Optimism can help us bounce back faster during difficult times, but it’s not always easy to master when you feel anxious, defeated, or stressed.

By Katie Mills Giorgio
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Making an intentional effort every day to focus on the positive has tremendous ripple effects in your life. You’ll reduce your stress level, have better social interactions, enhance your performance at work, and love yourself and others more.

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Plus, there are many health benefits of positive thinking. According to research shared by Mayo Clinic, optimism may increase your life span, lower rates of depression and distress, give you greater resistance to the common cold, and result in better cardiovascular health.

But keep in mind, so you don’t get discouraged, that being positive does not mean the same thing as being perfect. Positivity is a daily choice about how you see things in the world around you and how you see yourself. Here are nine tips to find simple ways to give your life a positive boost.

1. Express Gratitude

Gratitude is the attitude that keeps you living on the positive side of life. Make it a point to start and end your day by taking time to recognize what you are grateful for. It might be something major like your home, health, or family or something as simple as the chance to sleep in late on the weekend or enjoy a glass of wine. Get a gratitude journal (try Present, Not Perfect: A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are, $8.86, Amazon) and write down at least one thing you are grateful for each day. Or download an app like Gratitude (free on iTunes), which not only provides you with an inspirational quote for the day but also allows you to digitally store images and notes about the positive aspects of it. Making a point to be grateful, for even the littlest things in your life, will push you into a more positive mindset consistently.

2. Choose an Empowering Word or Phrase

Words matter, especially the ones you tell yourself. Pay attention to the way you frame situations, the story you play in your mind, and the way you talk to others about the things that happen to you in your daily life. If you choose words with negative connotations, your mindset and focus will shift to places of negativity as well. By refocusing on the good in any given situation, your optimistic self will shine through. You can also adopt a personal mantra, positive quote, or an intentional positive word to define your day, week, month, or year. Post it where you can read it daily. Take a minute out of your day to repeat it aloud and hear yourself speak positivity.

Related: 7 Easy Stress Relief Activities Anyone Can Do

3. Spread Kindness

Kindness is key when it comes to positivity. Be kind to yourself in your thoughts and actions. Be kind to your family and friends. Be kind to strangers. Pay it forward at the coffee shop. Hold a door open. Give a friend a hug. Let someone in front of you when traffic is backed up. Read one more book to your child before bed. Offer a patient, listening ear to a friend in need. When you focus on acts of kindness, you start to see the good things—big and small—happening to you and around you each day. And hopefully, your kindness and the resulting positive vibes, will be contagious.

4. Find Your Tribe

Research shows that stress is contagious, but thankfully positivity is too. Surrounding yourself with positive people—in real life and especially online where it can be easy to start comparing ourselves with others—will go a long way in helping you stay positive. If you find yourself getting dragged into negative conversations with others or bogged down by nay-saying friends, family members, or coworkers, nudge the conversations in a positive direction and reconsider the company you keep. It’s easier to be more positive and happy when you make time for people whose goal is more positivity too.

5. Smile

It’s so cliché, but it works. Give it a try right now as you read! Put a smile on your face, and you’ll notice a lift in your mood and a positive light shining on all you see. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Smile at people you see—at home, at work, out shopping—and you’ll not only increase your own joy but their's as well.

6. Get Outside

Connecting with nature is a spirit-builder. Taking in the wonder of the sights and sounds of the world around us helps us build a connection to the bigger picture and can’t help but foster positive thoughts. Going for a hike (bonus points if you go with uplifting friends) will also help release dopamine and enhance your overall happiness. So get outside and let your positive self come out naturally. 

7. Create Your Own Sunshine

Maybe you can’t get outside or it’s a particularly cloudy day, literally or figuratively. Pull out your own box of sunshine. Make a point to hold onto notes or mementos that bring you positive thoughts and memories. Stash them in a file folder or box you keep handy so you can refer to them when you need an encouraging boost. Maybe it’s a handwritten note from a friend or a picture your child drew for you. You can even create a digital file for photos our quotes you’ve seen posted on Instagram or Pinterest. Another idea? Be intentional about snapping photos of things that make you happy and storing them in a “positivity pics” album on your phone so you can refer to them at a moment’s notice.

8. Donate Your Time or Treasures

Giving to others helps you receive positive vibes in your own life. You might volunteer at the local animal shelter, donate to cancer research, assist an elderly friend or family member with grocery shopping, or chaperone a field trip for your child’s class. Donating your time or financial resources to causes that you care about gives you a positive feeling. You are focusing on others and making an impact on your community (or the world), and the result is a more affirmative version of you.

9. Curb Negative Thinking

Try to catch and stop yourself when the negativity creeps in. Are you being impatient with yourself, judging others, focusing on mistakes and failings, complaining about tasks you have to do? If you find yourself gravitating toward negativity, stop and think two positive thoughts instead. Step into the light, if you will. That way you won’t dwell on the negative thoughts and feelings you are having.

Being a more optimistic person isn't something you’ll be able to do overnight, and it isn’t always easy, but making an effort to dwell on the positive will pay off over time.

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