Positive Mindset: 17 Ways to Develop a Happier Mind
Want to be more positive, optimistic, and happy? Well, luckily there are lots of science-based ways to develop a more positive mindset. Check out these tips to start shifting your mindset.
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What Is a Positive Mindset? A Definition
The psychology research doesn't yet have an agreed-upon definition of positive mindset. But some researchers have proposed that positive mindset includes happiness, confidence, being in control, stability, motivation, and optimism (Barry, Folkard, & Ayliffe, 2014). Given our minds are responsible for our thoughts, emotions, and actions, it is not surprising that this definition of positive mindset is so broad. But that's also why we're going to zoom in a bit. We'll define positive mindset as positive-oriented thoughts, beliefs, values, and attitudes. This is the 'thinking part' of positivity, which then impacts our emotions, actions, and experiences.
To start, let's break positive mindset down a little bit more.
What Is a Positive Mindset Made Of?
Ok, so we know that a positive mindset is all about having positive thoughts, but what kinds of positive thoughts make up a positive mindset? One way to think about the different types of thoughts that make up a positive mindset is to think about time frames. For example, we can think about past-focused, present-focused, and future-focused thoughts (Quoidbach, Mikolajczak, & Gross, 2015). Here are some examples:
Another way to think about the parts of a positive mindset is to think about self- versus other-focus.
Now that you have a better idea of what positive mindset is made of, let's talk about how to develop this mindset.
How to Develop a Positive Mindset
A positive mindset is something you can develop over time, just like you can develop any other skill that relies on your mind—like skills for math, science, reading, etc... It just takes practice. You have to practice thinking positive thoughts and then it gets easier for your brain to do so. So let's talk about some of the strategies you can practice to develop a more positive mindset.
1. Invest Time in Developing a Positive Mindset
Just like anything else, developing a positive mindset takes some time and effort. It happens as a result of small efforts we make each day or week and then grows into something really beneficial. That's why if developing a positive mindset is important to you, it's a good idea to set aside some time each day for it. It could be a large chunk of time or as little as 5 minutes. Your brain just needs time to practice thinking positive. So, aim to commit to a few minutes each morning and evening to practice positive thinking using the other tips described in this article.
2. Develop a Positive Mindset by Practicing Gratitude
We can start to develop a positive mindset by cultivating an "attitude of gratitude". This is about more than just saying "thanks" when someone does something nice for us, it's about searching our minds for things to be grateful for each day. We might practice this skill by writing gratitude lists or writing in a gratitude journal. After doing this for some time, it may become easier for our brains to recognize more things in our lives that we are grateful for, therefore building a more positive mindset.
Video: Why Gratitude Is Good for Happiness
3. Develop a Positive Mindset by Improving Recall of Positive Concepts
If we're trying to develop a more positive mindset, we want it to be easier for our brains to retrieve and recall positive information. Luckily, this is something we can practice. Our positivity workbook includes a bunch of positive words that you can print, cut out, and memorize like flashcards. Doing this may help your brain learn to work with positive information more easily.
4. Develop a Positive Mindset by Focusing on Your Strengths
Many of us with low self-worth focus on all the things that are wrong with us—the things we're not good at, the ways we look different from others, or the things we have failed at. But if we want to develop a more positive mindset, we're better served by focusing on our strengths—the things we are good at, the special skills we have, and the things we have succeeded at. This shift in focus can help us feel more positively about ourselves.
5. Develop a Positive Mindset by Focusing on Your Positive Qualities
In addition to focusing on our strengths, another way to develop positive self-views is to focus on our positive qualities—the good parts about our personality and who we are. Ask yourself, what makes you who you are? Are you brave, kind, authentic, honest, or something else? Make a list of your positive qualities. Reflecting on them can help your brain get better at focusing on the good parts about you.
6. Develop a Positive Mindset by Focusing on How Your Needs Are Being Met
Some scientists suggest that our core psychological needs are autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Vlachopoulos & Michailidou, 2006). Autonomy is the belief that we can choose our direction in life. Competence is the belief that we can effectively achieve our goals. And relatedness is the belief that we are connected to important others.
Of course, we may not always feel that these needs are being met 100%, but satisfying these needs relies on our beliefs. So shifting these beliefs by focusing on the ways our needs are being met can make us feel better. For example, if we have few friends, we might focus on how connected we feel to one friend or a relative. Or, if we have a job that restricts our autonomy, we might focus on how free we are to do what we want when we get off work. By focusing on the ways our needs are indeed being met, we can start to shift our mindset.
