After some odd years of worrying about everything from exam grades to my social life, I’ve noticed and accepted my unfortunate predisposition to a somewhat negative way of thinking. I’m not saying that I’m an unhappy person or that the glass is always half empty, but I tend to overanalyze things, leading to some negative thoughts (but hey, I guess that’s what prompts me to write, too).
Knowing this, I’m proactive about creating positivity in my life. Even if I am a negative thinker at times, I realize how important it is to make this conscious effort. It’s okay if it doesn’t come so naturally.
1. Make a list of things that make you feel productive and happy.
Do them every day. Sure, watching Netflix for three straight hours after work makes me happy, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel accomplished when I fall into bed at night. To curb these feeling of inadequacy, I wrote a short list of things to do on a daily basis to make me feel happier, and consequently, more positive. If you want to pursue drawing, draw every day—even if it’s just absentmindedly doodling in your notebook. Do things that feed your soul. Trust me, I still have my Mad Men Netflix binges, but it helps to weave in some things of substance—even small things.
2. Listen to happy music.
Dance like a freak. I love Radiohead. I’m obsessed with Nirvana and The Smiths. I get it—sometimes all you want to do is just marinate in that certain kind of mood. But you’d be surprised how much of a difference a little Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes can make in your temperament. Make a playlist of some feel good tunes—they have a way of making your mind go blank and your lips curve into a smile.
3. I know you’ve heard it before, but put a small effort into looking nice every day.
I’ve never been one to dress up for everyday life—I’m a huge advocate for leggings anywhere/anytime. But, there’s an obvious effect of your appearance on your day-to-day life. Before, I would get up for work at 7:50am and leave by 8:10am (yes, I am a girl). Now, I get up 10 minutes earlier and spend extra time on my hair and makeup. A minor change like this can make you more likely to engage in conversation or have a good day overall.
4. Set short term goals.
Like any 20-something, I’ve got big goals. Huge, daunting goals that make me feel so unbelievably overwhelmed that sometimes it’s hard to even start. To ease myself off the cliff, I’ve started listing 3-5 short term goals for the week and setting it as my phone background so I’m forced to look at it like, 100 times a day. They can even be as simple as “write 100 words a day” or “pick up dry cleaning”. Taking things one day at a time really makes your giant shoes to fill feel a little bit more snug.
5. Make a list of things you’ve accomplished.
As a recently graduated college student working an entry-level job/awkward 23-year-old living in my bedroom that hasn’t been redecorated since seventh grade, I get it. It’s easy to think of the bad things sometimes. Turn that way of thinking around—make a small list of what you have done. Hang it up where you can see it. Remind yourself of the good things.
6. Every time you look in the mirror, think of something you like about yourself.
It’s easy to instantly point out all of your flaws, no matter how minor they are. We all do it to a certain extent. Getting in the small habit of giving yourself one or two mental compliments a day can teach you to acknowledge your positive attributes.
7. Exercise or pick up a new hobby.
I’m not going to give you the whole “endorphins make you happy!” speech. Working out, even if your definition of it is walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes (basically all I did in college), makes people feel better about themselves. Committing yourself to something, even if it’s minimal, makes you feel busier and more proactive.
8. Highlight your inner Extrovert or Introvert.
To me, this is a shortcut to happiness and positivity. If you know you need social interaction or an hour of solitude to feel your absolute best, make time for it. As an extrovert, I feel noticeably down in the dumps if I have a particularly unsocial day. This is a simple fix! Complement your personality.
9. Stay busy.
Some of the most analytical times of my life have been when I simply didn’t have enough to do—it breeds boredom and negativity. Staying busy will make you realize that you simply don’t have time to worry about your supposed “cankles” or that stupid joke you made to your co-worker three weeks ago.
10. Realize that this is your life.
It’s all you have. This one may take a long time to internalize, but it’s something that helped me overcome some negative thinking in my life. This is the hand you’ve been dealt—why waste your time analyzing it? Is that going to change anything? Negative thinking and worrying don’t change the future. Work what you have.