Boost your optimism with this list of ways to actively practice positivity.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can easily get caught up in negativity. I’m my harshest critic, and when things don’t look the way I pictured them, I am way too hard on myself. There are days when I get so caught up in that negativity, that I let it affect how I do everything throughout my day, and honestly, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to have that weight of negativity on my shoulders, but it can also be equally exhausting to try and pull myself out of that negativity when there was already so much adversity leading up to it.
This is why it’s so important to actively practice positivity every single day. You should do at least one thing everyday that helps boost your optimism and overall happiness. In Courtney E. Ackerman’s new book, My Pocket Positivity (c/o), she shares 140 quick and effective exercises that you can do anywhere – at home, at work, or on the go – that will help you build the foundation for a more positive lifestyle. This isn’t a quick fix to all of life’s problems, but it will help you find the good in any situation, no matter what curve balls are thrown your way, and it will help build the framework for a life full of confidence, self-love, and happiness.
So how can you actively practice positivity in your life?
1 – WRITE A LETTER TO A LOVED ONE
Nowadays, it seems like the only things that come in our mailbox are junk mail and bills. I love getting cards and letters in the mail because it’s such a change from all of the things we simply throw away from our mailboxes. Writing someone a letter or sending out a card or small gift is such a strong gesture to show someone that you care about them and that you’re thinking about them. It’s much more personal than sending a short text or an email. When you take the time to sit down and write out words by hand, it means a lot more than you think it would.
Ackerman suggests sharing one thing you love and/or appreciate about your loved one, recalling a memory that the two of you share, and suggesting that the two of you spend time together. Not only will this make your loved one feel, well, loved, it also gives you a chance to share some of your feelings on paper by letting them know how important they are to you.
2 – CREATE A DANCE
Since I’m not a big lover of exercise, this suggestion was a fun one for me. Not only is this an easy way to get your body moving, it’s also an awesome way to feel more in tune with your body and your authentic self.
Ackerman suggests thinking about your current mood and channeling that into a new dance move. Wipe away the thoughts of looking or feeling silly and just go for it! I’d like to take it a step further and suggest making up a whole dance routine. When I was younger, my friends and I loved to make up dance routines to our favorite songs, and we had so much fun doing it. Pick a song that makes you feel good and make up a dance to it. It’s sure to put you in a more positive mood.
3 – PRACTICE 2-MINUTE KINDNESS
One of my favorite ways to spend free time is to volunteer, but I haven’t found a way to do that in Ohio just yet because I’m continuing to settle in and get on a more regular schedule. That’s why I loved the 2-minute kindness idea that Ackerman shares in My Pocket Positivity. The idea is that you can take 2-minutes in your day to do something kind for someone else. That’s it, just two minutes. Some suggestions she gives are writing a short message to praise a coworker or compliment someone, starting up a conversation with a new person at school or work, or helping someone who may have dropped their groceries or mail.
4 – TALK ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS
As someone who has been wanting to go to a therapist for her entire life, I must say that talking about my problems is so helpful. Shout-out to my friends and family who have had to listen to me talk about these things throughout my entire life, but honestly, just getting things off my chest and out in the open is so helpful. It may seem counterproductive, but saying the things that are bothering you out loud and acknowledging your problems verbally can help bring so much more positivity in your life, and it’s much healthier than bottling all of those things up.
If you’re unable to talk to a therapist, reach out to a friend, family member, or coworker, especially if you have someone in your life that can identify with the issues you’re having and may even offer a new perspective or advice for solving your problems. Ackerman says you can also consider talking to a stranger, either online or in person. Talking to someone who knows very little to nothing about you can help give you a fresh perspective on your issues and approach them with neutrality.
5 – TAKE A MENTAL BREAK
When you’re doing physical workouts and exercise, if you’re feeling overly sore, you don’t keep going at it. You have to give your body time to rest, right? You need to do the same with your brain too. Throughout the day, take a mental break by lying still and letting your mind wander. Consider meditating or simply daydream or reflect upon your day.
6 – KEEP A POSITIVE DIARY
This is something I’ve been doing for years, and I stand by it because it’s such an easy way to practice positivity daily. At the end of each day, think about all of the positive things that happened, whether it’s good things that happened to you, good things you did for others, or good things you witnessed happening. Then simply write it down. It’s such a great way to end your day on a positive note and go to bed thinking about the list of awesome things that happened that day.
7 – FILL A GRATITUDE JAR
Creating a gratitude jar is a great way to help you practice positivity each day. You simply get a jar and decorate it however you’d like then each day, think of at least one thing that happened that you’re grateful for. Write this down on a little slip of paper, and put it in the jar. The more your jar fills up, the more your realize how many things you have to be grateful for each day. And when you need a little pick-me-up, take out a few of them and read them to yourself as a reminder that there’s always something to be grateful for.
