When we were young life was easier, right? I know sometimes it seems that way. But the truth is life still is easy. It always will be. The only difference is we’re older, and the older we get, the more we complicate things for ourselves.
You see, when we were young we saw the world through simple, hopeful eyes. We knew what we wanted and we had no biases or concealed agendas. We liked people who smiled. We avoided people who frowned. We ate when we were hungry, drank when we were thirsty, and slept when we were tired.
As we grew older our minds became gradually disillusioned by negative external influences. At some point we began to hesitate and question our instincts. When a new obstacle or growing pain arose, we stumbled and fell down. This happened several times. Eventually we decided we didn’t want to fall again, but rather than solving the problem that caused us to fall, we avoided it all together.
As a result, we ate comfort food and drank alcohol to numb our wounds and fill our voids. We worked late nights on purpose to avoid unresolved conflicts at home. We started holding grudges, playing mind games, and subtly deceiving others and ourselves to get ahead. And when it didn’t work out, we lived above our means, bought things we didn’t need, and ate and drank some more just to make ourselves feel better again.
Over the course of time, we made our lives more and more difficult, and we started losing touch with who we really are and what we really need.
So let’s get back to the basics, shall we? Let’s make things simple again. It’s easy. Here are 60 ways to do just that:
Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple,
and the simple thing is the right thing.
– Oscar Wilde
Don’t try to read other people’s minds. Don’t make other people try to read yours. Communicate.
Be polite, but don’t try to be friends with everyone around you. Instead, spend time nurturing your relationships with the people who matter most to you.
Your health is your life, keep up with it. Get an annual physical check-up.
Live below your means. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Always sleep on big purchases. Create a budget and savings plan and stick to both of them.
Get enough sleep every night. An exhausted mind is rarely productive.
Get up 30 minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush around like a mad man. That 30 minutes will help you avoid speeding tickets, tardiness, and other unnecessary headaches.
Get off your high horse, talk it out, shake hands or hug, and move on.
Don’t waste your time on jealously. The only person you’re competing against is yourself.
Surround yourself with people who fill your gaps. Let them do the stuff they’re better at so you can do the stuff you’re better at.
Organize your living space and working space. Read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done for some practical organizational guidance.
Get rid of stuff you don’t use.
Ask someone if you aren’t sure.
Spend a little time now learning a time-saving trick or shortcut that you can use over and over again in the future.
Don’t try to please everyone. Just do what you know is right.
Don’t drink alcohol or consume recreational drugs when you’re mad or sad. Take a jog instead.
Be sure to pay your bills on time.
Fill up your gas tank on the way home, not in the morning when you’re in a hurry.
Use technology to automate tasks.
Handle important two-minute tasks immediately.
Relocate closer to your place of employment.
Always be honest with yourself and others.
Say “I love you” to your loved ones as often as possible.
Single-task. Do one thing at a time and give it all you got.
Finish one project before you start another.
When traveling, pack light. Don’t bring it unless you absolutely must.
Clean up after yourself. Don’t put it off until later.
Learn to cook, and cook.
Make a weekly (healthy) menu, and shop for only the items you need.
Consider buying and cooking food in bulk. If you make a large portion of something on Sunday, you can eat leftovers several times during the week without spending more time cooking.
Stay out of other people’s drama. And don’t needlessly create your own.
Buy things with cash.
Maintain your car, home, and other personal belongings you rely on.
Smile often, even to complete strangers.
If you hate doing it, stop it.
Treat everyone with the same level of respect you would give to your grandfather and the same level of patience you would have with your baby brother.
Apologize when you should.
Write things down.
Be curious. Don’t be scared to learn something new.
Explore new ideas and opportunities often.
Don’t be shy. Network with people. Meet new people.
Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you.
Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven, and likeminded.
Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive.
Drink water when you’re thirsty.
Don’t eat when you’re bored. Eat when you’re hungry.
Exercise every day. Simply take a long, relaxing walk or commit 30 minutes to an at-home exercise program like theP90X workout.
Let go of things you can’t change. Concentrate on things you can.
Find hard work you actually enjoy doing.
