11 Daily Practices That Can Make You A More Positive Person, According To Science
Most of us have been told to just “be more positive” on rough days by coworkers or friends who mean well. But being a “positive” person isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers and deciding you’re going to make the change. Oftentimes, cultivating optimism takes work. But some of that work can be a matter of engaging in daily practices that will make you a more positive person over time.
Practicing positivity can definitely make you a more enjoyable person to be around, but the benefits of it go beyond your social circle. Being optimistic plays an important role in your health and wellness. “The mechanism for the connection between health and positivity remains murky, but researchers suspect that people who are more positive may be better protected against the inflammatory damage of stress,” according to John Hopkins Medicine’s website. “Another possibility is that hope and positivity help people make better health and life decisions, and focus more on long-term goals. [...] What is clear, however, is that there is definitely a strong link between ‘positivity’ and health.”
It’s not always easy to be positive, and no one person is perfect at it 100 percent of the time. However, making small changes to spark joy in your life (as Marie Kondo would say) is totally worth the effort. Here are 11 things you can do on a daily basis to stay positive, according to science.
1. Be Mindful Of Complaining
Everyone needs to vent now and again. However, constantly complaining can be bad for your health. As Inc. reported in 2016, research has shown complaining actually rewires your brain, making people more pessimistic overall. Try setting aside time to vent or complain — and then, once those five, 10, or 15 minutes are up, turn your attention towards things that bring you joy.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a catch-all term for meditations and practices that encourage you to be present in the moment. Even if you don’t have much free time throughout the day, dedicating a few minutes to mindfulness, or approaching activities you already do in a mindful way, can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. As Forbes reported, studies have discovered mindfulness is a great tool for breaking negative thought patterns.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Restful sleep is foundational to most aspects of health, and unsurprisingly, getting enough of it can make you think positively. According to the National Health Services U.K., “A study of 100 university students has found that shorter sleep and delayed ability to get to sleep are associated with repeated negative thoughts (RNT)." On the flip side, getting enough sleep sets you up for being in a better mood the next day, among other benefits.
4. Use A Gratitude Journal
As Harvard Health reported, a 2003 study found that expressing gratitude on a daily basis not only helped participants have a more optimistic outlook on life, but those who wrote what they were thankful for even visited the doctor less, and exercised more. Try to take 30 seconds to jot in a gratitude journal when you wake up or right before you go to bed.
5. Create A Morning Routine
Your morning routine can set the tone for the rest of your day. As science has shown, practicing a regular morning routine can boost your mood, and help you feel less pessimistic. Try to take some time to develop an A.M. routine that works for you and your schedule, so it’s something you can actually stick to in the long haul.
“You should smile more” is a phrase many women loathe to hear, understandably. However, science has found making a conscious effort to remind yourself to smile more often tricks your brain into being happier, according to NBC News.
7. Spend Time With Nature
The University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine reported in 2016 that a Stanford University study discovered people who spent time in nature “experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers.” If it's tough to get outside, bringing nature indoors in the form of houseplants can also lead to more happiness in your life.
8. Make Your Bed
It sounds so trivial, but getting into the habit of making your bed in the A.M. may have an impact on your health and wellness. HuffPost contributor Andrew Merle wrote in a 2015 article that research has shown making your bed can boost productivity, positivity, and your overall “sense of well-being.”
9. Laugh More
Whether it’s snuggling up and rewatching The Good Place, or taking a couple minutes during your lunch break to LOL to a viral video, laughter truly is the best medicine. Research has shown laughing improves your mood, lowers stress, fosters connection, and promotes creativity and healing.
10. Stay Hydrated
The human brain is made up of about 75 percent water. Meaning, not drinking enough can be detrimental to your mental health and cognitive functioning. In fact, as PsychCentral reported, mild dehydration has been shown to increase anxiety, as well as fatigue and stress. Bringing a reusable water bottle to work, or downloading a water tracking app, can help you stay more hydrated throughout the day.
11. Be Kind To Others
A wide body of research has found being kind to others can make you feel happier, as The Conversation reported in 2018. Try to make an daily effort to engage in small acts of kindness — like buying the person’s coffee in line behind you, volunteering at your local humane society, or writing a letter to someone you love — can change your outlook on life.
Next time you need a little pick-me-up, remember that creating more positivity in your life comes down to the simple things: Picking up a few simple habits, leaving behind the unhealthy ones, and practicing pretty basic self-care can make a huge difference for your happiness.