If you class yourself as a negative person, don’t be too hard on yourself – it’s not you, it’s your brain 😂
Research shows that we tend to pay more attention to negative events and that focusing on the negative side of things is more ‘contagious’ than focusing on the positive side . Even our language sets us up to be negative, as research has found that the vocabulary used to describe a negative occurrence is much more detailed and more varied than the language used to describe a positive event.
Being a positive person therefore, takes effort.
The alternative, where someone starts to think along the lines of “bad things always happen to me” can lead to something known as “learned helplessness” . This is where instead of accepting or learning from a negative experience, we try to escape or avoid new situations that might involve us having to go through another negative experience. What happens then, is that we have lost control over the situation and research has shown that we give up trying, which has been linked to clinical depression, for example .
So how can we help ourselves to be more positive? Here are 7 tips if you are looking for ways to feel happier day to day. Further information on some of the research that has been done on the topic of happiness is included below – and I’d really recommend having a look into it if you’re interested in this topic 🙂
- Who are you spending your time with?
It doesn’t matter if you only have a small circle of close friends, the only thing that matters is that you spend your time talking with people where you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and in a situation where you are able to respond in an encouraging and positive way. Spending time with people that drain you is a no-go – remember negativity is contagious!
- Practice kindness
Caring for others or volunteering is a great way to feel happier. Not got time to devote to volunteering? Small acts of kindness count too – offer to make someone a cup of tea or reach out to someone who might be struggling it all counts.
- Move about more than you are and ditch the sugar in your tea
Studies show that exercise has a “large clinical” impact on depression and studies also suggest a link between sugar consumption and feeling low. Making a change to your activity doesn’t have to be drastic, just aim to do more than you were. Walk where you can, take the stairs, dance around your living room for half an hour…anything that gets your heart rate up should help you to feel happier.
- Find something you’re passionate about and do more of it Do you spend too much of your time doing things because you have to rather than because you like doing them? Finding something that we find challenging but enjoyable and suited to our strengths can help us to feel happy. Finding a job or hobby that allows us to get stuck in and forget everything else for some time could help to raise our overall happiness.
- Explore the bigger picture Studies show that people who practice a religion are typically happier. If you’re not religious, exploring spirituality or even exploring the idea that there is something bigger than us around could lead us to be happier. This might not be for everyone, and for anyone that isn’t in to religion or spirituality you could try introducing practices into your day to day life, such as journal-writing which has been associated with reduced levels of stress.
- Use your strengths
Studies show that discovering our strengths and using them in our daily life leads us to feel happier. The true key to feeling happiness from your strengths is to use them for the greater good and to use them to help others.
- Be optimistic, be mindful and be grateful
Being optimistic has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and to help people cope with unfortunate news. One way to do this could be to be mindful of the language that you use and the thoughts that you think. Find yourself focusing on the negative? Rather than trying to avoid it which is a huge task, why not try following the negative point up with a positive point or two as well? Finish your day by writing down three things you’re grateful for – this has been proven to increase reported levels of happiness.
I hope these points give you some ideas for focusing on the good things in life, even when it’s not always the easiest thing to do.
 Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and social psychology review, 5(4), 296-320.
 Peeters, G. (1971). The positive-negative asymmetry: On cognitive consistency and positivity bias. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 455-474.
 Seligman, M. E. P. (1972). “Learned helplessness”. Annual Review of Medicine. 23 (1): 407–412. doi:10.1146/annurev.me.23.020172.002203.