Realize that the harder you work, the luckier you will become.
Follow your heart. Don’t waste your life fulfilling someone else’s dreams and desires.
Set priorities for yourself and act accordingly.
Take it slow and add up all your small victories.
However good or bad a situation is now, it will change. Accept this simple fact.
Excel at what you do. Otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.
Mature, but don’t grow up too fast.
Realize that you’re never quite as right as you think you are.
Build something or do something that makes you proud.
Make mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and move along.
1. Dwelling on one person too much. People change and they always disappoint. Never put anyone on a pedestal.
2. Not taking better care of your teeth. A little bit of maintenance every day prevents a ton of maintenance down the road.
3. Not wearing sunscreen. You don’t want to look like a worn leather bag when you are older.
4. Drinking and driving. It’s a stupid and selfish decision that will cost you and others.
5. Not apologizing. Arguments happen, but don’t let them ruin lifelong friendships.
6. Charging that big purchase to your credit card. You tell yourself you can pay it off in three months, but then another purchase happens, and then another. Then your car suddenly has engine trouble. Suddenly, you are in so much debt you don’t know what to do.
7. Smoking that first cigarette. Once you start, you cannot stop until it is too late.
8. Not taking a chance. Ask that girl out. Apply for that job you think you are underqualified for.
9. Forcing a long distance relationship. You could be spending a lot of time waiting for someone who is ready to move on.
10. Rushing marriage. You’re young, everything is fun, and marriage seems like the next logical step. Take a step back and wait. Marriage will always be an option, and divorce is a process you don’t want to experience.
When it comes to job coaching, almost every conversation I have with a client involves the topic of communication. The motives can vary widely: Some people want to be more assertive, others need help with conflict management, and still others find it hard to speak their minds in a group setting.
As I reflect on all the conversations I have, I realize that most of the time, we’re not talking about complex ideas. It’s really the basics about workplace communication that seem to trip most people up.
So, since we could all use a good reminder, here are the top five things I help my clients with when it comes to communication. Identify the ones that you need to work on, and start moving them into your conversation skill set today.
1. Stop Saying “But” and Start Saying “And”
Do you ever catch yourself saying things like, “I love that idea, but we need to do it differently?”
Instead, use “and:” “I love that idea, and I think a slightly different approach would be most effective.”
Hear the difference?
In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey breaks down the rules of improv. One of those rules is to always say “yes, and….” This shows respect for what your partner has to say (even if you don’t agree), helps you keep an open mind about the act, and invites you to contribute to the conversation by building on the other person’s idea or adding your own ideas. Same goes for communicating at work.
2. Stick With the Facts
Often, I’ll hear someone make a statement that most likely isn’t rooted in fact—like, “She’s out to get me,” “My boss hates me,” or “I know she’s sorry she hired me.”
I always respond with a few questions: “Is that a fact? Did she tell you that, or are you drawing a conclusion based on observations?”
Communicating effectively is difficult enough; don’t add to it by making up stories that aren’t based in reality. Good communicators stay rooted in facts.
Remember that the facts of any issue could be quite different from your perception of it. Maybe the way you see a situation has to do with your unique work style, or simply that your boss is totally stressed out and taking it out on you. No matter what, unless you have the facts, it’s best to refrain from color commentary and focus on getting to the root of the issue.
3. Avoid “Position Defending”
When people cite communication issues in the workplace, it’s often less about communication and more about defending their position.
For example, let’s say that two co-workers, Megan and Jason, are discussing a project. Megan says, “This project is overwhelming the team; we need more help.” Jason says, “We’ll be able to handle it. Everyone will just have to put in some extra hours.”
Instead of having a meaningful dialogue about what defines each of their observations, Megan gets frustrated because Jason “isn’t hearing her.” And Jason thinks Megan sounds like a broken record, going on about how overwhelmed she is.
That’s not communication. That’s position defending.
Great communicators, on the other hand, ask questions and strive to understand all sides of the issue—instead of constantly repeating their side of the story.
For example, Jason might say, “What parts of the project are overwhelming to you?” or, “Tell me more about what you’re seeing as the bottlenecks.”
