Updated: Dec 10, 2019
We all have bad days. The days where it seems we are doomed from the very moment we wake up in the morning. There’s just something slightly off in our mood, our hair won’t work with us no matter how much effort we put into it, and the last thing we want to do is get out of bed and venture off into the world.
Days like those are bound to happen time and time again, after all, it is life. But what if we were to take control of our mindset the next time we wake up to a particularly grumpy disposition or bad hair day? What if we were to be the masters of our thoughts and choose to set foot on a lighter, more positive note?
There’s a quote by Brad Pitt where he summarizes this idea of self-reliance perfectly: “I believe you make your day. You make your life. So much of it is all perception, and this is the form that I built for myself. I have to accept it and work within those compounds, and it’s up to me.”
We tend to forget that our perspective of life is entirely up to us. We have the power to choose what we want to think and how we want to feel. By taking control of those elements, we can begin to create a life that feels good for us and that ultimately will make us happier because we are choosing to be so.
Here are ten ways to help build and maintain a positive mindset so that becoming a happier, more enjoyable person develops into a way of life and not just a passing practice.
1. Wake up to the little things.
Gratitude can be the single best way to dispel any negative emotion or thought. For some reason it seems more natural to focus on the things in our lives that we aren’t happy with, but when we become thankful for everything, the big and the small, we allow life to bring us more blessings and things to be happy about.
Try it before getting out of bed in the morning. Pick five things you’re lucky to have in your life, acknowledge the blessings in them, and feel the thanks to have such beautiful things in your life to appreciate.
2. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
This is actually a fun practice because it gives you an opportunity to see how your mind really works. Throughout your day, take notice of the thoughts that enter your mind, whether they be passing observations, judgments about yourself or others, even harsh criticisms. When a negative thought pops in, simply let the thought go, and replace it with something affirming and positive.
A great question to ask yourself when you’re thinking negative thoughts is: Are these thoughts benefiting me? I can guarantee that every single time the answer will be no. There is a silver lining to everything; try finding it in your thoughts and you’ll create a habit of seeing the good in all things.
3. Being nice to someone you don’t necessarily like.
There’s an anonymous quote that says: “Being nice to those you don’t particularly like is not being two –faced; it’s called growing up.” There are always going to be people we don’t get along with and that easily get under our skin. The best way to overcome this is to realize that these people are probably our best teachers.
They say that whatever we don’t like in someone else is a reflection of what we don’t like in ourselves. Something interesting to think about the next time you’re bothered by that nagging co-worker or overly judgmental girlfriend.
Sometimes it’s something as simple as laughter than can completely uplift your mood and let you see the light in things. Life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Find things on a daily basis to smile or laugh about. Laughing is good for you too; it boosts the immune system, raises your heart rate, and enhances mental functioning. And best of all, it’s fun.
5. Seeing people as they are - people.
We’re a society that thrives on constant connection, yet through that “connection” we’ve become entirely disconnected. We tend to write others off at first glance based on our own pre-conceived notions of what they appear to be, rather than what they really are.
Next time you’re waiting in line, sitting on the subway, or even in class, look at the people around you rather than a screen. Say hello to a stranger, give a random compliment, offer someone help; you never know who you could meet or what friends you can make by opening up and keeping an open mind.
6. Make time for things that make you feel good.
Getting caught up with the “hustle and bustle” seems to be a prerequisite for life nowadays. Most people don’t feel productive or successful unless they’re constantly on the go, doing one thing after the next.
Work and having a career takes up a lot of our time but it doesn’t have to take up all of it. Make sure to create time to do the things you love and to spend time with the people you love. These little breaks in our schedules are like mini-vacations and bring freshness into a sometimes-cyclic week. You can work full time, but you can also live full time as well.
7. Be in the Now.
Take a moment to stop whatever it is you’re doing and look around you. What do you see? What sounds do you hear? How do you feel?
Do this regularly to connect yourself back to life, yourself, and the present moment.
8. Practice listening.
I don’t think we all realize how much we like to talk about ourselves or just talk in general. I catch myself more times than none drifting off into my own head when people are talking to me, or I find myself waiting for my turn to speak, so I can tell my story, my opinion, my experience.
When we practice mindful listening we take the spotlight off of our own lives and actually become interested in someone else’s. It’s also a great way to bring us back to the current moment because we’re focusing on what’s going on in front of us rather than letting our minds aimlessly wander.
9. Go outside.
I remember when it was the dead of winter in New York this past year, I literally daydreamed of walking around without a jacket, in the warm sun, with trees all in bloom, every day. Now that summer is here, I haven’t even realized that what I was thinking about so much before is here, right now, right before my eyes, and I’m not enjoying it as much as I should be.
Summertime is the perfect time to be outside in nature, to breathe in fresh air, to go by the ocean, and play as if you were a kid again. Don’t wait for a rainy day to appreciate the sunny ones.
10. Fall asleep to the little things.
Just as waking up to gratitude is a useful catalyst to start your day, falling asleep gratefully is just as effective. I’ve read in various books that a great thing to do before falling asleep is to review your entire day, each interaction, person, and experience you encountered, and choose the things that you were the most happy with. Mentally or physically say “thank you” for those new memories.
The more you become positively conscious of the “little things,” the moments and people that are a part of your life every day, the more you soak in life, stay present, and not only become a happier person, but a more enjoyable person to be around.