrimental to their well-being.

    5. Happy People Safeguard Their Minds from Negative Triggers

    Warding off negativity is almost impossible when we live in a society that lives by what went wrong and feeds off of what could go wrong. News travels instantaneously so it would be unrealistic to shut this out of your life completely.

    However, one strategy that happy people use to safeguard their minds is regulating their environment.

    We have a lot of control on how we allow our environments to affect us. We can control our social media feed, the television shows and movies we watch, the books that we read, the people that we spend our time with, and the places that we hang out.

    If happiness is your end goal, then take a good look at what is bringing you down. What triggers your unhappiness? See if there is anything in your environment that can be changed……

    What we listen to, read, and who we hang out with influence our mind, what we think about, what we worry about, our reactions, and behaviors.

    Happy people know what triggers a feeling of negativity and it feels out of alignment for them so they do what it takes to avoid it.

    They might regulate their social media news feed to reflect the information that brings them positive energy. They might regulate the people that they spend their time with. It is important to hang out with like-minded people.

    What are you triggers? How can you avoid the negativity in your environment?

    These are ways that happy people regulate their environment and safeguard their minds.

    6. Happy People Know When to Say “No”

    Happy people know when to sit one out and say “no.” They do this to protect their happiness and well-being.

    Life gets overwhelming – a lot of people need our attention and the to do list can seem never ending.

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    Happy people give themselves permission to take the day off and they feel comfortable with saying “no” when their stress levels begin to climb. They understand that those around them aren’t benefiting from someone who is frazzled, overwhelmed, and tired.

    A happy person identifies their negative emotion and then they quickly treat it to bring themselves back to their “normal” state, so that they can be at their best for not only themselves but for those around them, too.

    A simple “no” can ultimately mean many more “yes’s” in the future because happiness has a long battery life. You can take a look at Leo Babauta’s article The Gentle Art of Saying No and learn to say no.

    7. Happy People Are Good Evaluators

    Happy people can quickly sense when something is off with themselves or others. They are very intuitive to happiness levels. When someone isn’t quite right, they are the first ones to notice.

    Being able to evaluate happiness means that you can identify when negativity is lingering around for too long.

    We all have bad days; however, the happy person evaluates often and quickly intervenes.

    In other words, happy people frequently evaluate their state and immediately change when their pessimism is overshadowing their joy.

    8. Happy People Bring Other People Up

    What goes on inside of us is mirrored into our physical world.

    What we think about literally consumes our life and is displayed in our work, relationships, and attitude.

    Happy people naturally feel good inside and about themselves so they treat others the way that they treat themselves. It never feels forced to give a compliment or to help out a stranger.

    When we are truly happy with ourselves, everyone around us has a better experience. Happy people are kind to themselves and because of this, it feels natural to them to want to make others’ happy, too.

    9. Happy People Go After Their Dreams

    Happy people are always following the joyful path. They make happy-based decisions and because of this, they always end up where they want to be.

    It’s absolutely impossible to be happy by following an undesirable path, which is quite opposite for unhappy people.

    Most people journey through life on a path they think they are “supposed” to be own. Warning signs (negativity) are often ignored because they truly believe that these feelings are a normal part of life.

    Negativity is NOT normal.

    The happiest people investigate the negativity in their life and quickly analyze the results. This process allows them to get back on the joyful path which ends in a desirable outcome.

    Follow your happiness and your dreams will come true (If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is!)

    In addition to happiness, here are 14 amazing things that happen when you live your passion.

    10. Happy People Never Sweat the Small Stuff

    The only expectation that the happy person has is that they remain in a joyful state.

    They rarely have expectations for the events and people in their lives because they know that this is a sure way to get let down.

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    The happiest people take life as it comes – you could say that they roll with the punches. When you don’t have expectations, thenyoue can just sit back and watch how beautifully life unfolds.

    Happy people understand that bad things are inevitable, they are a part of life – The car will break, the kids will make mistakes, people will be late, and dinner will burn.

    If it’s not anything seriously affecting their lives, then they don’t give their energy to it.

    11. Happy People Rarely Have to Prove That They Are Right

    Happy people remember that it’s more important to live up to what they believe. When you live your life aligned with your belief system, then there is no need to explain or prove yourself to others.

    Differences in opinions are inevitable, but the happiest of people know it’s wasted energy to defend their position.

    It is more effective to simply show people, through actions, how you think, feel, and what you believe.

    Energy is saved, arguments are diminished, and credibility/respect are gained when we live by what we believe.

    12. Happy People Smile (Even When They Don’t Want To)

    Smiling is one of the healthiest things we can do; and happy people use this simple trick quite often.

    It has been proven that smiling has the ability to boost your immune system, decrease stress levels, and can even make you look younger. The benefits of smiling have even been backed up by science.[1]

    Better yet, smiling is contagious. When you engage in a quick smile, you are likely to brighten someone else’s day along with your own. It is no wonder why happy people smile often!

    13. Happy People Live Life in the Present Moment.

    When we are genuinely happy, we are living for the moment.

    Happy people let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. They take the moments for what they are worth – they only invest their energy in what feels right to them.

    Everyone is capable of living a happy-centered life. You deserve a life that you desire – your dream life. All you have to start doing is make happy-based decisions TODAY.

    In every moment, decide on what makes you happy – decide on what gets you excited. Stop doing what you don’t love, don’t listen to the people that you dislike.

    If you are engaging in something that isn’t bringing you joy, then quit doing it. Listen to your heart, stop ignoring the warning signs (negativity) because they are there for a reason.

    I have observed, studied, and interviewed some of the happiest and most successful people along with some of the most miserable and self-loathing.

    It starts with one decision – happiness.

    The happiest, most successful people choose happiness with EACH and EVERY decision. And you can start doing this today.

    Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Science Behind the Smile

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