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12 Ways to Develop a Positive Mindset

By Leah Zerbe

March 19, 2024

Positive mindset

Your mind is a powerful thing. Just think about it: A prolonged negative mindset is shown to impact everything from your digestion and immunity to your heart and brain function. In fact, folks who take a “glass half-empty” view of life are more likely to have their health impacted negatively compared to optimists.

If you’ve fallen into this negativity trap, don’t despair. Many people have used the following lifestyle hacks to shift their perspective into a more positive mindset.

To be clear, some level of negative thinking is healthy. In fact, many researchers believe it’s built into our DNA as an adaptive evolutionary function that helped the human race survive.

The problem is that in today’s modern world, negative thoughts seem to be operating in overdrive.

What Is a Positive Mindset?

While our brains prioritize negative information and threats to increase survival, letting negativity bias takeover our thoughts is not healthy. That’s why so many people today are working on balancing their thoughts to include exercises on how to be positive.

Positive psychology experts point out that a positive mindset attitude generally includes characteristics like …

  • Optimism

  • Gratitude

  • Acceptance

  • Resilience

  • Integrity

  • Consciousness/mindfulness

Adopting this optimistic outlook on life means you tend to focus on the good in situations, and tend to bounce back more easily when things don’t go your way.

And with this positive thinking comes benefits like …

  • Stress reduction

  • Less anxiousness

  • More confidence

  • Increased happiness

  • Encouragement to adopt healthy habits

To be clear … only thinking positively is not healthy, either, and can lead to “toxic positivity." The name of the game here is to build balance in your thoughts and view them without judgement. This will help you learn to embrace the feelings that come forward in your life without falling into a negativity spiral. Compassion is key.

Now, there are certainly cases when we do need to think critically about a situation — and this includes important issues in society. But instead of simply offering the downside of a problem or situation, also work on contributing some possible solutions and open the floor for other ideas.

Standard and Surprising Causes of a Less Than Positive Outlook

Having a positive outlook doesn’t just automatically happen for many. And there are typical as well as some surprising causes of not having one very often.

Typical causes can include:

  • Stress, whether intermittent or more constant

  • Bad life experiences

  • Too much alcohol

  • Hormones out of balance

  • Feeling lonely

Surprising causes can include:

  • Caffeine or sugar intake

  • Consuming too many ultra-processed foods

  • Having limited funds

  • Having a long commute

  • Working long hours

  • Not taking enough vacation from work

  • Not having social support during the weekends/during time off

  • Not enjoying your job

  • Excessive concern about the environment or natural disasters

Ready for some positive mindset pointers? Here are some tried-and-true ways to develop a positive mindset...

12 Ways to Help Achieve a Positive Mindset

Is some positive mindset training in order in your situation? Here are some great approaches for how to stay positive and how to maintain a positive mindset for the long haul.

Just like anything, focusing on how to be more positive and staying positive requires practice, so start small by trying one or two things on this list for several weeks, and then build from there.

1. Practice gratitude

Put simply, gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful. And this well-known happiness booster is available to all of us and costs nothing. Research shows that gratitude not only increases our happiness and supports a positive mindset, but it also helps reduce feelings of loneliness, jealousy and other negative thinking patterns.

Try starting your day out by writing down several things you’re thankful for. They can be big or small and could focus on things like your family, friends, health, connection to nature and animals or even your workplace connections.

2. Consider these supplements

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb in use for more than 2,500 years. It helps reduce stress and brain fog while promoting a positive mindset, but it does much more, too. Ashwagandha promotes mental clarity and concentration, supports healthy energy and even more restful sleep.

That’s why this is considered one of the No. 1 herbal supplements in general for cultivating a positive mindset.

Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy cognitive function and a healthy response to oxidative stress, which can impact your mindset and energy levels.

Ancient Omegas Whole Body provides 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, DHA, ETA and EPA — all types of fatty acids important for health. Ancient Nutrition’s omega formula also features antioxidants and botanicals, including lemon peel oil and black pepper fruit to support absorption.

We know that the health of the gut plays a role in our mindset, so it makes sense to work on maintaining healthy gut microflora with probiotic supplements.