Do you see how simply exploring others’ ideas can help you rise above your frustration and get you to higher ground?
In the iconic tome The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey espoused, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” We should all be willing to understand the other as much as we want our own point of view to be understood.
While you may think that silence is negative or uncomfortable, it serves conversation by allowing listeners time to process what’s been said and giving speakers time to organize their thoughts before responding—without feeling rushed.
So, the next time you’re in a dialogue and it deserves your full attention, find an opportunity to practice silence. Spend a few extra moments absorbing what’s been said and intentionally thinking through your response before you speak. Learn to value and leverage those moments of silence instead of fearing them—as a way to build a better dialogue.
5. Actively Engage the Other Point of View
When a U.S. college student recently returned from an internship with a major hotel chain in the U.K., I asked him what the most challenging part was.
The biggest challenge, he said, was communicating with his co-workers in a way in which they could truly understand him. To do that, he had to get a sense of where they came from, how well they spoke English, and their assigned job. And typically, that was different for each and every person.
What a great example of high performance communication!
For people to really hear you—and you to hear them—you need to understand that everyone carries filters, beliefs, assumptions, experiences, and cultural influences that shape their point of view. The most difficult part? You can’t physically see any of these things.
In short, just because you say something, it doesn’t mean that others hear you. Great communicators take time to understand where others are coming from, whether it’s influenced by cultural, professional, or personal factors. Once you understand those differences, you can communicate in a way that enhances your ability to be heard.
Great communicators may be born—but (er, and) they’re also made. Try using at least one of these strategies this week, and see how you can up your communication effectiveness. Your colleagues will notice, and you’ll find new confidence and level of satisfaction in your work.
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That’s because our “fight or flight” response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety:
(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.
Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It’s important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.
(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down
By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.
(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions
The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is something that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.
(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.
One of the biggest problems people face is the lack of discipline — they have goals or habits they want to achieve, but lack that discipline needed to stick with it.
Then we beat ourselves up about it. We feel crappy because we can’t stick with it.
And that leads to more failure, because we’re forming a mindset that we don’t have the necessary discipline.
Here’s what to do when you face a situation like this:
1. Forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. No one is. Realize that beating yourself up will only make things worse. Take a few slow, deep breaths and let it go. Forgive yourself. And move on.
2. Realize that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a thing you can actually do. Think about it: people say discipline is pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. But how do you do that? What skill is required? There isn’t a skill — it’s just forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. And that requires … some kind of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t be able to force yourself to do anything. So motivation is the key concept — and this is something that’s real, that you can actually learn how to do.
3. Focus on motivation. What’s your motivation for pursuing the goal or habit? How will you sustain the motivation when you struggle? Have very strong motivations for doing something, and write them down. Commit publicly. When things get tough, remind yourself of your motivation. Focus on it. It’ll pull you along — that’s more powerful than trying to focus on the push of discipline.
4. Make it easy. Discipline is tough because whatever the task or habit you’re trying to do is tough. Instead, make it easy. Remove barriers. Having a hard time exercising? Make it ridiculously easy, by only exercising for 5 minutes. What use is exercising for 5 minutes? You’re creating the habit, not getting yourself into shape overnight. The 5 minutes of exercise will have only a tiny impact on your health, but it makes exercise super easy. If you can do that 30 days in a row, you now have an exercise habit. Hate waking up early to go to the gym? Do it at home. Do it during lunch or after work.
5. Focus on enjoyment. It’s hard to push yourself — to have discipline — when you hate doing something. So find something enjoyable about the activity. If you don’t look forward to exercise, find some good music, or a workout partner who you can have a nice conversation with, or a peaceful setting in nature that is just beautiful. And focus on that enjoyable aspect. Hate doing your paperwork? Find a peaceful sanctuary where you can do the paperwork and enjoy yourself. Maybe have a nice cup of tea or coffee, play some nice music. And focus on the enjoyment.
6. Repeat. You’ll almost inevitably slip up sometime, no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, people often take this to mean they don’t have discipline, and they just beat themselves up and give up. Well, it’s just a bump in the road. Get up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Start from Step 1 and start all over.
