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5 Ways to Cultivate Optimism for More Happiness

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By Kelly Cunningham, NLC

Health and happiness go hand and hand. And when it comes to happiness, individual thoughts are powerful.

Are you tired of thinking “I’m never going to get this right” or “I might as well give up now” or “I’m not good enough, thin enough, or smart enough for this”?  I certainly am.

The truth is, negative self-talk can seriously affect our moods and bodies. According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows positive thinking is associated with lower rates of depression, better cardiovascular health, increased life span (that’s a big one!), and even a greater resistance to the common cold.

I’m someone who needs to be reminded of how important a positive outlook can be and how to be more optimistic day to day. In case you are, too, here are five tips to cultivate more positivity for a happier, healthier life.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Conquer Fear for More Happiness and Success

5 Ways to Increase Positive Thinking

positive thinking

1. Actively express gratitude

The research on how expressing gratitude leads to a more optimistic outlook and a happier life is impressively solid. So, send a thankful email to someone in your circle. Use the end of the week as a reflection time to journal on meaningful experiences. You can build this habit by writing three to five things you are grateful for at the end of each day. This repetition can help you seek out positive nuggets throughout your day. They may be big, like getting a good report at the doctor, or they may be small, like catching a hummingbird getting a drink from a gorgeous flower. Unlock your own positive power! The whole act of looking for moments of gratitude will truly shift your focus.

2. Try visualization and meditation

Slowing down on purpose helps us see things more clearly in order to be less reactive and more positive throughout the day. I often use the image of a snow globe when I am trying to slow my busy mind down. Your mind might be full and cloudy like a snow globe all shook up.  Intentionally, take a few slow and deep breaths as you imagine the globe becoming more and more clear. Let your mind settle as you breathe the image in. There are also numerous apps out there with 5- to 10-minute guided meditations, many of which focus on positive thinking, that you can easily add into your day.

RELATED: Could Learning to Meditate Change How You Handle Stress?

3. Choose your surroundings carefully

If you spend time with a Negative Nancy all day, it is bound to rub off on you. Of course, we don’t always have the option to avoid others who bring us down. So if you can’t avoid, try to limit the time. Then, if you have a friend who always knows how to brighten your day or make you laugh, reach out to them more. Spend more time with people who celebrate life and inspire you.

4. Read up on happiness

The news may bring you down, so try to also surround yourself with encouraging books to read. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan are great to start with. What you focus your attention on will shift your daily mindset.

5. Let go, and be playful

We all know we need to step away from email and our phone more. We also know this does not just naturally happen.  Be intentional about no-phone dinners or setting a time limit for work in the evening. Lightening up your daily load can greatly influence your happiness, since going through life “white-knuckling” drains your energy.  We have to find our own way to let go a little.  Although spontaneous fun is great when it happens, it might be more realistic to schedule some play time. Get outside more, find a funny movie to watch, or find more sources of goodness.

Will these little tips really make a difference? Yes! The mind-body connection is real, and we must give it the respect it deserves. Just like food can heal your body, increasing positivity and building a healthy mindset can impact your health. Empower yourself to add more joy and happiness to your life, today.

(Photos: Shutterstock)


positive thinking

Kelly Cunningham is a licensed psychotherapist, a Duke Integrative Health Coach, and is Nutritious Life Certified. Her unique style includes a therapeutic foundation along with training in integrative health and executive coaching, allowing her to tailor solutions for each individual.  She resides in Southern California providing services to a national client base. Visit her website at www.kellycunninghamcoaching.com and follow her on Facebook and on Instagram at @kellycunninghamcoaching.

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