Ancient Nutrition's SBO Probiotics Mental Clarity Capsules contain clinically studied SBO probiotics that can survive and thrive in harsh environments, like the gut. This formula also features superfood ingredients like ashwagandha and functional mushrooms to promote a positive mindset, mental clarity, concentration and healthy energy levels. It also support healthy digestion, healthy bowel transit time and health elimination.

3. Eat the right foods

One recent study showed that poor nutrition is a risk factor for low mood and even brain fog — and that improving your diet may help to bolster your overall mood. Certain foods or diets have an effect on blood sugar levels, immune activation and the gut microbiome — all factors that may play a role in the relationship between food and mood. 

Mood-boosting foods that can help include healthy fats like avocados and wild-caught salmon, which can support healthy hormone balance and improve satiety — making you content and energized for hours after a meal.

The fatty acids in avocado play a role in cognitive processes and impact neurotransmitter levels, while oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that promotes healthy cognitive function and a healthy response to oxidative stress in the body. Wild fish are also rich in protein, providing amino acids that the body uses to create neurotransmitters, which can have a positive influence on your mood and energy levels.

Don't forget the dark chocolate, too. Good quality dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and mood-lifting compounds, including theobromine and phenylethylamine. 

Meanwhile, berries, including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, are rich in nutrients that are important for healthy cognitive processes. 

4. Lift others up

Showing kindness to others actually boosts your own happiness. When you think of something positive about someone else, don’t just keep it to yourself — let them know.

Sharing compliments either verbally or through a handwritten note won’t just make someone else feel better, it’ll create more happiness for you, too, while creating positive reinforcement for your positive mind frame.

5. Keep your complaining in check

Sure, it’s often easier to focus on the negative than the positive, so try this exercise to break the cycle. Before you fall into the standard conversation complaining about the weather (or someone else), stop yourself.

Find something you genuinely are grateful for in that moment to share, and if you can’t think of anything uplifting to say, try saying silent and listening.

6. Strike up healthy conversations

Building a community of people you can hold uplifting conversations with is key. Make sure your inner circle is full of people who will explore and dream with you, not just folks always focusing on the downside of things.

7. Turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk

The first step here is identifying negative self-talk triggers. Start by writing down negative messages in your head — and the situations that precede them — to start identifying patterns.

You can also try …

  • When you think critically about someone (or yourself), try replacing that thought with something positive about them (or yourself).

  • When someone gives you a compliment, write it down and store it in a “positivity folder;” and revisit this often.

  • Limit your exposure to TV news coverage, which tends to focus on the negative.

8. Drop what’s bringing you down

Notice how you feel after spending time with different people. If you consistently feel negative and down after spending time with someone, it may be time to limit your exposure to them.

Instead, try spending time in nature with people who lift you up.

9. Practice self-care

Just like brushing your teeth, practicing positive self-talk should be a daily practice. Other self-care practices include:

10. Develop (and practice!) a daily affirmation

Positive mindset quotes, or affirmations, are a great way to start your day. Practice your positive phrases that energize you and bring about a sense of pride and self worth.

Some examples of positive thoughts or affirmations include …

  • I am enough.

  • My happy thoughts help create my healthy body.

  • I am in charge of how I feel and today I am choosing happiness.

  • I am resilient, strong, and brave, and I can’t be destroyed.

  • I accept and love myself, thoroughly and completely.

11. Turn mistakes and failures into learning opportunities

One of the key traits of someone with a positive mindset is they can find a positive in a negative situation. So even if something goes wrong, a positive person generally will be looking for learning opportunities even when things don’t go their way.

12. Practice mindfulness

Being self-aware is an important component of positive thinking. And one way to tap into this is to practice mindfulness exercises.

A body scan relaxation is one great place to start. Simply lie on your back on the floor, close your eyes and connect with your breathing. Then, focus your awareness on different parts of your body as you breathe, bringing together the breath and the mind.

With a B.A. in journalism from Temple University and a M.S. in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania, Leah Zerbe covers health news and functional fitness topics. She’s also a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a certified yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. Leah resides on her family’s organic farm in Pennsylvania.

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