“The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”
– Dale Carnegie
“Who was Dale Carnegie?” you may wonder. Well, he was a guy that was born 110 years ago. He died in 1955. He was a rich man, a very successful man.
He wrote a little book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It went on to sell over 30 million copies. It still sells today and is probably one of the best books on how to improve your social skills.
Carnegie then continued to write more books and to create courses on how to interact with people, on how to make friends and on how to gain influence.
Here are 10 of my favourite tips from Dale Carnegie. And as the opening quote says, these tips have been time-tested for the last few hundreds or thousands of years. They are pretty solid.
1. Create your own emotions.
“If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.”
Emotions work backwards too. You can use that to your advantage. If you are stuck in a negative emotion then you can often shake it off. Change your body – how you move, sit and stand – and act as you would like to feel. Enthusiasm and other positive emotions are much more useful and pleasurable for everyone in an interaction. Because…
2. It’s not so much about the logical stuff.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
This is so key. Logic is good but in the end, in interactions and in life, we are emotional creatures. We send and receive emotions from other people. That is one reason why body language and voice tonality is often said be up to 93% of communication. Now, those numbers were for some specific situations but I still believe that these two ways of communication are very, very important.
The body language and the voice tonality is a bit like the rest of the iceberg, the great mass below the tip of the words we use. Those two things communicate how we are feeling and give indication to what we are thinking. And that’s why it’s important to be able to change how you feel. To be in a positive mood while interacting. Because that will have a great impact on how you say something and how you use your body. And those two things will have a big impact on your results and relationships.
3. Three things you are better off avoiding.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Now these things may not be easy to avoid all together. Much of our interactions and perhaps even bonds are created and maintained through those three negative C’s. There is a sort of twisted pleasure in criticising, condemning and complaining. It might make you feel more important and like a better person as you see yourself as a victim or as you condemn other people’s behaviour.
But in the end these three C’s are negative and limiting to your life. Bringing up negative stuff and wallowing in it will lower your mood, motivation and general levels of wellbeing. And this can trap you in a negative spiral of complaining, complaining with other complainers and always finding faults in your reality.
You will also be broadcasting and receiving negative emotions. And people in general want to feel good. So this can really put an obstacle in the way for your interactions or relationships.
4. What is most important?
“The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the things he treasures most.”
Classic advice. Don’t talk too much about yourself and your life. Listen to other people instead. However, if they ramble on and on, if they don’t reciprocate and show and interest in your life then you don’t have to stay.
Some things people may treasure the most include ideas, children, a special hobby and the job. And…
5. Focus outward, not inward.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
A lot of people use the second, far less effective way. It is appealing because it’s about instant gratification and about ME, ME, ME! The first way – to become interested in people – perhaps works better because it make you a pleasant exception and because the law of reciprocity is strong in people. As you treat people, they will treat you. Be interested in them and they will be interested in you.
I would like to add that one hard thing about this can be to be genuinely interested in the other guy/gal. Your genuine interest is projected though your body language and tonality. So, just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can talk again isn’t really genuine interest. And that may shine through. And so your interactions will suffer.
6. Take control of your emotions.
“The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping.”
It wrote about this problem a few days ago in 9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Absolutely Miserable. And it basically consist of being too reliant or dependent on external validation from other people. External validation is something someone communicates to you that tells you that you are person of value. That you, for example, are pretty, smart or successful.
This leaves much of your emotions in the hands of other people. It becomes an emotional roller coaster. One day you feel great. The next day you feel like just staying in bed.
But if you fill that inner cup of validation for yourself instead then you take over the wheel. Now you’re driving, now you control how you feel. You can still appreciate compliments of course, but you aren’t dependent on them.
This will make you more emotionally stable and enables you to cultivate and build your emotional muscles in a more controlled way. You can for instance help yourself to become more optimistic or enthusiastic more of the time. This stability and growth can be big help in your relationships.
7. No, they are not holding you back.
“Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire.”
