The morning started off so well, until that driver cut you off on the freeway and you found out a co-worker received the promotion you wanted. Soon you find yourself in a rotten mood venting to anyone who will listen. On any given day, there can be a list of situations or events that cause anger or frustration. While it’s natural to want to vent or complain, complaining is only a temporary way to feel better. In most cases, complaining can actually lead to more negative thoughts and unhappiness. So how do you stop complaining? Here are four tips on how to have a more positive outlook on life.
1. Change your way of thinking
Sometimes it’s easier to focus on negative thoughts or situations that occur. So, why is it easier to focus on negative thoughts or situations rather than the good ones? Well, Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist, believes that we focus on negative situations because they impact us more than positive ones. Instead of letting negativity affect you, whenever a negative thought or comment enters your head, stop yourself and think about something positive.
Changing your thought process won’t happen overnight, but with time and practice you will become a more positive person. Instead of putting the spotlight on the bad or negative aspects of a situation, take a deep breath and think of possible solutions or answers. Another way to address an unpleasant thought or situation is to understand why it’s bothering you. Often times I investigate the source of my feelings—it allows me to be more objective.
2. Be accountable
Sometimes enlisting a friend or loved one can be helpful. Be sure you choose someone that will let you know when you’re being negative and redirect the conversation to something more positive.
Another great idea is to have a visible marker like a rubber band, bracelet or a ring to keep you on track. The Huffington Post published the results of a 21-day challenge led by Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister and author. Bowen asked his congregation to stop complaining for three weeks. According to Bowen, it takes 21 consecutive days to break a bad habit. As part of the challenge, participants wore a purple bracelet on their wrists. If the participants complained, they switched the bracelet to the other wrist and started the challenge again from day one.
If visual reminders don’t work for you, try counting to ten or meditating when you feel the urge to complain. Code words or phrases can also be very effective. Whenever either my husband or I are being negative, the other one will say our code word and we know that means stop complaining or being negative.
When all else fails, get moving! Exercise, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to become happier and more positive. Not only will you feel better, but it will help you clear your mind and give you some perspective. So, turn up the music and have a dance party or let your frustrations out in your favorite group fitness class.
3. Start a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is a great way to shift your focus back to all the positive things in your life. You can write in an actual journal or maintain an online journal. Evernote and Color Note are great online options that sync across devices and platforms.
Decide how often you want to write in your journal and try to keep it consistent. Some people write in their gratitude journal every day while others write in their journal once or twice a week. Start by writing about the things you are most grateful for, whether it’s something big or small. This is a great way to remember all of the positive things in your life when you’re feeling sad, angry or frustrated.
Sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I start with the basic things like: I’m grateful for my health, my friends, family and a husband that gives me the confidence to follow my dreams. Once you start, it’s easier to think of other positive things in your life.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
It’s true what they say, if you want to learn about someone, look at their group of friends. Our friends can influence our thoughts, feelings and outlook on life. Two psychologists, Debra Umberson and Jennifer Montez studied the relationship between social relationships and health. They found that our social relationships can have both positive and negative effects on our health as well as our behaviors. If you want to be a positive person, surround yourself with positive people. So, how do you find positive people? Look for people who share your same interests and hobbies. Great places to look are places that attract positive people such as gyms or through volunteering or charity work.
If you find yourself in a negative situation or surrounded by negative people, you can try to lighten the mood. Or, in some cases it might be best to remove yourself from the situation all together.
Remember that it is completely natural to share your feelings of frustration or anger with loved ones. But, it’s more productive to use this opportunity to talk through your feelings and hopefully brainstorm solutions to your problems. One of my favorite quotes that has become something I try to live by is “be the reason someone smiles today.” Don’t let negative people or situations affect how you react or feel. Instead find ways to smile and make others smile.