Have you ever known someone so relentlessly positive that it's kind of annoying?
Someone who responds to setbacks and bad news with stuff like, "Everything happens for a reason," or, "There's a light at the end of the tunnel"? Someone who always, always believes that things are going to work out for the best in the end? Have you ever watched with mild aggravation when things always do, in fact, work out for them?
I'm kinda that person. Not all the time — I certainly have my moments, as my husband and coworkers will attest to. But for the most part, my view on life tends toward the rosy, inspiring side of the spectrum. And there's amazing power in that perspective. But it doesn't always come easy. You might think that some people are simply born positive. But a positive attitude isn't something you're permanently blessed with, like brown eyes. It's more like a muscle. You might be predisposed to optimism but you still have to throw the weights around to reach your full positivity potential. And, even if you're not naturally inclined to find silver linings, you can still get better at it — with a little training.
Research shows that being more positive can help you manifest positive outcomes. So, yes, being positive in the workplace can help you become more successful.
"A positive attitude helps you cope more easily with the daily affairs of life," according to a LinkedIn post by Dr. Sanjay Prem. "It brings optimism into your life, and makes it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking. If you adopt it as a way of life, it would bring constructive changes into your life, and makes them happier, brighter and more successful."
A positive attitude in the workplace is a willingness to do your job without being so down about your responsibilities, colleagues or situations at work. Have a positive attitude at work means that, while you may still recognize some negatives about your job tasks or coworkers or specific situations at work, you perform your best anyway and look on the bright side.
Of course, it's not always easy. But there are steps you can take to showing a positive attitude at work.
Here are 12 ways to pump up your positive mental attitude (even when your inner Debbie Downer wants to throw in the towel).
1. Say "I get to" more than "I have to."
One thing that triggers a negative attitude for me is feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities. My kids. My husband. My home. My career. My various side hustles. It's exhausting to have so much to do for so many people all the time. When I start to feel like I'm drowning in all I "have to" do, I try to remember that all of it comes from the very best things in my life — kids, husband, home, career, hustles. Taking care of them is something I get to do. A privilege...even when it's a pain. You can probably say the same about what stresses you out. U2 said it best: "...in dreams begin responsibilities."
2. Worry about your own attitude.
Grumbling at the barista who can't be bothered with your super specific latte order? Hackles rise every time you get an e-mail from that snippy coworker? If you try to out-attitude everyone who doesn't treat you like the queen you are, you're just adding more negative energy to the air that you have to breathe too. So do your best to keep your own attitude in check, even if the people around you aren't.
3. Embrace a Tigger for every Eeyore.
About that Tip #2: it’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to people close to you. Attitudes are contagious, both negative and positive. So if all your friends have doom and gloom mindsets, your sunny outlook won’t stand a chance of breaking through. Does that mean you have to ditch your dour bestie and befriend a more optimistic camper? Of course not. But be aware of the kind of energy you’re going to get from negative people and interact accordingly. I know exactly whom to go to in my life when I want rah-rah reinforcement, nurturing encouragement, an open ear with no judgment, and a detailed run-down of the worst possible scenarios in any situation. Guess what? They’re four different people.
4. Bitch, moan, move on.
Positive pscyhology doesn't mean being in a perpetually good mood. Crap happens, and you have every right to react to it. I myself have been known to mutter "Oh for $%!@ sake" at the conference table when a particularly tight deadline or outrageous expectation is presented (and I'm from New York, so my muttering is like other people's talking). You can't stop those feelings from popping up, but you can stop yourself from following them all the way down the dark and stormy path.
5. Blame yourself.
So, things didn’t work out exactly as you planned. Is it because everyone else sucks, no one understands, and the universe is conspiring against you? Or is it possible that you made some bad moves yourself? It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s better for your psyche to take some responsibility for the bad stuff that happens in your life. Because if you think of life as something that happens to you, if you believe negative occurrences are imposed upon you by forces beyond your control, that puts you in pretty helpless position. And nothing breeds a negative attitude like helplessness.
