The art of positive thinking is still something many people struggle to master. Even if there is plenty of books, articles, courses and videos on how to become and stay more positive, being positive seems to remain one of the hardest achievements in life.

In search of positivity, we become better people. We stop looking for reasons to worry or get angry where there aren’t any.

Being positive is neither ignoring your problems nor putting a pair of pink sunglasses on and pretending that life is beautiful when it sucks.

Being positive is overcoming your initial impulse to bury yourself underneath a pile of self-pity and self-criticism in case of trouble.

That’s way easier said than done, but trust me: it’s possible to find motivation and inspiration even in the darkest days when everything seems a big ugly failure.

Check out the tips below and try to apply them in your everyday life. Your future (needless to say, more positive) self will be damn grateful!

This article may contain affiliate links, for more information, read the Disclaimer. If you click on any of them, I might get a tiny commission. I’ve tried all of the mentioned products and services, and my opinion is sincere. 


1. Work out and shake that body! 

Restart your mind with a sweaty workout and feel the happiness boost that will conquer you. Doing any kind of sport triggers the production of endorphins. Those brain chemicals make you feel relaxed and in a significantly better mood. Furthermore, while you’re physically active, your brain is busy paying attention to the activity itself, so it lets the negative thoughts that might have been swirling around go.

In order to obtain the full benefit sport can give you, you have to “get into the flow” – the psychological state of complete absorption in an activity. This can only happen if you are working out regularly. And by “regularly” I don’t mean every first Friday of the month!

Building up a sports routine can be really difficult, especially if you’ve never worked out on a regular basis. But here are a couple of steps that might be helpful:

  • Choose the sport you enjoy doing. You still haven’t found one? Keep on trying new sorts! This is very important as doing anything that you find annoying or boring will bring you down instead of making you feel better.
  • Set challenging but achievable goals. Determine your level and be realistic. I can guarantee you that if you overdo your first workout, there won’t be a second one. Also, you can’t possibly be in a better mood if you are exhausted and barely stand on your feet, right?
  • Eliminate distractions. It is crucial that you put your smartphone away and take rather short breaks. This way you’ll focus on the physical activity and therefore take advantage of all the positive consequences it has on your mind.

Related: The Expat Wellbeing Project: Dance If You Feel Lonely!

2. Use self-reflection and silence your inner critic

Most of the time, it’s not the circumstances that make you feel bad. It’s your thoughts. In other words: negative thoughts lead to pessimism which, as we all know, is the exact opposite thing of being positive.

Of course, there are situations where you can’t possibly stay positive but the way you approach every new day inevitably affects your attitude towards life.

Are you in a hurry to deny this? Read carefully: you might not be aware of the thought processes that bring you down. Most people think that it’s the frustrating situation that ruins their mood. Well, it isn’t.

The key is hiding in the self-reflection. Take the time to get to know yourself. Be honest although it’s difficult. Is there a voice in your head that always complains or criticises?

Even if you are living an amazing, carefree life in paradise, you’ll be negative as long as this voice keeps on being so loud. You’ll see the smallest issue as an enormous obstacle. Everything and everyone will be insufficient, boring or annoying to you. Including… yourself.

One way to start this inner dialogue is via a journal. Writing down your thoughts is a wonderful way of coping with them. After a week or two, you’ll find the patterns that haunt you on a daily basis and influence your mood in a negative way.

If you’ve tried starting a journal but you always struggle to be consistent with it, I highly recommend The Five Minute Journal.

I got it during a difficult period of my life but it helped me focus on the beauty in our world and practice mindfulness every single day. Before that, I tried using an ordinary notebook as a gratitude journal but it really didn’t work. I was either losing focus while writing in it or didn’t get to write in it at all.

The Five Minute Journal’s structure is based on positive psychology research and is super simple to use. Even though it takes only five minutes to finish the journaling for the day, you’ll instantly notice a flip in your point of view. And once becoming more positive, you will fall in love with life again!

You can get The Five Minute Journal from here. (affiliate link)

Related: How to Beat Procrastination Once and For All

Another great technique for becoming more aware of your inner voice is to conduct a written inner thoughts conversation. You only need an empty piece of paper and a pen.

Split the sheet into two columns. In the left one, you will write down the self-criticism you experience in the shape of negative thoughts. The right one is for your rational response which will play the role of self-defence.

For example, if I have to make this exercise now, I would have a conversation with my (extremely convincing) inner critic about my Dutch level.

Whenever you hear the voice that is trying to bring you down, conduct such a dialogue and feel the relief it will bring you. Realizing that your negative mood is simply a result of irrational thought is the first step of overcoming this vicious circle.

3. Use a habit tracker for a positive change

Your habits also make you feel in a certain way. Maybe you are already aware of a habit that has a negative impact on your mood or you want to adopt a new habit like the workout routine we discussed earlier in this article. Whatever the case, you can use one simple technique in order to support the change.