Caring too much about what people think will create and feed imaginary monsters within your mind. You may for instance think that people will condemn you if you try something. Maybe they will. But most of the time people are thinking about their own challenges and ups and downs. They just don’t care that much about what you do.
This may feel disappointing. It can also be liberating. It helps you remove inner obstacles that are you holding yourself back.
As you, bit by bit or in one big swoop, release those inner brakes you become more of yourself. You become more confident, you have a better chance at success, and you will feel more positive feelings and less negative ones. All these things can give a big boost to your interactions and help you sharpen those social skills.
8. So, what’s in it for me?
“There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.”
If you want someone to do something then will they care about your motivation for getting this thing done? Perhaps. Often they will not have that great of an interest in what you want out of something.
They want to know what they will get out of it. So, for the both of you to get what you want out of something tell that person what’s in it for him/her. And try to be genuine and positive about it. A reason for them to do it delivered in a lame, half-assed manner may not be so persuasive. And so you both lose.
9. How to win an argument.
“The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”
Getting two egos wrapped up in an argument, having two sides defending their positions desperately, will not improve relationships. You are more likely to feel negative feelings towards each other long after the argument is over. And so you both wallow in negativity and you both lose. When possible, just avoiding unnecessary arguments is a win-win situation.
10. It’s about more than your words.
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”
I often feel that there is a bit too much emphasis on the third way of contact (what we say). Don’t forget about the rest. Most people stereotype people at their first meeting. They might not want to but it is a way for their – and perhaps your – mind to organize impressions and people. So think about how you look. Think about how you make first impressions. Think about your body language. And how you are saying your sentences.
Think about how you feel because that will be reflected out into the world. And the world will often reflect back something similar.
When do you experience anger? You become angry when you are frustrated, unhappy, or when your feelings are hurt. You also experience it when plans don’t turn out as desired, or when coming against opposition or criticism.
Anger never helps anyone. It wastes your energy, and hurts your health, spoils your relationships, and causes you to miss opportunities. Getting angry is acting against your best interests.
Things don’t always proceed according to plans and expectations. People do not always act the way you wish them to act.
You may not be always be in control of external influences and conditions, but you can certainly learn to control your attitude and reactions.
There is no sense of allowing circumstances and people to pull your strings and affect your mind and feelings.
You can choose not to let what people say and do affect your moods.
I often see people getting angry over unimportant and insignificant matters. Some insignificant remark or action, not getting a satisfactory reply to a question, or just moodiness, are enough to set fire and cause anger, snappy remarks, arguments, and even physical fight. This is absolutely unnecessary. Life can be happier without this behavior.
Anger is a negative reaction, and if you wish to progress on the path of self-improvement or spiritual growth you should avoid it as much as possible.
Learning to calm down the restlessness of the mind and gaining peace of mind, is one of the best and most effective methods to overcome anger, and in fact, all negative emotions.
If you are willing to invest the time and energy, you will reap great rewards. Peace of mind will not only help you overcome anger, but also help you overcome anxiety and negative thinking, and enable you to stay calm, tranquil and self possessed in difficult and trying situations.
Peace of mind requires the development of an attitude of emotional and mentaldetachment, which is of vital importance for overcoming and avoiding anger. It protects you against being too affected by what people think, say or do, and is therefore highly recommended. Detachment is not an attitude of indifference and lack of sensitivity. It is an attitude of common sense and inner strength and leads to peace of mind.
I would like to suggest a few simple tips for inner detachment and peace of mind, tol help you overcome anger:
1. Devote a few minutes, at least once a day, to thinking on how much your life would be better without anger.
2. When you feel anger arising in you, start breathing deeply and slowly several times.
3. You may, instead of breathing deeply, or better still, in addition to it, count slowly from one to ten. This will delay your angry reaction and weaken it.
4. Drinking some water has a calming effect on the body.
5. Try to be more patient, no matter how difficult it might be.
6. Be more tolerant toward people, even toward people you don’t like.
7. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. You can disagree with people, but still maintain tact and diplomacy.
8. Choose to react calmly and peacefully in every situation. Try again and again, regardless of how many times you lose control and get angry.
