How To Be Positive in Tough Times

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Ever notice how the whole world seems against you when times are tough?

You wake up late because your alarm clock doesn’t go off, you burn your breakfast, spill your coffee, or miss your train.

One bad start seems to have a knock-on effect – until the whole day seems like a write-off, because just about everything that could go wrong, goes wrong.

On the flip side, when you wake up on the right side of the bed, everything seems to magically come together to your benefit.

You find some extra cash you’d forgotten in your coat pocket. A parking space miraculously appears close to the door of your office. The girl or guy you’ve been interested in asks you out on a date after months of flirting.

The thing is…

It’s not that some days are more magical, or luckier, than others. Your attitude (whether positive or negative) is a direct reflection of what you predominantly think about, and you attract the kind of energy you put out.

Research suggests that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. So it’s not that the world treats you differently, it is you who chooses to see the world differently. Positively, and in a new light.

As Psychologist William James puts it:

The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.

Even when times are tough, being and feeling positive is a choice that you can make. We know how hard that can be – especially when you’re getting started. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips designed to help you boost your positivity.

So read on, and find out how you can change your life and mindset – and focus on being positive, all the time.

A wooden bowl full of fresh spinach leaves to encourage healthy eating
“Eating is a necessity but eating healthy is an art.” – Unknown

1. Eat good, wholesome food

What you eat plays a crucial role in how much energy your body produces, which in turn affects your levels of mental energy and focus.

According to Mind (a mental health charity based in the UK), improving your diet can promote positive feelings, clearer thinking, calmer moods, and increased energy.

Even with no other changes, eating healthy, nutritious, whole foods can boost your positivity and help shift your outlook.

According to one study, vitamin deficiencies can cause a decline in mental health leading to stress, anxiety, depression, addictions, and other psychological disorders.

Checking in with your GP for tests and a discussion about your diet, food intolerances or allergies, or essential nutrients, can be an important step in taking control of body and mind.

Eating a healthy balanced diet of foods rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, and antioxidants can actually help increase the cognitive function of your brain, keeping you alert, and lifting your mood.

Though it’s not easy to change your diet and break bad habits (Friday night takeaway, anyone?), getting organized is the first step to success. Creating – and sticking to – a meal plan can help keep your fridge stocked with healthy meals and snacks, and you on track for success.

Silhouette of a positive woman running to boost her mood at sunset
“Exercise not only changes your body, it changes you mind, your attitude, and your mood.” – Unknown

2. Exercise regularly

The benefits of regular exercise aren’t just visible when we look in the mirror.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest that we do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. That doesn’t have to mean sweating it out at the gym or in a fitness class – it can be something as simple as a brisk walk, swimming, or even mowing the lawn.

A myriad of studies have shown that regular exercise is a crucial way to increase the levels of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is the chemical in your body which is responsible for maintaining your mood balance – so higher levels of serotonin equal happier days, more stable moods, and the ability to find pleasure and enjoyment in things.

Moving more also generates a whole host of health benefits: lessening your risk of heart problems, diabetes, and stroke; reducing stress; aiding weight loss; boosting your mood; and improving memory and productivity. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and a more positive outlook on life.

A woman in a yoga pose meditating at an overlook viewing the Pacific coast
“The thing about meditation is: you become more and more you.” – David Lynch

3. Meditate

Most people regard exercise as a no-pain-no-gain venture, which is the kind of thinking that makes it easy to downplay the role of meditation as an exercise of the mind.

Meditation in its simplest terms is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. These things are all vital for maintaining a positive attitude.

Despite what movies and TV may show us, meditation doesn’t necessarily require sitting cross-legged and staring into space – all that is required is finding a quiet space in your head.

This practice – which can be carried out by anyone, anywhere and at anytime – has been by proven to reduce anxiety.

Apart from reducing stress and inducing relaxation, another study has shown that meditation can also change how you perceive and process the world around you.

If you’re a beginner at meditation, consider trying a subliminal meditation aid to help you relax and focus. It’s normal to have trouble relaxing when you first start meditation, but you’ll get the hang of it even faster with the help of suggestions that help clear the mind and stabilize breathing.

A woman in an urban yoga studio meditating with her legs crossed on a yoga mat
“We can make, to ourselves, very much stronger suggestions than anyone else can, whoever that person may be.” – Émile Coué

4. Try Hypnosis

We are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.

The conscious mind can be very limiting, and hypnosis is a great way to awaken it and transcend the limits defined by your conscious mind.

