Are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person?
Experiencing positive emotions such as gratitude, joy, love, contentment, pride, excitement, awe and inspiration makes you and those around you feel good.
Research shows that positive emotions broaden your perception, which helps you see more in life, respond to situations more flexibly and in new ways, and be more creative.
Positive emotions have also been shown to improve physical health, foster trust and compassion, buffer against depressive symptoms and help people recover from stress.
Even though life can be a roller coaster of ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good in any situation. Here are some tips to help boost positive emotions:
1. Start a gratitude journal
At the end of each day, write down 3 things you are grateful for that happened that day. They can be big or small things. This will help you focus on the positive things in your life and foster a sense of appreciation and thankfulness. It doesn't have to only include writing, you could also draw pictures to represent the things or people you feel grateful for. Journaling encourages self-reflection and by thinking about positive aspects of your life, writing a gratitude journal focuses your mind on positive events, thoughts and emotions. At the end of the week, look back through your journal to revisit all the things you feel grateful for.
2. Spend time with positive people
Mood is contagious, so surrounding yourself by positive people can help you feel more positive too. Spending time with people who can help you look on the bright side can increase self-esteem and enable you to reach your goals.
3. Create positive experiences and savour them
Make a point of doing something you know you enjoy to help yourself to feel happy and upbeat. You could also try creating your own positive experience by doing something nice for someone else. It could be a family/whānau member, a friend or a stranger. It could be something you plan or something you do on the spur of the moment. Volunteering is also a good way to brighten your day as well as someone else’s. Savouring your positive experiences and continuing to think about them once the moment has passed can help to prolong positive thoughts and states of mind. You could create a representation of a happy event with writing, a photograph or a conversation to share with a friend or return to later.
4. Positively reframe an event
When looking at a situation or event, try reframing it in a positive way, for example, the glass is half full not half empty. Or, if a friend cancels plans with you, instead of feeling upset, think about how you could use the free time to do something nice for yourself. Positive reframing doesn’t change a situation, but it can help generate positive thoughts and emotions and turn negative energy into something more productive.
5. Try a relaxation technique
Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and tai chi are a great way to reduce stress and bring positive emotions such as contentment, a sense of balance and peace into your life. They are also energising and good for your physical health. Find out about some meditation apps.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations as you experience them. It helps you live in the moment and not get caught up mentally in the past or future. It also helps reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s normal to have slightly changing moods. However, if you experience long periods of sadness or depression, please contact your GP or healthcare professional as you may need medical help. Some places to go for support are listed below.
7. Some ways to get started
So what does it take to try and become more positive? It doesn't have to be hard, try a few of these to get going and they may lead to a more positive you.
- Be friendly to somebody you don't know.
- Motivate somebody else with a positive word.
- Find enjoyment in an unexpected event.
- Accept negative thoughts but don't let them take over, move on to more positive ones.
- Be happy about somebody else's success.
- Focus on good things, no matter how small they are.
- Think about the here and now rather than dwelling on something negative from the past.
- Find something that makes you laugh – tamariki, pets, a funny book.
- Enjoy and appreciate the friends and whānau around you.
- Watch an upbeat movie.
If you're struggling to find the positives or need support, help is available:
- 1737 phone or text 24/7 to reach a trained counsellor
- Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
- Lifeline 0800 543 354
- Samaritans 0800 726 666
- Youthline 0800 376 633
- Look for what's good Action for Happiness, US
- Positive emotions and wellbeing Psychology Today, US
- 26 exercises for positive emotions: start your upward spiral today Positive Psychology, US
- “Positive reframing” as optimistic thinking Psychology Today, US
- Positive mindset Positive Psychology, US
- Benefits of thinking positively and how to do it Healthline, US