10 ways to be positive in a negative world

How to combat negativity bias in your daily life


SAN ANTONIO – As the months and years of the pandemic continue to go on, I realize there is a part of my life that has changed since March 2020. Maybe you’ve noticed the same change in you. This difference is that, as a self-proclaimed positive person, I find it harder to think positively.

Do you find it very easy to tell someone the bad things that happened to you today but struggle to remember the good? And not only do you remember the bad, but you fixate on those experiences and feelings? This is called negative bias.

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The negative messages that are thrown at us from different areas of our lives can be all-consuming if we aren’t careful. After all, our brains are naturally hardwired to look for negativity and dwell on them, thanks to our ancestors who had to focus on avoiding dangerous, threatening situations just to stay alive.

I work every day to consciously be aware of how I approach my job, relationships, and life in general because it’s not as easy as it used to be to let negative thoughts go. I’m proud to be the safe place my friends and loved ones go to when they are struggling with mental health challenges. But feelings are more intensified these days with fear, stress, sadness, and anxiety. I recognize that I can’t help them if I don’t take care of myself, just like a flight attendant says to “put your oxygen mask on first.”

That’s why I’ve deliberately started working on keeping a positive attitude throughout my day. It is an ongoing task, but one I think is so important for my mental health. I’ve written before about how journaling has helped me stay positive during the pandemic. But I wanted to share 10 more ways we can work on seeking positivity:

1. Limit exposure to media and social media. Overconsumption of social media and news surrounding the pandemic has led to more mental health challenges. Instead of randomly consuming social media and news throughout the day, consider blocking off a part of your day for it, such as 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.

2. Reframe your thoughts. When we are defeated, it is easy to think negatively. A lot of times those automatic thoughts aren’t true and should be replaced with a more balanced thought. For example, some people are struggling financially these days. They might be thinking “I’m so irresponsible. I’m never going to climb out of this hole.” Instead, they could say “When I look at all my debt, I am overwhelmed. But there are small actions I can take now to start getting out of debt.”

3. Use a mantra. Having prepared statements to say to yourself can help you silence the negative voices in your head. Some examples include “You can do hard things” or “It is going to be okay.” What is your mantra? Pick one that fits you and say it to yourself often so that when negative thoughts sneak in your head, your mantra is right there to pull you through.

4. Find your passion. Find something that brings you joy and then make time for it. Maybe there’s something you used to do that made you happy that has dropped out of your routine. Is it exercising, watching the sunset, drawing, or something else? Putting it back into your life, or adding something new, in a small dose can exponentially change the way you view your own happiness.

5. Listen to music. Uplifting music is a powerful tool to boost your mood, as your body releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone. I personally love finding music I haven’t heard in a long time that brings up a positive memory. It’s beautiful to revisit the positive feelings I had during the period of time that the music reminds me of.

6. Surround yourself with positive people. Even positive people can struggle with negativity if they are surrounded by scared and anxious people. Make sure to include people in your life who can find the good during this challenging time and who can recognize that there is an opportunity to evolve during the pandemic.

7. Do something nice for someone. Get out of your head by helping someone. When you do a good deed for someone else, it not only improves the mood of the person you helped, but it also improves your mood AND the mood of anyone who witnessed the good deed. A great way to experience this is by volunteering.

8. Make a list. Write down the things you are most proud about yourself. Put that list in a well-trafficked part of your home so that you can read it daily. I want you to read it so often that it becomes a natural thing for you to talk about with loved ones.

9. Write a letter. Pick up a pen and paper and handwrite a letter of gratitude to someone you appreciate. Be sure to share with them what you think makes them special. This act will show you the depth of human kindness and the way it contributes to your own happiness.

10. Go outside. Now is a great time to be outside in nature, taking in the changing seasons. This time of year is a good reminder that what goes up, must come down; and what comes down, must go up. Life isn’t just about what you experience today.

However you choose to bring positivity into your life, just remember to be conscious of the world around you. In fact, research shows that it takes three positive thoughts to negate a negative thought. Negative messaging is everywhere but you have the tools to counteract that so you can live a more positive, healthy life.

Read more like this on our Mental Wellness page:

About the Author:

Talli Dolge is the host of the KSAT video podcast "From Living in Silence to Living Out Loud." She is the founder and creator of the Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative. She has also contributed on-air and online for KSAT 12 since 2020. Talli earned a Master's Degree in School/Community Counseling from SUNY.