7. Develop a Positive Mindset by Practicing Self-Compassion
Many of us have a harsh inner self-critic. He/she/it tells us everything we are doing wrong but never celebrates what we are doing right. It might tell us that we're horrible instead of telling us that we're great. That's why a key part of developing a positive mindset can be to cultivate self-compassion. Practice being compassionate towards yourself by treating yourself like you would treat a small child—kindly, carefully, and gently. These compassionate self-thoughts can further support a positive mindset.
8. Develop a Positive Mindset by Practicing Self-Care
If we don't like ourselves, we can sometimes unconsciously create experiences that further make us feel bad about ourselves—we've proved ourselves right that are not worth good treatment (Swann Jr, 2011). So part of developing a more positive mindset might involve cultivating beliefs that we are worth taking care of. We're allowed to have breaks, to feel good, and to be treated well. This self-caring mindset may help us think about ourselves in more positive ways that help us to have more positive experiences.
9. Develop a Positive Mindset by Focusing on the Good in Others
Positive social connections are one of the best things we can do for our well-being (Holt-Lunstad, Robles, & Sbarra, 2017). And positive mindset has a crucial impact on our social connections. If we're critical, angry, or mean, people don't really want to be around us. But if we're positive, accepting, and kind, people enjoy our company and want to connect with us. So practice focusing on the good in others rather than the bad. Accept people for who they are and treat them well. This shift in perspective can help cultivate a positive mindset and improve your relationships.
10. Develop a Positive Mindset by Shifting Your Attention
It's easy to focus on the bad stuff. We actually have a negativity bias that makes it easier than focusing on the positive. So indeed, focusing on the positive takes practice. Practice shifting your attention by shifting your mind away from negative thoughts. If your mind is going down a rabbit hole and you're ruminating on something bad that happened, put the breaks on those thoughts by going for a run, taking a cold shower, or focusing on the details of an object in the room. These strategies can help short circuit negative thoughts and allow you more space to focus on the positive.
11. Develop a Positive Mindset by Being More Optimistic
Cultivating optimism is a great way to develop a more positive mindset. To practice optimism, think about how something might turn out better than expected. Try to imagine the best-case scenarios or focus on the good things that are likely to happen in the future. This shift to focusing on the good in the future can help you have more positive expectations, which can lead to all sorts of good outcomes (Benson & Friedman, 1996).
12. Develop a Positive Mindset With Loving-Kindness Meditation
One way to cultivate more positive thoughts towards others is by doing loving-kindness meditation. This type of meditation involves generating love and compassion, first toward yourself, then close others, then strangers, and then all living beings (Fredrickson et al., 2008). Doing this meditation regularly can help your brain get used to thinking positive, loving thoughts directed towards others.
13. Develop a Positive Mindset by Setting Meaningful Goals
Setting meaningful long-term goals can help us shift our mindset to be a bit more positive. This is likely because setting goals help us gain clarity on what really matters to us and what we want to achieve, so we may feel more meaningfully connected to what we do (Emmons, 2003). To set meaningful goals, be sure that your goals fit your values and have some kind of meaningful impact. This way, you'll be sure you're focusing your efforts on something that matters to you.
14. Develop a Positive Mindset by Focusing on Growth Rather Than Success
A positive mindset is a mindset that can tolerate challenges and failures. That's why learning to focus on growth rather than success may be helpful. It's inevitable that we will experience failures but if we are focused on how we can learn and grow from the experience, then it becomes a positive thing—something that will actually improve our lives and not worsen them. So next time you encounter a difficulty or failure, try to focus on what you'll learn from the experience.
15. Develop a Positive Mindset by Savoring the Moment
One way to experience more positive emotions is to suck the juice from every positive experience. We can do this by savoring. All you have to do is hold onto positive emotions that you experience by replaying the experience in your mind or focusing on how good those emotions feel. The more we practice savoring, the easier it'll likely be to naturally extend those positive moments.
16. Develop a Positive Mindset by Letting Go of Resentment
If we’re holding onto resentment, we are coloring all the moments that could be positive with a negative hue. That's why when building a positive mindset it can be helpful to work on letting go of resentments. They don't offer anything, and they don't help you feel better about the past. So it's worth resolving these old issues if you can and let them go if you can't.
17. Develop a Positive Mindset by Believing You Can
There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that believing in something makes it more likely to happen (Benson & Friedman, 1996). It's not magic though. It's because our beliefs (and our mindset) are so powerful that they affect our emotions, our actions, our body, and others' responses to us. Our mindset fundamentally changes how we walk through the world and therefore it affects where we end up. So believe that you can develop a positive mindset, and you'll be more likely to.
Music: Some Music to Help Calm the Mind While Developing a Positive Mindset
There are so many different ways to grow a more positive mindset. Hopefully, some of the practices provided here help you get on the track to changing your mindset and your life.