Personal Development Toolbox

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How to Be a Positive Person

I’ve been counseling using Positive Psychology for many years. Positive, happy people do have an easier time in life, and bounce back from problems faster. There are always things you can do to increase your level of optimism, even if you can’t change who you are. Whether you realize it or not, you are responsible for lifting your own feelings, being a positive person, and no one else is responsible for making you feel better.

To become more positive:

Write down and visualize your goals.

This programs your brain to help you find the positive steps you can take to meet your goals. It will alert your brain to notice things and events that are related to your goal. You will automatically be more aware of certain events, opportunities and people who can be helpful. You’ll also be more clear about what you want, and this will sneak into your conversation and your general attitude, where others can pick up on it.

Ask politely for what you want.

The easiest way to get what you want is to make a pleasant request, and deliver it with a big smile and a warm look. Please is very important, and so is a gracious smile, eye contact, and a warm thank you when the request is met. If you make requests confidently, as if you expect to get a “yes,” it ups the odds that you’ll get one. “Please go to lunch with me” works better than “You wouldn’t want to go to lunch, would you?”

Dress as if you feel special, and act that way.

The more you respect yourself, the more others will respect you. Make sure you present yourself well, dress and act the part.

Accept favors, gifts and compliments gracefully, with thanks.

Don’t worry about whether you deserve the compliment: if someone says something nice, and you respond that you don’t deserve it, you’re effectively calling that person a liar; which is not charming at all. Gratitude for kindness begets more kindness. Nothing works better than a pleasant “thank you so much” to make the kind person feel appreciated, and wanting to give you more. You can also accept credit and still share credit with others: “Thank you so much; it was really Susan’s idea.” Accepts the compliment and shares the love.

Practice a new situation before you do it.

I recommend the “roll the tape” exercise: picture yourself taking some small risk, and watch the scene play out. “Re- roll the tape” several times, and go through the scene again. Practice some different responses and different approaches until you feel comfortable with it. Then, you can try it in the real world.

To enhance your positive experience, do the following steps before any new activity:

Make a mental note of the possibilities: Can you learn something there? Can you meet a new friend? Could it be fun? Will just getting out of the house and around new people feel good?

Remind yourself of your goals: You’re going there to make new friends and to have fun or to learn.

Review your positive personal qualities: What do your friends like about you? What do you like about you? Your intelligence, your sense of humor, your style, your conversation skills? Are you a kind and caring person? Reminding yourself of these qualities means you will enter the event radiating that positive energy.

Thinking and self talk are critical.

Change your thinking.

Everyone has running dialog in their heads, which can be negative and self-defeating, or positive and energizing. Your thoughts affect your mood, and how you relate to yourself can either lift or dampen your spirits. Neuronal activity in the brain activates hormones which are synonymous with feelings. One thing you can do is to monitor your self-talk: what do you say to yourself about the upcoming day, about mistakes, about your luck? If these messages are negative, changing them can indeed lift your spirits and your optimism. The good news is that you can choose to replace your negative monologue with something more positive.


Self-talk is the most powerful tool you have for turning your negative feelings to positive and your negative interactions with your partner to love. Your brain tends to repeat familiar things over and over, wearing the established neuronal pathways deeper and deeper. Repeating a mantra, an affirmation or a choice over and over creates new pathways, which eventually become automatic. The new thoughts will run through your head like the old thoughts did, or like a popular song you’ve heard over and over.

Make the best of who you are.

If you love silence, tend to be quiet, like quiet conversations and not big parties, this may be a genetic trait: your hearing, and nervous system may be more sensitive than someone else’s, and this trait will not go away. You can, however, make the most of it, and learn that creating plenty of quiet in your life will make you a happier person. Quiet moments with your partner will be especially meaningful to you, and make you happy.

If, on the other hand, you’re a party animal-social, enjoying noise and excitement, you can also use that as an asset. You will bring the party to your relationships and music and activity will lift your spirits.

Take charge of your negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are the one thing totally in your control. Turn them around; argue with them, fight them off, wrestle with them. Put energy into it. Let go of whatever you can’t control, such as other people, life’s events, loss, disappointment. Stop trying to change what won’t change, accept what is, let it be and live life as it is. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but once you get a handle on it, life itself is easier. Fretting about what you can’t control is an endless, useless waste of energy you can use elsewhere.

Here are some things you can try that will help in making you more positive:

Make a note.

Write positive comments to yourself on your daily calendar for jobs well done or any achievements you want to celebrate. Your partner will also appreciate little love notes or thank you notes left around to surprise and delight.

Look to your childhood.

Use activities that felt like a celebration in your childhood: did your family toast a celebration with champagne or sparkling cider, a special dessert, a gathering of friends, or a thankful prayer? Create a celebration environment: use balloons, music, flowers, candles, or set your table with the best china. Work with your partner to incorporate both of your childhood celebration elements.