Through hypnotherapy, you can reprogram your thoughts and align them towards a more positive path; and tap into the abilities and skills you didn’t know you had. Alone and in combination with meditation, hypnosis has been used successfully to help tackle addictions, weight gain, stress, physical pain, insomnia, and a lot more.

Though hypnotherapy by a professional can be expensive, you could try self-guided hypnosis to see whether it’s something you’d like to pursue further.

With hypnosis and meditation, it’s worth remembering to keep an open mind. Though as humans we are naturally skeptical, sometimes trying something new helps us on a path to self-discovery, positive thinking, and self-acceptance.

A couple laughing and embracing in front of their new house
“Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energies are contagious.” – Rachel Wolchin

5. Surround yourself with positive people

It seems like a basic premise, but it has been shown that surrounding yourself with positive people can help you to become more positive. As social creatures, humans inherently flock to people who are like them.

According to research by Time Magazine, stress is contagious. The more you surround yourself with it, the more it is likely to affect your thoughts and permeate your behaviors. Thankfully, studies also show that happiness is contagious, which leaves us with a choice!

We can surround ourselves with negative, fatalistic thinkers; or we can gravitate towards those with a happier, healthier, and more positive outlook on life.

To maintain their positive disposition, positive thinkers surround themselves with people and things that help their attitudes flourish.

We aren’t telling you to disown family members or friends who are having a tough time! Just that you should be aware of how the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of other people affect you; and how you can counter that if necessary.

While spending time with people who are like you, with the same interests and hobbies, can be liberating and comforting, you should also seek people with different goals and viewpoints and allow them to expand your horizons.

The reflection of a distance horizon in a woman's Chloé Carlina sunglasses
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

6. Reflect on positive things

The best way to expand any skillset is to practice habits which reinforce them. This applies to the workplace, education, exercise – and building a positive mentality, as well.

The nature of the world we live in today means that our brains react much more intensely to bad news than they do to good news.

Though we can’t control the news or current events, we can override this default setting of the brain.

Make a habit of spending a few minutes each day to reflect on those few, positive moments you encounter. Keep a journal, create a vision board, and affirm why you have chosen to note or record these things.

Record your perception of positive events, keep a running log of the changes you want to see in yourself, as well as the changes you’ve already made.

Review this regularly and tweak them whenever necessary. By keeping track of your successes and the things that have made you happy, you can see how much progress you’ve made.

You should also make a point to do more of the things that make you happy!

By making a point of reflecting on the positives, you’ll find that you learn to look for the good in situations without thinking about it. You’ll also find that you can deal with negative information and stressful situations better.

A father holding his daughter in a meadow and practicing gratitude
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Melody Beattie

7. Be positive and grateful

Developing an attitude of gratitude is a scientifically-proven way to create a positive sense of wellbeing.

Just like surrounding yourself with positive people and focusing on positive things, this is also something that is within your power to do.

Being thankful is one of the most effective ways to shift your focus to the positive things in your life.

According to a study in The Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, grateful people tend to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, which are “those pleasures in life that are available to most people.”

Feeling grateful to sleep in a warm bed each night, having access to food, for seizing the opportunity that each new day brings, spending time outside, for the people that love and care for you, and for a body that lets you experience life each day – are all great places to start.

We take the very simple act of waking up in the morning for granted… imagine how good our day would be if we woke up with purpose and gratitude for spending a day doing something we love.

A positive woman in a flowing white dress walking through a windy green field
“Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and be who you are.” – Brene Brown

8. Speak positively

As with any sort of training, the more you practice, the better you get. So practice being positive!

If this is new to you, the easiest way to start is to be being positive when reflecting on who you are. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Tell yourself you look good. Tell yourself you did a great job at work or raising your kids or whatever it is you do.

Many of us find speaking positively to others easy. We give them a compliment – knowing that we would never compliment ourselves the same way. By all means, speak positively to others – you’ll probably make their day! But make an extra special effort to speak positively to yourself.

Be honest with yourself, be positive, and do your best to look for the good in you. And, whatever you do, don’t focus on the negative. It’s okay to not like everything about yourself, but don’t focus on what you don’t like. We all have positive attributes, and it’s up to you to remind yourself of them every day.

Bonus Tip

If you’re trying hard to focus on the positive but feel like you need a pick-me-up, read some optimistic quotes! Positive advice and sayings are a great way to help shift your mindset. Take 5 minutes of your coffee break to read some positive quotes and affirmations and watch your day turn around.

Stay inspired!

Do you have any other tips for creating or maintaining a positive attitude? Share them with our readers below – let’s all help one another.

Photo of author

Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has invested in online properties since 2009. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.