9. Positive thinking makes it easier to disregard remarks and behavior that otherwise could cause anger.
10. Try to manifest at least some self-control, self-discipline and more common sense.
11. Don’t take everything too seriously. It is not worth it.
We all make assumptions, and many of them turn out to be wrong. But noticing those and learning from them is hard. Maintaining a “Surprise Journal” can make reality clearer and help you improve yourself.
Julia Galef of the Center for Applied Rationality says her technique helps you confront your confirmation bias, separating reality from assumptions in a gentle way. In your Surprise Journal, write down anything that surprises you and why. Ignore whether the surprise is positive or negative and simply note what it is.
The Surprise Journal has two benefits. First, you start noticing more odd or unusual things, simply because you looking out for them. Second, it is a soft blow for your biased brain to admit when something is against expectations:
“People generally don’t want to give in to evidence that they might be wrong—and I include myself here—because it is stressful to admit it, even to yourself… We train ourselves to avoid it.”
On the other hand, looking for surprises in the world can be an empowering or exhilarating experience. “It appeals to my curiosity and it just feels different—it feels like I am getting as clear a picture of the world as I can,” she says.
The end result, as Galef mentions, is that you become more aware of areas where you need improvement. For example, Galef’s ratings as a teacher were lower than colleagues, which indicated over-confidence in her abilities and not taking on feedback to get better.
The conclusions of your Surprise Journal are going to be what you make of them, but the mere act of noticing the disparity should set you on the right path, according to Galef.
No one wants to be — or be around — a Negative Nancy. Positive people encourage others to be happier and more comfortable with themselves because their energy is contagious. And with all the adversity we face in our lives, it’s no wonder that kind of outlook is appealing.
Studies show optimism certainly has its benefits. And even though it’s always possible to find the negatives in a situation, there are a few ways to cultivate the sort of mindset where you choose to see the positives. (After all, as Oscar Wilde once said, “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”)
So how do we become a positive power wherever we go? Try these science-backed strategies:
Put kindness first.
We never forget the times people show compassion toward us, whether it’s a genuine smile from a stranger when we look down, or a friend who surprises us with ice cream and a movie after we’ve just been dumped. And turns out, it’s not just the recipient of kindness who experiences benefits — research shows those simple, empathetic behaviors make us happier, too.
Talk to someone you don’t know.
While we tend to ignore those we don’t know, a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests we should be doing the opposite for the sake of our happiness. Researchers found that talking to strangers increases positive experiencesthrough feelings of social connectedness. Step outside of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with someone new in the room — you just might find yourself in a happier mood.
Those with optimistic attitudes have an innate ability to bring out joy in others, and as a result, they’re incredibly effective leaders. People who look on the bright side tend to be more inspiring communicators and have a way of rallying others around them to see the positive, Forbes points out. These kinds of leaders don’t just know what it takes to get tasks done — they encourage others around them to optimistically do the same.
Be mindful of your body language.
The secret to a positive attitude may just start with positive posture. Research suggests that uncrossing your arms, standing tall and having a more approachable demeanor can all be positive marks of confidence. Studies also show that even just the simple act of smiling can make you seem more open (not to mention it can also boost your mood).
Listen more than you speak.
Good listening skills are a quiet, yet coveted power — and being a good listener also conveys positivity. “When you listen, you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts,” David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism, previously explained to HuffPost Healthy Living. “You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself, thus radiating positive energy.”
Open yourself up to positive thoughts.
It’s natural for us to dwell on the negative, but the truth is, we all have the capacity to look at life through a glass half full. The key to being a positive force is to open yourself up to like-minded thoughts. One way to do that? Practice gratitude. Studies show reflecting on what you’re thankful for can make you a happier, more positive person. And when’s the last time anyone hated counting their blessings?
It’s one thing to wax eloquent on positivity, but quite another to be a positive person at heart.
Despite believing to have a positive outlook, we invariably weigh the cons first, consider several times before sparing a compliment, and broadcast only the odds when someone counts on us for advice. What’s more, we prefer needless sarcasm for humour, manage a wry smile when something is genuinely funny, and believe deep down that the glass is actually half empty.