8 – COUNT YOUR COMPLAINTS
It’s human nature to complain about things, no matter how big or small. With this practice, Ackerman suggests carrying a small notebook around with you throughout the day (or you can make a note on your phone), and tally up the number of times you complain, whether it’s aloud to someone else or inside your head. You don’t need to make note of the specific things you complained about, just tally up the number.
At the end of the day, count up the number of times you complained. To counteract this negativity, you’ll then come up with an equal number of things you have to be grateful for. So if you complained 20 times throughout the day, you’ll need to come up with 20 thoughts of gratitude and write them down in a notebook or journal.
9 – SET A SMALL GOAL
I’m guilty of making long-term goals and losing sight of the short-term goals that will help get me there. At the beginning of the year, I try to set a number of goals to accomplish throughout the year, and while that’s awesome, I sometimes forget about the fact that there has to be stepping stones to help move me from step A to step B. That’s why it’s equally as important to set small, short-term goals too.
As someone who loves to check things off of lists, setting small goals is such a great practice. Make sure you set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, so that you know when your goal is accomplished and you can easily cross it off of your list. Examples of small goals can be go grocery shopping for the week, work out for 20 minutes, finish three chapters of a book, or send out a birthday card. Whatever your goal is, be sure to write it down so you can get the satisfaction of crossing it off when it’s complete.
10 – GATHER FEEDBACK ON YOUR STRENGTHS
When I was about to make the move from Louisiana to Ohio, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own strengths so I could work on finding a job that played to them. Identifying your strengths is an important step in practicing positivity because it’s a huge part of personal development. While you can spend time doing some self-reflection or taking surveys online, an even better way to help you recognize your strengths is to get feedback from people in your own life.
Make a list of people from all areas of your life – coworkers, family members, friends, colleagues, mentors, etc. – and reach out to them. Ask them what they think some of your strengths are, and if they’re able to, provide some examples of how they’ve seen you play out these strengths. Take this feedback and see where there’s any overlapping and use it on your personal or professional development journey.
11 – GIVE THREE COMPLIMENTS
I’m super guilty of being able to compliment others during their times of need, but when I’m down, I can usually only think of the negative things that got me there in the first place. Being able to compliment yourself when you’re upset is an awesome way to actively practice positivity and self-love. In a notebook, write down three genuine compliments to yourself each day. It can be about physical attributes, an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of, how you’re feeling, something you did for another person that day, etc. Read them aloud after you’ve written them down and let that positivity sink in.
12 – TREAT YOURSELF LIKE A FRIEND
Our inner dialogues can be so harsh sometimes. We can be so hard on ourselves for our own mistakes, but if someone we love makes that same mistake, it can be easier for us to forgive and show them compassion. The next time you catch yourself beating yourself up about something you’ve done, take a minute to imagine that a loved one made that same mistake. What would you say to them? Would you forgive them for it? Apply that same dialogue to your own situation and be compassionate to yourself.
13 – CREATE SELF-LOVE AFFIRMATIONS
Loving yourself is one of the most important parts of living a positive lifestyle. Ackerman suggests creating a few self-love affirmations to repeat to yourself daily. She says to write your affirmations in the present tense to show love to yourself in your current state and to use a first-person perspective. Repeat these affirmations at least once a day, preferably in the morning so you can start your day with a little self-love boost, but if you find yourself in need of a little more self-love throughout the day, don’t be afraid to repeat them to yourself.
14 – LIST YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
One of the things I like to do at the end of each year is write out all of the things that I’ve done that year. It’s a great way to show myself how much progress I’ve made and how much I continue to change the older I get. Reminding yourself of the things you’ve already accomplished is a great way to boost your confidence and self-love. In a notebook, write out all of the accomplishments you’re proud of, no matter how big or small. Some examples are graduating high school or college, getting hired at your first job, traveling to a place you’ve always wanted to go, learning a new skill, making a new friend, doing something for the first time, adopting a pet, saving up for a big purchase, crossing something off your bucket list, doing something you never thought you’d do, facing a fear, etc.
15 – ACCEPT YOUR VULNERABILITY
Accepting your vulnerability is a crucial part to not only practicing positivity, but also developing close relationships, self-acceptance, and self-love. Ackerman suggests that you should first acknowledge your worth then remember your value, and accept that not everyone is going to like you. Practice authenticity, and don’t let the opinions of others dictate the way you feel about yourself.
My favorite talk about vulnerability was given by Brene Brown:
For even more ways to actively practice positivity in your everyday life, be sure to pick up a copy of Courtney E. Ackerman’s book, My Pocket Positivity!
What are some ways that you actively practice positivity?