It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: You’re running through your upcoming schedule and catch yourself thinking, “And then I have to…” Whether it’s a social obligation, chores, or a monotonous part of your daily routine, we’ve all had an activity come up that elicits that “ugh” reaction.
In these moments, a positive attitude can make all the difference. Research has shown that there are benefits to being optimistic, from better physical and mental health to longer, more satisfying relationships. That’s why we partnered with Life is Good to help you find methods for developing and keeping a positive attitude that can help you to shift your mindset from “I have to” to “I get to.” For example, a positive reframe may turn feeling like you “have to” clean your house into realizing that you “get to” take an hour to yourself to listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to get to while you sweep your floors.
To learn more, we turned to psychologist Dr. Tim Sharp, a leader in the field of positive psychology and the founder and chief happiness officer of The Happiness Institute.
To reap the benefits of positivity, Sharp recommends practicing gratitude every day — emphasis on the “practice.”
“Like anything else, [having a positive mindset] is essentially a skill,” he says. “And, like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So make an effort to practice [being positive] as often as you can; use reminders so you don’t forget; and when you recognize that you’re doing it well, give yourself a pat on the back to reinforce your efforts.”
Some of Sharp’s favorite exercises include using a gratitude journal to write down three things you’re grateful for every day and using downtime to make lists of things for which you’re thankful. He recommends trying to focus more on “what you have, and less on what you don’t have … [and to] think about what’s going well at least as much, if not more than what’s not going well.”
A lot of this is internal, but Sharp recommends turning some of that positive thinking back onto the world: “Don’t just work on feeling grateful, remember also to express gratitude. Tell others why you appreciate them,” he says.
Sharp’s not endorsing keeping your head in the clouds. He defines real optimism as “positive and realistic thinking.” For example, there are certain tasks and days that are going to be challenging or hard to be excited about, but a positive attitude can still improve things.
When you find yourself in a rut, Sharp suggests that you “just get started with anything you can. From little things, bigger things grow and movement leads to momentum.” A small seed of optimism (“When I’m finished with this workout, I get to check it off my list instead of stressing over it.”) can blossom into a more positive outlook overall (“That was a great workout, and I feel awesome!”). He also suggests, “Try to make what you’re doing fun. Put on some music … or turn your tasks into games.” Solidarity can also work wonders: Sharp recommends calling a friend for encouragement to help you persevere.
And if you are already well-versed in gratitude and actively practicing a “get to” mentality, it’s still important to refresh your perspective and your routine every once and awhile. Even methods of being positive can become stale! “One of the more common ‘problems’ — just like in many other areas of life — is boredom,” Sharp says. “So, feel free to vary your practice, try different ways of being thankful or change your practice to different times of the day.” Just like an athlete needs to adjust and refine a training program over time, it takes practice and also a little innovation to stick with any routine. A small modification can offer the perspective that you need to ensure that you keep from sliding into a “have to” attitude, and can help you maintain a “get to” mindset. Sharp points out, “As they say, variety is the spice of life.”
From Life is Good:
Life is Good is on a mission to spread optimism and make the world a better place. They donate 10% of net profits to the Life is Good Kids Foundation to help children overcome the negative impact of trauma, poverty and violence. Every night at the dinner table, Life is Good founders Bert and John Jacobs’ mother, Joan, would say, “Tell me something good that happened today.” Inspired by their mom, and in honor of the brand’s 25th anniversary, they’re encouraging others to do the same. For each #SomethingGood shared, $1 (up to $1 million, through 11/30/19 at 11:59 p.m. EST) will be donated to help kids in need. Learn more and share your #SomethingGood here.
This article was paid for by Life is Good and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.