There are always going to be situations in your life when it will be hard to keep a positive outlook. This becomes especially more difficult when the people around you take on a bad attitude, but luckily there are ways to stay positive around negative people. Having an optimistic attitude can require some effort, but it can end up having benefits in the long run, both on your mental and physical health.
Studies have found that optimists get sick less frequently, live longer lives, and are less depressed overall than people who constantly think negative thoughts. Although not everyone is born an optimist, you can train your mind to think more positively, which can help you keep your mood up while everyone else's is down.
"Be honest with yourself about where you are at the start of a day," says Positive Psychology Expert Pax Tandon to Bustle over email. "If you're in a 'less than' state of being, which is natural and comes with the territory of being human, acknowledge that and choose your company carefully."
Although steering clear of negativity sounds ideal, there are many times when we can't completely avoid others who are feeling down. In those times, try the following six tips to help you stay upbeat even when you're around other negativity.
1. Rock A Positivity Ratio
"UNC researcher Barbara Fredrickson proposes that we need a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative thoughts to achieve flourishing," says Tandon. "When hanging out with über negative folks, counteract each negative thought they express with three positive ones of your own." If you don't feel comfortable saying them out loud, you can always just think them in your head, which can help keep your stream of thoughts positive.
2. Practice Gratitude
Sometimes people we care about go through hard times, we need to be there to lend them an ear. "Inevitably, this can mean taking in a lot of negativity," says Tandon. "The antidote to this is to practice gratitude. " Immediately after the conversation, come up with a list of things you are grateful for. "The practice of highlighting things in your life that you are grateful for is one of the most effective positive psychology interventions that we have," she says. "It primes your brain to see more of the good stuff, and less of the bad."
3. Don't Take It Personally
Usually someone's negativity has nothing to do with you, and internalizing their thoughts and feelings won't change the situation. Instead, try to understand their mind-set, and take everything with a grain of salt. "Forgive others for being in this space and recognize it's how we're programmed," says Tandon. Practicing compassion and shifting your focus off yourself can help these negative comments roll off your back.
4. Focus On Improvement
"The experiences that teach and shape us the most are often the most traumatic," says Tandon. "Whether you falter or flourish after these is up to you. Choose resilience, and appreciate every way in which you can improve after a negative event — because that's what it's there for, to help you evolve." Looking for solutions to the problem can help you focus on positive outcomes, and it can also help build your character.
5. Just Breathe
So much negative energy can be stressful, so it's best to ease this stress by practicing deep breathing. Studies show that practicing controlled breathing can have an immediate and positive effect. Calming your mind and body down will have you more able to think clearly, which can help dismiss any negative thoughts.
6. Forgive & Forget The Bad Days
Not every day is going to a bubbly, positive day, so when those days do occur, we have to let them go. "Recognize that having 'bad days' and negative thoughts is part of the human experience," says Tandon. Forgive any negative thoughts you may have been experiencing, and use this freedom as an opportunity to focus on making the most out of the present.
Being an optimist is not something that comes naturally to many people — and that's OK. Take a deep breath, find what it is you're thankful for, and know that it is possible to feel and be positive, no matter how impossible it seems at the time.