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6 Strategies to Keep a Positive Mindset

Introduction

Does anyone care about what you are going through?

They only care about how you show up with them at the moment, when you are needed.

So, how do you show up at your best consistently? This article is intended to answer that question by providing you with 6 strategies to keep a positive mindset through 25 specific daily tactics.

We can use many methods or tactics to maintain a positive mindset.  For this post, I reviewed 6 sources. From those six sources, I found 25 tactics which I grouped into the 6 strategies to keep a positive mindset in the piece below.

Ebrace success

The Importance of a Positive Mindset

Maintaining a positive mindset is important for a number of reasons. One really good reason is it has a positive impact on our health. In fact, Mayo Clinic lists the following health benefits:

  • increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

So if a positive mindset is so good for you and those around you, then why is it so hard to develop a positive mindset? We live in challenging times that make it difficult to maintain our optimism. We are exposed to negative news and media that point out all the wrong things in the world. Just a quick check of my Google feed and there are multiple stories with negatively slanted questions that pose as headlines (clickbait). 

Unfortunately, our brains retain more negatives than positives, which is referred to as negative bias. So even though there is just as much good in the world as bad, we would hold on to more of the bad anyway. This ‘feature’ of our brains goes back to our ancestors when they had to flee from predators. So, it is an instinctual response. According to Synctuition, the good news is that since it is instinctual, we can choose not to follow our instincts and instead choose how we respond to negativity and, in doing so, choose creative ways to keep positive.

6 Strategies Graphic

Improving Your Mindset

As a refresher, in a previous post, 7 Ways to Improve Your Mindset, I grouped the seven ways to improve your mindset into preventive measures, daily habits, and in-the-moment practices. The daily habits included:

  • Watch our language – or monitor our self-talk to ensure that it is positive,
  • Start our day strong by setting the mood for the day as soon as we wake up,
  • Surround ourselves with positive people, and
  • Practice gratitude.

These were all presented as ways of keeping you out of the ‘valley of the negative’. The following practices were listed as ways to ‘get you us of the valley’, should we become overwhelmed by negativity:

  • The use of humor,
  • Focus on the present,
  • Turn failures into lessons.

These practices were highlighted in a brief literature review in that earlier post. Combining daily habits and daily practices should go a long way in helping most of us develop a positive mindset. Now, let’s take a look at the 6 strategies to keep a positive mindset. 

Keep positive

6 Strategies to keep a Positive Mindset

So, how do we keep or maintain a positive mindset? Of the 6 strategies to keep a positive mindset, let’s start with practicing positive thinking.

Practice Positive Thinking

While practicing positive thinking is listed as a practice, it feels more like a strategy to me since there are multiple ways to practice it. Some of those practices include being aware of the good things in your life, maintaining a strengths-based perspective,  adding positivity to someone else’s life, and staying optimistic.

Be aware of the good surrounding us. Focusing on the negative instead of the positives in life is one of the biggest obstacles to keeping a positive mindset. (www.indeed.com) Negative thinking is a common human experience. But at the same time, it can be an obstacle to happiness and success. People struggle with negative thoughts and emotions affecting their daily lives and relationships. A gratitude journal is a great way to call attention to and catalog all that we have in our lives that is positive and building us up.

Think of strengths. Maintaining a strengths-based approach is similar to focusing on the positives in life. The distinction here is to catalog those things that are strengths or assets in our life. The act of counting or listing them results in an inventory of the strengths that we possess or have access to, i.e. supportive family or good health. (www.claritychi.com)

Add positivity into someone else’s life is a great way to stay positive. Just think what the impact could be if we all set a goal of making someone smile daily. They smile and we get the gift of a smiling face looking right back at us. That’s a win-win in my book. Having a positive attitude lifts everyone’s attitude. 

I used to tell my customers and clients that I would ‘really’ support them and that sometimes they might not like that support. That is because I also believe in giving honest feedback (support) in helping those who I work with to succeed and to move forward, based on a mutually understood reality. 

Giving honest and supportive feedback can be done in a way that is much more substantial than being a cheerleader. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs a cheerleader from time to time. I think there is also room for consistently coming alongside another person and encouraging them with firm positivity as they seek to reach their goals.

The next creative way to keep our positive mindset is to practice self-care.

practicing self care

Practice Self-Care

This is a huge part of maintaining a positive mindset. This strategy seems to take shape as a number of other smaller practices, including getting enough sleep, regular exercise, believing in ourselves, pushing ourselves to do more, starting our days positively, using kind words to describe ourselves, and practicing gratitude. These are all part of the health benefits that a positive mindset can give.

Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is at the top of many writers’ self-care lists.  While everyone has a different need for sleep, each of us has a target number of hours that is optimal for us. Sleep is when we process emotions and recharge physically and mentally. If we don’t recharge we don’t have the emotional resilience to bounce back from each day’s challenges. (www.claritychi.com)

Get enough exercise. Right along with getting enough sleep is getting enough exercise. Exercise is often cited as a great stress reliever. However, I think one of the primary benefits of many forms of exercise is that we are presented with an opportunity to practice mindfulness. So, don’t pass up the opportunity to exercise your mind right alongside your body. My new practice is Qigong, which is a form of moving meditation. 

Believe in ourselves. This involves appreciating the strengths and talents that we do have as opposed to believing the story that we are not enough or we don’t know enough to be whatever version of success that we desire. Lifehacker says, “You cannot move ahead in your life unless you have complete confidence in your abilities and a firm belief in yourself. To keep your attitude positive, you must trust your decisions and take confident steps.”

Push yourself to do more each day.  When we can appreciate our strengths and believe in ourselves, we can define new limits – new personal bests. So one way to maintain a positive mindset is to do more work than we did yesterday. Test our limits each day and learn exactly how much we can accomplish. If we do this incrementally, then when faced with larger projects, we will have the confidence and ability to tackle and complete those projects. (www.indeed.com)

Start your day in a positive way was also frequently listed as a way to improve our mindset. It also stands to reason that it is a practice to help us maintain a positive mindset. How we start our day greatly influences how the rest of our day might go. 

If we start our day at full speed and let the flood of negative media and challenging work impact us, our day can quickly spin out of control. While on the other hand, if we start our day slowly, stretching or with uplifting conversations or reading, or listening to something inspirational while eating breakfast or on the ride to work, we can positively influence our entire day. (www.positivityblog.com)

Describe yourself and your life with positive words. “Changing the language we use when we talk about ourselves is one of the simplest solutions for keeping a positive attitude. our language has a lot of power over our mindset, and if we frequently use negative language, it can cause us to view our life in a negative light. “ (www.indeed.com)

It takes intentionality, but the reward is well worth the effort. This form of self-care is right at hand. Day in and day out we are presented with opportunities to describe or think about how we responded to a given situation. We can view our response with kindness and grace or regret and self-resentment. Viewing our humanity as a work in progress allows us to bank some self-care and positivity so that when we are overcome with negativity we have positivity we can draw from.

Practice gratitude. We all have a lot of talents and abilities. And, even when things don’t turn out exactly like we’d like them to, we have a lot to be grateful for.  “If you are able to turn your complaints into gratitude, a happy life and an unbreakable positive attitude is guaranteed.” (​www.lifehack.org)

One of the best complements to self-care is to embrace a learning mindset. 

Embrace a Learning Mindset

Learn more about yourself. Gaining a better understanding of how we handle stressors and connected emotions are valuable insights to develop. This knowledge can allow us to predict likely responses to upcoming challenges and to manage our emotional responses to those challenges. 

If we know that we will be heading into a tough season at work, why not practice any or all of the tactics listed under self-care? Some of us, me included, just plow ahead, keeping our heads down and our noses to the grindstone. Something has to and will give when we don’t use what we know about ourselves to buffer those inevitable tough seasons at work, home, or our volunteer lives. 

Learn how to process criticism. Although it can be painful, critique or criticism can be a source of growth. “​Many people fear being criticized which can prevent them from living how they want to.” ​ (www.claritychi.com).  If we can see criticism as a learning experience, it can help us transform the perceived negative into a positive one. 

Unless there is a negative track record with the individual providing the criticism, try to assume that the person means no harm and is being as honest as possible. Try to resist the urge to become defensive and really listen to their message. Don’t shoot the messenger. Feedback is a gift. Remember that the person who is providing this feedback did not have to come forward with it or they could have sugar-coated it. In many cases, they could have just kept rolling along. However, they thought enough about us to invest emotionally in giving us honest feedback. Thank them.

Here is a four-step process to use when processing criticism (www.positivityblog.com):​

  1. Don’t reply right away,
  2. Really listen to the criticism,
  3. Remember that the criticism isn’t always about you,
  4. Reply or let go.

Reframe problems as challenges.  Someone once told me “if you don’t make any mistakes, you probably are not doing enough.” That phrase has stuck with me. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Reframing problems into challenges allows us to employ the power of our curiosity. It allows us to reward ourselves for tackling the problem because we’ve reframed it into a challenge.