Use visible reminders.

Surround yourself with visible evidence of your successes. Plant a commemorative rosebush or get a new houseplant to mark a job well done, or display photos of fun events, and sports or hobby trophies. It’s a constant reminder that you appreciate yourself and your partner that you’ll both feel daily.

Reward yourself and your friends.

Go out for ice cream, high five each other, toast with champagne or ginger ale in fancy glasses, take a day off for just the two of you, and party every chance you get.

Try laughter.

Find a way to laugh with your partner and others around you every day. Share jokes, funny memories, comedic movies and Internet jokes. It will lower your blood pressure, calm your pulse and generally help you release a lot of stress.


Gratitude is something that always helps remind us that life is not all bad. Every day I see the positive effects of getting my clients to focus on gratitude. The things we feel good about are easily taken for granted, so making sure you spend some of your time noticing what you’re grateful for gives you a chance to register the good things in your life, reduce your stress and anxiety, and feel better about yourself, your relationship, and your life. While stress and anxiety cause the body to release adrenalin and testosterone, focusing on gratitude floods you with oxytocin, acetylcholine and other calming, relaxing agents. Hormones are emotions, emotions are hormones, so when you’re flooded with happy hormones you’ll feel good, and so will those around you.

Daily thanks.

Take some time each day to be thankful for each and every thing that comes your way. Do this silently, for yourself, not ostentatiously, to impress others. If you say a grace before meals, say it silently, and think about how fortunate you are. Hold hands with your partner or family and give thanks for your love.

Keep a gratitude list.

For one week, list every good thing that comes your way-a funny e-mail, a phone call, a business success, a loving gesture, or a sweet moment with your partner. At the end of the week, you’ll be astounded at how much you receive.

Thank your loved ones.

Thanking your partner allows both of you to feel valued. Gratitude is powerful, and, used properly, a much greater motivator than demanding, criticizing, or nagging. Creative gratitude is the most powerful kind. It’s easy to scope out what kind of thank you will be memorable for a particular person, when you’re paying attention. Recognition is a powerful motivating factor, and a little gratitude can go a long way.

Counter negative thoughts.

Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, counter it by giving thanks for something that is good in your life. Change your focus from what’s wrong to what is right.

Count your blessings.

Count everything you already have that you cherish. Consider beginning a gratitude journal, and noting all the positive things, beloved possessions, and tender moments you experience. Or, start a gratitude jar, and note down on scraps of paper all the positive things, beloved friends, favorite possessions, and tender moments you experience in your life and relationship, and store them in the jar. Then whenever you feel frustrated, down or discouraged, pull out a few papers and read them. You’ll find that reminding yourself of all you have to be grateful for will cheer you up and help you remember that your life is a good one.

Get to know yourself.

Just checking in with yourself on a daily basis, knowing how you feel and what you think about whatever is going on in your life will make you happier, and reduce your stress. Being kind to yourself and having a good relationship with you will make all your relationships with other people go more smoothly. Whether you realize it or not, the relationship you have with yourself sets the pattern for how you connect with your partner. By developing a nurturing way to relate to yourself, you create a personal experience of both giving and receiving love.

Know how to soothe yourself.

Familiarity with your feelings helps you make appropriate choices in every phase of your life. When you know how you feel, you also know how to comfort yourself when you’re stressed or tired. What makes you most comfortable, soothes you, helps you recharge? It can be anything from a bubble bath, a session of shooting baskets, a yoga session, or your favorite music to a long walk in the country, a good workout, a phone conversation with your best friend, or a nap. Make a list of your favorite “personal rechargers” and include simple things you can do cheaply (such as relax with a cup of tea and read a favorite book) and also things that are very special (such as a vacation or a massage or a facial). Keep the list where you can refer to it whenever you feel in need of a recharge, and make use of it often.

Maintain your happiness.

Doing what you can to bring as much happiness as possible to yourself and others. Being happy is undeniably good for you; the endorphins it releases reduce stress and pain, and boost your health and immune system. Happiness makes you glad to be alive and pleasant to be around.

Set aside regular time for yourself.

Me time is important for nurturing your relationship with yourself. It is proof that you care about yourself, just as when partner spends time with you, you feel cared about. Take your time for you as seriously as your business appointments or time with your partner. It will help you stay on an even keel, and be a better partner.

Spend time with people you love.

Being with people you care about and who care about you is a great way to affirm your value as a person, and to confirm that your life has meaning and purpose. Make sure you take good care of your friendships and your relationship. Knowing you are loved is a great way to take care of you. Emotional maintenance means thinking about emotional health and staying in touch with your feelings. When you focus on emotional self-care, you and your partner will find hope and energy are created, which gives you even more reason for gratitude.

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