Feeling Negative? 16 Ways To Boost Your Optimism
The occasional negative mindset is a natural part of the ebb and flow of our emotions. However, when it becomes your default state, it can significantly impact your work and personal life.
Your mental health must be managed and monitored, and if you feel yourself in a constant “down” state, it’s important to find ways to shift your mindset. To help, we asked members of Forbes Coaches Council how they turn a pessimistic attitude into a more optimistic one. Follow their advice the next time you’re in a negative state of mind.
1. Combine Gratitude With Acceptance
Combining gratitude with acceptance is a transformative superpower that positively impacts our health. I’ve seen it transform good teams into great teams and effective leaders to inspiring leaders. There is always something to be grateful for and many are surrounded by tremendous blessings. Even with chaos, heartbreak and stress, gratitude can be a go-to. Practice being grateful for something exactly as it is; it can lead us to change what we can and accept what we need to let be. It gives us the space to see mistakes, hard times and missteps as invitations to develop a growth mindset that celebrates imperfections and breaks down the defenses that keep us comfortable but prevent necessary growth. – Karen J Hardwick, MDiv., MSW, Karen J Hardwick Inc.
2. Avoid Mass Media
I try to avoid mass media as much as I can because pessimistic news is spreading faster and can foster a negative state of mind. The first 30 minutes of the day are especially important as they program your state of mind for the remainder of the day. I use my smartphone’s flight mode button, which I call the “productive button,” to help me focus on my goals with an optimistic point of view. – Torben Platzer, TPA Media GmbH
3. Listen Carefully To Your Feelings
If you are struggling with a negative thought, get in touch with the “feeling” coming from the thought. Know that the feeling and thought is “energy” in motion emanating from you. Believe you have the power to shift it whenever you want and don’t rush to get rid of it by replacing it with a positive thought. Bask or bathe in it to find what it is telling you. Thank the thought and smile for the gift it gave you. – Patricia Russell, The Russell Consulting Group, Inc.
4. Do Not Skip Over ‘Hard’ Feelings
Optimism is not about jumping to silver linings while stepping over the feelings of fear, anxiety, pain or grief. Acknowledge that your feelings just are with no judgment if they are good or bad, and know you have the ability to influence them through the choices you make and the perspectives you hold. Reminding ourselves we are “in a choice” is key. – Ann Farrell, Quantum Endeavors, Inc.
5. Spot Your Strengths
Get clear on your core strengths. You’ll get further faster when you leverage what you’re great at than when you focus on what you lack. The “just think positive, fake it til you make it” approach is at best a surface-level temporary quick fix. You’ll have more success and be less stressed when you strategically use your strengths to be at your best in your professional and personal life. – Lizette Ojeda, Dr. Lizette LLC
6. Write Out ‘Can’ Vs. ‘Can’t’ Lists
Thinking through and even writing down what can work versus what can’t work is a very effective way to shift your mindset. You are then looking at lists instead of thinking through negative thoughts. For every negative “can’t,” write an opposing positive “can.” Asking yourself “if I do” versus “if I don’t” is the same process. – Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport
7. Practice Gratitude
A negative state of mind breeds more negativity. Don’t allow yourself to feed that beast. Rather than getting locked in a cycle of negativity, take time to make a list of ten things, present or past, for which you are grateful. Psychological research found that simply reading a list of positive adjectives brightens your mood, but reading a list of negative adjectives darkens it. Try it. It works! – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.
8. Say ‘Thank You For Sharing’
Negativity comes from the amygdala or the primitive emotional part of our brain. It doesn’t know the difference between a real physical threat or a psychological one. It’s an alarm bell that will keep ringing louder until you acknowledge it. The amygdala tries to protect us and wants to be recognized. Say to it, “Thank you for sharing, I am moving on now” or “I’ve got this” and it will quiet down and recede. – Roberta Moore, The EQ-i Coach
9. Treat Your State Of Mind As Symptom
A negative or positive state of mind is a symptom, not the cause and should be treated as such. The underlying cause is a matter of world view. Do you choose to see failures as learning opportunities as opposed to a negative incident? That view will determine how you process said incidents. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group
10. Ask What’s True
Ask yourself, “What else is true?” When we are falling down a negative spiral, it is easy to see only one side of the story. By asking what else is true, it cracks open new perspectives. When things are bad, it isn’t always all bad. This question helps us reluctantly admit that while things are challenging, some things are working and there is still much to look forward to. – Sundae Schneider-Bean, Sundae Schneider-Bean GmbH
11. Focus On What You Can Control
Whatever the problem, I try to focus on some aspect of it that is within my locus of control. This almost immediately makes me start to feel better and it’s a hack that I have developed over the years. This way, I feel I have some agency over the situation or problem and can begin to problem solve and figure out a way forward. – Faizun Kamal, The Franchise Pros
12. Practice Situational Awareness
One method I use to manage negativity is to make sure I am asking myself the right questions. When something negative happens, make sure you are situationally aware of the questions you are asking yourself like why is this happening to me? Instead, look to replace that question with a response that is more positive like what can I learn from this? Or how can this situation bring a positive result? – Adam Stott, Big Business Events LTD
13. Fuel Yourself With Positive Self-Talk
Whenever I am faced with dark moments in my life, I remind myself that this too shall pass. I look for the lesson and ask myself how it can shape my future thoughts and/or actions. I reflect on all I have done well and how I will use this new learning to fuel my next opportunity. This process helps me pivot pretty quickly to a more healthy, optimistic me. – Cheryl Procter-Rogers, A Step Ahead Consulting and Coaching
14. Surround Yourself With Success
All of us get mired in negativity or pessimism from time to time. I find that during these times I need to reflect back to periods of success and read what others have said or view photos/videos that underscore what success or optimism looks like in comparison to the current negative state. I also encourage you to surround yourself with positive people whenever possible to minimize pessimism. – Dan Ryan, ryan partners
15. Find Your Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is 100% my go-to when I’m stuck in a negative spiral. I write down five things I’m grateful for each morning and this sets the tone for the day. When I catch myself in a negative state, I can immediately refer back to what I wrote down I was grateful for that morning. Works every time and is a great reframe of mind that we have so much to be thankful for in life! – Holly Knoll, Holly Knoll Coaching and Consulting
16. Reflect On The Good You’ve Done
Benjamin Franklin used to wake up every day at 5 a.m. and ask himself the same question: “What good shall I do this day?” At night, before retiring to bed, Franklin concluded each day by asking himself, “What good have I done today?” Focusing on these two questions and then acting intentionally during the day will help you achieve your goals by putting passion and purpose behind your work. – G. Riley Mills, Pinnacle Performance Company