To properly reframe our current situation, we need to embrace the reality of the situation.

ebracing reality

Embrace Reality

We can deny reality, recognize it, and embrace it. In this context, embracing reality includes, enduring what cannot be cured, determining what is out of our control, not making a mountain out of a molehill, not letting vague fears hold us back, and managing realistic expectations. 

Determine what is out of your control. Many things are just simply out of our control. One of the gifts of wisdom is the ability to discern what is in one’s control and what is not. It is never good to be concerned about things that we cannot change. The quicker that we can come to terms with what we can and cannot change, the better off our psychic will be, and the easier it will be to maintain a positive mindset. (www.claritychi.com)

I often refer to the Serenity Prayer for support with this practice, “God, grant me the Serenity To accept the things I cannot change…Courage to change the things I can, And Wisdom to know the difference.” In our house, we frequently talk about the ability to hold this prayer in our mind’s eye as we work through our discernment process with challenging issues. Another tool that I have used is the Worry Tree. It is a great tool for extracting what we have control over and what we don’t have control over.

Endure what cannot be cured. When we suffer a loss or there is a situation that cannot be reversed, it is best to accept it. “Feeling dejected, cursing ourselves, and thinking about the past is not going to do us any good. In order to move forward, you need to have the trait of acceptance in yourself.” (​www.lifehack.org)

Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. We can quickly get swept up in our emotions and have something manageable turn into something bigger than it should be. We then lose perspective, especially if we are stressed. Here is a simple three-step process that can help (www.positivityblog.com):

  1. Say stop – Tell your mind ‘we are not going down that path’ or ‘we’re not going there’
  2. Breath – After interrupting your mind, sit and just breathe (personally, I am a fan of the 7-5-8 method of controlled breathing)
  3. Refocus – Question your mountain-building – will this even matter in 5 years, 5 weeks, or even 5 days?

Don’t let vague fears hold you back. Sometimes when I begin planning something new, my mind presents me with a series of nightmare scenarios that create self-doubt and ultimately fear (catastrophizing). Over the years, I have learned to ask the question, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’. 

This intentional practice has helped me to quantify and clarify the fear. Being the kind of person I am, I still am a bit neurotic here. So, after journaling, what the fear is, I do a bit of scenario planning, listing the 3 worst things that can happen and then developing countermeasures to each of them.

“​Finding clarity in this way doesn’t take much time or effort and it can help you to avoid much mind-made suffering. And help you to get going, step outside of your comfort zone and take that chance.” (ibid)

Manage expectations. Unmet expectations can be a source of self-doubt and lead to an undesirable shift in mindset.  One step to consider here is to ask ourselves: “Whose expectation is it, to begin with?” This matters. We can inherit an expectation that we never really accepted and if we were not consciously working to achieve that expectation, how successful can we be at it?

If it is truly an expectation we set for ourselves, was it an expectation others shared? Or was it just an expectation that we set internally and then ‘hoped’ would be accomplished? (I still have not figured out that Vulcan mind-meld technique for project management)

Some might say that we should avoid setting expectations (www.indeed.com) and instead focus on the process of reaching those expectations. Personally, I do not agree.  I think we should set expectations that we have internally developed and then publicly discussed. That is, once we set a goal or an expectation, we should discuss it with someone close to us who can help to refine that expectation or tell us that it is off-base, to begin with. Then, if/when we move forward with it, we should involve that same person in holding us accountable to that expectation.

Another way to embrace our reality is to also embrace the present moment.

6 strategies to keep a positive mindset - embracing the moment

Embrace the Present Moment

Live in the present. The past should be something to learn from, not to hold on to and remorse over. There really isn’t much we can do about the past. It’s the past. Likewise, the future is not here yet. The most important thing we can do about the future is to do our best today so that our future can be one of fewer regrets and greater focus. Have a positive outlook and live in your present. (www.lifehack.org)

Find an optimistic viewpoint in negative situations. We all find ourselves in negative situations. When we are in the midst of these situations, it can be helpful to take a mental pause and think or jot down the answers to these two questions:

  • What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
  • What is one opportunity within this situation?

These questions help to interrupt the negative train of thought and help us to reframe the situation. It is a challenge to develop this practice. However, it pays dividends for years to come, if we can make it part of our lives.

