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

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1. Combine Gifts, Passions And Innovation

Know who you are today by doing a fresh analysis of your gifts and passions. Use the results of your analysis as your lens for identifying unmet needs in the business world. Think outside the box by breaking away from conventional wisdom. Combining your gifts and passions with innovative ideas is foundational to a successful business that meets your and your consumers’ needs. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Gain Clarity And Choose Metrics For Success

I’ve had numerous pro-service clients do this, and most of them have considered it. The most important thing is to have clarity about why you want to start a business. The second thing is to very carefully choose the metrics that will indicate to yourself that you are succeeding. Your “why” and your metrics will keep you grounded when the going gets tough—and it will. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Leverage Your Experience And Do A SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths, be clear on your personal motivation and leverage your current experience and insights that you have developed over the years in your industry. Think about the pains and gains your clients have experienced and gaps that have not been filled. I also recommend doing a SWOT analysis to gain clarity and alignment and to determine the value proposition. – Breshana Miller, Kairos Coaching & Consulting, LLC

4. Brainstorm With Close Friends

You can’t hesitate or keep your new business too close to your chest. You need to brainstorm with your closest friends, your professional network and those whom you trust. Bounce your ideas off of others and see if they resonate. What do they think your new business is worth? Who do they think the customers would be? Do they know someone who would buy? Have that conversation 100 times and get to work. – Jacob Warwick, ThinkWarwick

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5. Match The Commercial Proposition With The Value You Offer

It is important to match the commercial proposition with the value that you are offering. Before leaving, start researching the potential market to ensure there is a real need. When you are clear on the commercial viability, you can reverse-engineer the process to ensure the proposition fits with your personal drive and passion. – Claudine Reid, PJ’s Community Service

6. Have A Strong Support System In Place

Being an entrepreneur and working for a corporation require different mindsets. To sustain the personal drive and passion, it helps to have a strong support system in place—people who are just as passionate and driven as you and believe in the success of the new business, such as friends, a mastermind group or an experienced coach who can ensure there is a balance between work and personal well-being. – Masha Malka, The One Minute Coach

7. Don’t Follow Your Passion—Bring It To An Opportunity

Don’t follow your passion. I’d rather you bring your passion and drive to an opportunity. The first step is finding a way to improve lives in exchange for profit, then apply your natural passion and drive to improve as many of those lives as possible as efficiently as possible. Because when you do that really well, vision, momentum, growth and, eventually, profit are the results. – David Robertson, Growthpoint Coaching Co.

8. Leverage What Makes You Irreplaceable

You need to clarify the market need for what you do via research, interviews and more. In regard to fulfilling your own needs, a reflective, holistic approach is required to uncover your own personal wants, needs and values to be successful. And above all else, you must uncover something that makes you irreplaceable in the market that you serve. Get all those right and then go for it! – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

9. Connect With Your Four Selves

First connect with your four selves—intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical—and be crystal clear about your purpose and commitment to it. Launching a new venture requires all your energy and commitment. Sometimes, it’s rough. Second, get deep input and feedback from those around you—both your trusted network and your more fearless critics. The wider the scope, the richer the insights. – Luis Costa, Luis Costa – coach · facilitator · speaker

10. Enroll Clients To Help Craft Your Company Vision

Get connected to your purpose, build a business plan around your core values and enroll the customers you want to serve to help craft the company vision. In doing this, you will likely find that your needs and the needs of your future customers are very aligned. Trust that a successful launch will follow and that you will have a tribe of allies ready to offer guidance and support when needed. – Emily Rogers, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching

11. Outline The Customer Journey And Your Sales Funnel

First, outline the customer journey to define the scope of their need. Second, outline your marketing and sales funnel. If you are not excited to do that, hire someone who is or don’t launch. If the idea of selling and marketing for hours every week does not excite you, pursue a hobby instead. Third, if you don’t have the drive or passion to build a business, get a dog. The dog will love you back every day. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Experiment With A Minimum Viable Product

Take small steps. Too many people get sucked into the entrepreneurial dream without realizing how tough it can be. I would suggest experimenting with the product—take a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market and get feedback. Leaning on your personal drive, experiment with your own business identity. Too many people overestimate their passion and drive and underestimate the challenge. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

13. Take An Inside-Out Approach

Start with your mission and vision. I believe, as a coach, taking an inside-out approach where executives can start exploring their passion as well as what they would see as success for this new endeavor is key. Then, we can explore the marketplace and how this would be sustained as a successful business by developing a strategic business plan. Allow your personal drive to set the tone for success. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

14. Build A Business Around Your Retirement Dreams

Start by thinking about your retirement. If you grew your business and sold it for a killing, what would you then be doing in life? At that point, when you wouldn’t have to think about money and profits, what would you be doing with your time? That’s what you should build your business around. It’s bound to be an area where a strong customer or market need is coupled with your own passion and drive. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

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