6. Slow the heck down.
You ever have one of these mornings? The kids wake up late, your husband takes the longest shower known to man; your four-year-old takes an eternity to put on his socks so you’re late and annoyed by the time you leave the house. As soon as you get everyone buckled in their car seats and throw the car in reverse, you realize that you left your stupid salad in the fridge and you have to get it because if you don’t there’s a 96% chance you’ll get pork belly tacos for lunch instead, which would completely kill your two-day paleo streak. So, you run back in and get the damn salad but you’re in such a rush that you forget to set the alarm on the way out and have to go back in again. Now you’re in a frenzy, so you don’t watch where you’re going, trip over a tiny Lego head and knock over the trash can on your way down, covering the kitchen floor with coffee grinds, egg shells and the oatmeal that your two-year-old screamed for and then didn’t eat. I’ve had entire months like this. Even if you don’t have kids or a husband or little Legos always underfoot, you’ve probably lived through your own version of this morning. It’s the product of all our frantic, stressful, overloaded lives. And stress is a positivity and happiness killer. So do yourself a favor. Once in a while, take something off your plate. And it doesn’t have to be the pork belly tacos.
Before I started practicing meditation, I thought of it as a tool to clear my mind. But what it really does, at least for me, is help me control my mind, and my mental reactions to things. One of the biggest lessons you learn in meditation is to let things go. You have a singular focus (when you’re just starting out, it’s your breath), but when other thoughts bubble up, you simply acknowledge them and then let them go. You don’t resist, you don’t try to silence them, you don’t beat yourself up for not being Zen enough. You simply let them pass through. It may sound simple to you. But for someone accustomed to following and reacting to all the stimuli in my environment, this technique is fairly revolutionary. And it comes in handy even when you’re not meditating. You’re never going to eradicate negative events and emotions from your life, even as a predominantly positive person. But through meditation, you can develop the mental strength to accept things with grace and let them go.
8. Get moving.
That’s right — good old-fashioned exercise. Working out gets the blood pumping and activates endorphins, which are pretty much responsible for all the good feels you ever feel. People who work out regularly aren’t just happier because they look better in swimsuits. They’re happier because they’ve got actual brain science on their (love-handle free) sides.
9. Consider all the people who are affected by your mood.
If you are a partner, a parent, a leader or part of a team in any way, your attitude has a ripple effect on those around you. Take this responsibility seriously. Both positivity and negativity spread like a virus. You’re patient zero, and it’s up to you whether the people you care about will start foaming out the mouth or spitting rainbows.
10. Stop worrying about imaginary situations.
We all love to play “what if?” What if I lost my job tomorrow? What if we hate the new neighbors? What if the car I just bought turns out to be a lemon? What if this blind date turns out to be an axe murderer? It’s perfectly natural — and advisable — to prepare for future events by thinking through a few potential scenarios. But try not to spend too much time wallowing in hypothetical disaster. Researchers have found that over time, thinking about a bad situation over and over again can have as detrimental an impact on your mind as actually experiencing it. In other words, prevent space for a self-fulfilling prophecy by instead devoting that energy to positive thinking.
11. Put your heart into things — even when you don’t feel like it.
A friend once told me that the cure for burnout isn’t rest, it’s whole-heartedness. I come back to this advice often. When I’m struggling with a tough project, a tough client or just a tough week, it’s easy to give in to that frustration and those negative thoughts. But nothing gets better when I’m stuck in that state. As long as I’m spending energy being annoyed at whatever it is I’m doing, I’m not actually doing it well. And when I don’t do things well, well, they don’t get done. They hang around, causing ever more stress and frustration. On the other hand, when I finally decide to suck it up and give something my best shot, not only does it feel better in the short term, but it has a better chance of achieving whatever the goal was in the first place. So when those negative emotions start to set in — this project is too hard, this client is too demanding, this deadline is too unrealistic, this kid is too much — instead of giving in, remember that giving it your all may be your only way out of this mess.
12. Be grateful.
If I had to write just one positivity tip for this article, this would be it. No matter what kind of hardship you’re currently facing, you must have something you can be grateful for. You probably have many, many things. Some you’ve never even acknowledged. Now’s the time. Don’t fixate on what you don’t have, what you can’t do, and what you don’t like. The key to maintaining a positive outlook is putting your energy and gratitude toward what you do have, what you can do, and what actually makes you happy. In time, you’ll start getting more of that stuff in return.
Diane Levine is the Associate Creative Director of the award-winning branding and marketing agency Think Creative. She specializes in writing, branding, marketing and inspiring people to believe in their own awesomeness so they can find more joy at work and in life (she writes more on those topics on her personal blog, Operation Goosebumps). She is a mom of two, a wife of one, and a collector of many pairs of high heels.