Negativity seems to be everywhere. For some of us, recent events have made it difficult to stay hopeful about the future and to increase positive energy. Not only is negativity around us, but it is human nature to put more emphasis on negative events than on positive events. This negativity bias served an evolutionary purpose from a time in our history when humans needed to stay constantly aware of danger. If not, something bigger, stronger and faster would have eaten our ancestors for dinner. That negative bias, along with negative news coverage and events in our surroundings can make it really challenging to keep positive and hopeful today.
Many people believe that our level of positivism and happiness is determined by our situation or environment, however that is not entirely the case. Studies have shown that only about 10% our overall happiness is determined by external factors such as our environment, wealth or status. Happiness has been shown to be more in our control than many people would think. According to psychologist S. Lyubomirsky, in the book The How of Happiness, 40% of our happiness can be influenced by “intentional activity”. That is basically the lens in which we view events.
10 ways to increase your positive energy
1. Start your day with positive expectations
What kind of a day do you want to have? Most of us don’t start out our day saying to ourselves, “I want to have a miserable day today” and yet that is exactly what tends to happen as we begin the day by anticipating the problems that will arise. Many of us begin our day with negative media stories, which just reinforce our focus on the problems instead of help us gain insight into solutions. Instead of starting your day identifying any obstacles, re-frame the has opportunities for growth. Expect good things to happen and set yourself up for a more positive self-fulfilling prophesy!
2. Savor the good!
Do you stop and recognize good moments as they happen? Did you notice the sun shining today as you woke up, the smile you received from the coffee shop employee this morning, or the good fortune of hitting all green lights on your ride to work? When we are so busy rushing around we tend to miss the little things that bring joy into our lives. We are so focused on what we need to do next on our to do list that we completely miss good moments. Take some time to look around for the little things and briefly pause to savor them throughout your day.
3. STOP and Breathe
Do you take time to recharge through mindfulness or meditation? Focusing on your breathing allows you to slow down, reconnect to yourself and introduce calm when the world around you seems anything but. Not sure you have time or ready to start a mindfulness practice? Before going into a stressful situation take a few minutes to try this simple exercise called S.T.O.P. adapted from MBSR 8 week course.
S – Stop and ask yourself what you are feeling, thinking, experiencing in this moment.
T – Take a deep breath and focus for a few moments only on your breathing.
0 – Open and observe what is happening at this moment in the space around you.
P – Proceed forward with a new awareness without expectations.
4. Have Fun
Are you waiting for your vacation to finally enjoy yourself? Perhaps putting off something fun until the weekend? We have this idea that having fun is a luxury most of us can’t afford. I would say it is more of a necessity. Taking care of your emotional health and well being by adding more fun to your day not only improves positivist, but also can help you be more productive. Hobbies like painting, riding a bike or reading a good book are all great examples. Make a little time each day to engage in something fun, even if it is just a few minutes!
5. Stay Connected to Others
How connected are you to positive people in your life? Do you get busy and find that too much time goes by since you have spent quality time with people you love and enjoy? Do you consider social media to be your only connection to friends? If so, make an effort to reach out and connect with people who are a positive influence in your life. Make plans to meet up for coffee or dinner more often. Sit down for a meal, instead of eating in front of the TV. Put down your electronic devices when you are with others and spend time really connecting and talking with each other.
6. Find Meaning in Your Day
Positive Psychologist, Martin Seligman outlines in his Theory of Well-Being, elements that make a “life worth living” and contribute to positivist and happiness. One of those elements is ‘Meaning’. This is the concept that you are a part of something that is bigger than you. Where do you find meaning in your life? Is it your job or career? Perhaps volunteer work in your community or being a part of a local organization or parent teacher association. It does not need to be huge or monumental to be meaningful.
7. Celebrate Accomplishments
When we get caught up in negativity we often overlook or forget all that we have to be proud of that we accomplished. Take a few minutes to recognize your accomplishments each day. Write them down, celebrate and take pride in your achievements. There is no way this trick will not help you to increase positive energy.
8. Express Gratitude
Identify the little things you have to be grateful for. Keep in mind that our brains have a negative bias and we will therefore put more weight on the negative. Spend a few minutes a day identifying and writing down what you are grateful for helps you to recognize and reconnect with the good and the positive we often take for granted.
9. Eat Clean
We all know the benefits of diet and exercise on our physical health, but it is also an important part of your emotional health as well. Our negativity bias becomes stronger and more pronounced when we are tired, malnourished and unhealthy. Healthy nutrition and exercise can help you not only take care of you body but also keep you emotionally positive and happy.
10. Practice Self-Compassion
According to Psychologist and Author, Kristen Neff, by practicing self-compassion we are able to give ourselves the same care and kindness we would give to a good friend. We are often much more critical of ourselves than we are of others and our self-talk can become negative and self-defeating. By practicing self-compassion we can soften the negative self-talk and increase our positive support and emotions.
You can stay positive even in a negative world. It just takes a little effort to make YOU a priority in order to increase positive energy in you and around you!