I can highly recommend using a habit tracker. It can a be part of your bullet journal if you have one. But it can also be a self-standing piece of paper that helps you track your progress.

The habit tracker is basically a chart with the habits you want to change on the left and the days of the month on top. On a daily basis, you put a mark if you’ve practised a certain habit.

Having a visual overview is a powerful way to see real, concrete progress towards having more positive habits which leads to a more positive attitude. For example, if you want to adopt a workout routine or to give up eating junk food, the habit tracker will motivate you to change your behaviour.

The action of putting a mark after doing something has a remarkable impact on human’s mind. It is very important that you don’t give up too quickly though. The results of the study How Are Habits Formed: Modelling Habit Formation in the Real World show that on average, it takes 66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic.


4. Socialize but choose your friends wisely

Even for the biggest introverts socializing might have a positive impact if done properly. Interacting with others will boost your mood and increase the feeling of well-being.

If you are struggling to be positive, find somebody that has a strong positive influence on you. Here are some activities that will help you meet new people:

  • VolunteeringThis is a great way to meet people with completely different backgrounds and interests. Volunteering can be a lot of fun, too! Just find a project related to a topic that’s close to your heart. Taking care of pets, teaching kids, repairing an old building, organising events – it can be literally anything!
  • Attending a course. Sign up for a course in order to learn a new skill or to improve an existing one. There you’ll meet people with similar interests. You may go to drawing, writing, photography, cooking or language courses. The possibilities are endless. If you meet somebody that looks like an inspiring person, don’t miss your chance – ask them whether they have time for a cup of coffee after the class. This way you will make new friends who will help you change your perspective.
  • Playing team sports. We already talked about the direct positive effect that working out has on your brain. But there’s more to it! Attending team sports activities will give you the opportunity to expand your circle of friends while taking care of your mind and your body. This sounds like a good deal, right?

Once you surround yourself with people that bring the best of you, you will find out that the world has become a better place. At the same time, avoid building relationships with people who constantly bring you down. The most important rule is:

Better be alone than in bad company.


Of course, friends are to support each other in good and bad times. I’m not implying that you should abandon your closest people only because they share their problems with you. But sometimes while trying to be nice and have sympathy you get in the snare of a toxic person without even noticing. This is the interaction you’d be better off without.

5. Do a digital detox and leave all devices behind

What do you do in your free time? Scroll until you faint? If that’s the case, no wonder you are struggling to be more positive towards your life.

Checking your smartphone while staring at the TV while listening to a podcast on your tablet is not a very good idea, to say the least. Especially taking into consideration the fact that your work most probably requires a couple of hours per day in front of a screen.

There is a huge chance that your concept of spending your free time in a “fun” and “relaxing” way includes switching to a digital mode. If that’s the case, I want to tell you an uncomfortable but important truth:

Digital addiction leads to anxiety, depression and stress.

It alienates people. Spending time online requires your attention so you begin feeling overwhelmed. Furthermore, social media can make you feel inferior or negative about the life you lead as your mind most probably believes that everything you see there is true.

Improve your lifestyle once and forever. Start consciously spending at least one hour per day doing something else than using your devices. Nope, we don’t count the time you spend on your needs, like eating and sleeping. It’s more about using your free time purposefully.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Digital Detox

You can try doing activities that bring you benefit (like working out) or knowledge (like reading). Another great idea is to spend this time in silence. Meditate at home or go for a walk in nature. This will help you get better in self-reflecting as during those moments you will be actually able to hear your thoughts.

In order to adopt this habit, you can use the habit tracker mentioned above. Set the goal “one hour without any devices” and then put a mark on each day you were able to achieve this.

6. Meditate and live in the present moment

Sometimes you get in the negative thoughts’ flow because you are stuck in a situation from the past or you are too focused on the future.

Overthinking a past moment includes restless thoughts about what you could have done better and what else you should have said. There is no point of reliving a moment in a way that makes you feel bad. This will influence your attitude toward everything that you do right now. Which is actually the only time that matters.

Same goes with worrying about things that will happen in the future. Maybe. Potentially. You actually never know. Of course, have your healthy dose of planning and plotting. But don’t forget to enjoy, cherish and take the most of the present moment.

A great way to remind yourself it’s time to focus on what is happening here and now is to meditate. There are a lot of online sources that can introduce you to the art of meditation. For example, I have been using the 20 Minute Mindfulness Meditation for Being Present created by The Mindful Movement. It helped me in times when I was struggling to calm down my thoughts and to concentrate on what I am doing in the current moment.


What is your way to become and stay more positive? I will be happy to hear your opinion!

Follow The Zen Freelancer on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for more articles like this one.

Get useful tips on becoming a zen freelancer and living the life you would really like to live. Click here to join the community!