Take a breather – then challenge your negative thinking. ​In those moments when we feel our blood pressure increase, our field of vision decrease, and our body’s perspiration increase, it may just be time to stop and take a breather. “​Once you are in a calm state, ask yourself, “what could I do to be more positive about this?” Challenge yourself. Try to think of different options or optimistic outcomes, rather than only the negatives. “(www.claritychi.com)

Go slowly.  There is a difference between speed and momentum.  In the physical world, with our cars, the faster we get up to speed, the sooner we can be at our desired speed and then cruise. In the world of our mind, that same principle might hold true. It takes tremendous energy to change our car’s momentum from being still to cruising speed in the physical world. If the same holds true with our minds, then easing it into successively higher gears may be the better option.

I see people constantly trying to ‘get up to speed on projects or processes while dealing with the stress of catching up. I also see tremendous amounts of wasted effort and unneeded mistakes as by-products. Sometimes, there is a misplaced value in our world that values activity over accomplishment. I’ll take a slow, intentional approach over a frenetic all-hands-on-deck fire drill any day. 

Know what to do when something still gets under your skin.  Some things are just easier to let go of than others. We may find ourselves rethinking something long after we thought we had let go of it. If this happens, one thing that I watch out for is ‘does it still make me feel the same way about it as it originally did?’ If so, then I may need to spend some time reexamining it. 

There are a few methods I use to reexamine stubborn issues like these:

Using the 5-Why’s – This method of examination is useful in uncovering the root cause of an issue. Used extensively in the quality field, 5-Why’s is part of a practice called root-cause analysis. Used in the context of mindset work, it allows us to really look at the root cause of an issue. To use this method, write a sentence about the issue on paper, then ask, “Why is this an issue?”. Write the answer to that question below the original issue sentence. Then ask again, why is the answer to the first response to an issue?

If we repeat this pattern four more times, we will very likely discover the root cause of the issue before we get to the fifth instance. We can stop here or combine this process with one of these other processes. 

  1. Draw It Out – Make a mind map of the original issue or of the product of the 5 – Why’s. The process will allow us  to examine contributing factors to the issue. If we have never done a mind map, here is a helpful article. I use mind maps for various issues, everything from planning a vacation to starting a new blog post.
  2. When complete, we will have a ‘bubble’ in the middle of our page along with branches that describe aspects or causes of the issue. We can then harness our whole brain in an analysis of the overall issue.
  3. Use Mindfulness – I tend to use mindfulness techniques for my most stubborn issues. In this context, I will get comfortable, begin my mindful practice, and imagine the issue to be a tightly wrapped gift that I can walk around, pick up, hold and examine from every angle.  Then, I imagine myself unwrapping the gift, reexamining it from multiple angles, and asking myself why this is an issue while holding it. The great thing about mindfulness is that we can use the power of our mind to imagine even the messiest of issues as a tightly wrapped gift and begin to realize aspects of the issue that simply would escape other types of analyses.

Some of the methods listed above require us to lean on the people in our lives. We need to have positive people around us to help us move forward. 

Surround yourself with positive people

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Choose the right people to talk to. The old phrase, ‘misery loves company has a newer corollary, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). If we believe either of these statements, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who allow us to be the best version, the most positive version of ourselves.

“​Negative thinkers may discourage you from believing that situations can get better, but positive thinkers will inspire you to keep hoping for good outcomes, especially when you’re having difficulty looking at the bright side. ” (​www.insider.com) If we strive to do something new or different for ourselves, we are best served by people who will encourage us and nudge us along, versus those who would recall our faults and past shortfalls. 

Cultivate and live in a positive environment.  Choosing to surround yourself with positive people and using positive self-talk has another aspect to this strategy. It involves us and how we show up. Do we show up as someone who encourages and supports others? Or do we have a tendency to jump right into the pity pool with them? I believe people appreciate someone who can help them see the positive sides of issues. 

Another aspect of cultivating a positive environment is carefully watching the information we consume. TV, the internet, and magazines can greatly impact our outlook. Two questions to ask ourselves periodically are: 

  • Who are the 3 most negative people I spend time with?
  • What are the 3 most negative sources of information I spend time on?

Think about the response to those two questions. You may want to make some changes in what you watch and who you socialize with. (www.positivityblog.com)

Conclusion

Once we have developed a positive mindset, we have many strategies or tactics available to us to keep that mindset. 

Choose a tactic from one of the six strategies to implement today. As a reminder, here are the 6 strategies to keep a positive mindset:

  1. Practice positive thinking, 
  2. Practice self-care,
  3. Embrace a learning mindset,
  4. Embrace reality,
  5. Embrace the present moment,
  6. Surround yourself with positive people.

Which tactic will you practice today? Let me know in the comments below.

Peace.

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