We live in denial of our inherent negativity for the most part, and often wonder why the world around is so mean and reckless. At work, we never fail telling our juniors how meeting deadlines can be a tough proposition, and not to think too ‘out of the box’ to impress the boss. In short, we never tire telling all concerned how tough things can be! Unlike dogs we may not be born eternal optimists, but positivity is something that can be imbibed even if a tad forcibly; such as by trying to tweak our sense of humour, the way we react to a given situation, by being more pleasant and believing others too have a mind, and by smiling each time somebody says ‘thank you’.
While positivity is a state of mind, the answer lies in our perspective. Clinical psychologist and lifestyle advisor Dr S.K Sharma shares his ideas on how to be a positive person everyday.
Have the desire: First thing first, to become a positive person one must have a strong desire to be positive. And the desire will come only if you are convinced that becoming a positive person will enhance the quality of life. Positivity is like an aura, and you know you are a positive person when people start trusting you, random people become polite with you, colleagues at work start patronising you, and you start building rapport easily.
Be realistic: Do not try to become a saint. Becoming a positive person does not mean you can never have any negative emotion or encounter any negative situation. It is the overall attitude that matters. Don’t get bogged down by failure, and disappointed when your expectations are not met. Mentally, you should always be calculating a way out of difficult situations come what may.
Experiment: Be a keen observer. Use everyday life incidents to see how you can manage them in a more positive manner. These will serve as perfect instances to turn your outlook more positive. For starters, contemplate how you could have better handled a situation by being less hostile and more indulgent. Come up with five ways that could have saved the day, and learn to take things at face value sometimes. Remember, your ability to trust the other person also reflects your genuineness.
Speech and body language: Try and make positive words a part of your daily lingo, and work on your body language in way that you come across as friendly and approachable. Look amused when something is amusing, laugh when something is funny, congratulate when someone’s bought something new, and give others a chance to narrate their side of the story. Never think you are the only interesting, knowing one around.
Company: One way to becoming positive is to seek positive company as both positivity and negativity are infectious. If the people you spend most of your time with are grumpy or have a pessimistic standpoint, you’ll find yourself mirroring the same emotions before a different set of people inadvertently. In order to inculcate positivity it is imperative that your friend circle is a positive, energetic, and a happy bunch. You’ll find yourself carrying the same positivity everywhere you go.
Activities: Do not remain idle and brood. Take up positive activities with others or in isolation. Share a joke, narrate a pleasant incident, take part in sporting activities, go for a run in the evening after work, have healthy sex, and you’ll find yourself bubbling with positive energy.
Take it easy: Everyday life is bound to give you shocks. Be prepared to minimise impact and shrug it off. For instance, you may get too hassled everyday while driving to work or trying to park your car. When you accept the fact that certain things cannot be changed, you’ll be more at ease with yourself and those around too.
Learn yoga: Says yoga teacher and nutritionist, Abhilasha Kale, “Do pranayam everyday as it lets you focus and meditate. Not only does it secrete happy hormones but also creates a sense of awareness within you.” With the help of yogic asanas you control your breathing, and by way of it, control your mind from wandering. Every time you do yoga, you feel a surge of positive energythrough your body that calms your nerves, soothes your mind, elevates your mood, and not to mention enhances your level of tolerance.
Maintain a diary: Instead of recounting all events of the day, filter out only the positive ones and make a note of them. It could be anything trivial from your bus arriving on time, your mom cooking a delicious breakfast, to remembering to pay the bills on time. When we look for positivity in the little things that make our lives worthwhile, we leave no room for negativity. “Try consciously practising this for 10 days, and at the end of day ten when you read your diary back you’ll only have memories of all the good things that happened to you,” she asserts.
Say ‘thank you': Thank god, thank your parents, friends, and thank yourself for all the hard work you did, for everything you achieved. Says Abhilasha, “Saying thank you frequently makes you humble, and a humble person is seldom cynical.”
Try these methods, and you’ll be surprised when others notice the change in you.