self improvement tips

34 Ways to Encourage Positive Thinking

The brain is a powerful organ; it controls the entire body. But your thought process is much more influential. Your thoughts dictate who you become, what you do, and the success you’ll have.

Take some time to really analyze your thoughts. Which direction do they point you?

Buddha said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” If an inventory of your thought process yields more negative thinking than positive, it’s time to make some changes.

Here are 34 things you can do to encourage positive thinking.

  1. Stop saying, “I can’t.” If you hear it too often, you’ll convince yourself it’s true. Instead, say, “I’ll try my hardest,” or, “I’ll do my best.”
  2. When you start to feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts, force yourself to focus on positive things. Look around you and appreciate the simple things—even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  3. Fill your vocabulary with words that encourage success, strength, encouragement, motivation and optimism.
  4. Assume the best. Don’t go into a project with a negative mindset, convinced you will fail. Approach each task knowing that you have the power to succeed.
  5. Learn from your mistakes. Thinking positively doesn’t mean you should block out all negativity. We all make mistakes—learn from them. Reflect on how the situation could have been handled differently and adjust accordingly.
  6. Recognize your own contributions. Sure, group efforts are good, but that doesn’t mean you should discount your value. If you made positive contributions to a project or task, pat yourself on the back!
  7. Look for the silver lining. Bad things happen; as much as you try to prevent those situations from happening, they will. When they do, look for the silver lining. Maybe getting fired from your job was just the kick you needed to finally start your own business.
  8. Visualize your success. Are you determined to lose weight? Hang a pair of “skinny” jeans on the refrigerator door. Want to save enough money for a Florida vacation? Tape a picture of a beach sunset to your computer monitor.
  9. Sit up! Slouching is bad for your posture and your attitude.
  10. Change your clothes. If you feel better about yourself—and how you look—you’ll naturally radiate confidence. When you feel more confident, you’ll have a better outlook on life.
  11. Write down your negative thoughts. You may be able to detect a pattern.
  12. Write down your successes. Once you stop to think about it, you’ll realize there are a lot more good things happening in your life than you thought.
  13. Help someone else. Often times, we get too wrapped up in our own drama. We forget how fortunate we really are. Volunteer to help a good cause.
  14. Send someone a thank you note. Be grateful for the people in your life and the ways they help enhance your existence.
  15. Turn off the TV and chuck the newspaper. These days, it seems the nightly newscasts are filled with sad, depressing stories. If you are already struggling to think positively, those gloomy stories will only make you feel worse.
  16. Take a class. Often times, we feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do. Adding one more event to your daily (or weekly) routine might seem counterintuitive. But learning something new can help your brain stay active. If you need suggestions on where to start, check this list.
  17. Create something. If you create something from nothing, you’ll have an immense sense of accomplishment. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfect. The process—not the product—is important. Do a puzzle, bake a cake, paint your living room.
  18. Go somewhere new. Explore things you’ve never noticed before. Venture down a new walking path, eat at a new restaurant, visit an art gallery.
  19. When faced with an obstacle, chunk it up. Take a large, seemingly impossible task and break it up into manageable chunks. Each time you accomplish one of your mini goals, you’ll be that much closer to completely mastering the task.
  20. Don’t make excuses. Whether you voice them out loud or simply pass them off in your thinking, don’t make excuses for your behavior—or anyone else’s.
  21. Don’t be a victim. Bad things happen to everyone. Hosting a pity party and hoping people will feel sorry for you won’t make things better.
  22. Grow something. Surround yourself with new life. You’ll be amazed at how fresh flowers can boost your mood.
  23. Spend time with animals. Tell the truth; have you ever stood in front of the monkey cage at the zoo and felt sad, stressed, depressed or had any other negative thought? No. It’s impossible. If you can’t manage a trip to the zoo, visit the pet store. Watching little kittens roll all over each other is sure to bring a smile to your face.
  24. Buy a radio alarm clock. Program your wake-up alarm to an uplifting station. Ensure your day has a positive undertone from the very first moment.
  25. Eat more antioxidants. The brain (and your uplifting mood) is especially susceptible to the destructive powers of free radicals. Eat some apricots, cantaloupe, peaches, spinach, blueberries, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, or nuts.
  26. Cave to the carb craving. If you are craving carbs, it means your serotonin level is low. So give in—just be wise about your decisions. Reach for a PBJ sandwich on wheat bread instead of a slice of cake.
  27. Eat a hamburger. Protein is converted into an amino acid called tyrosine which boosts dopamine and norepinephrine (phew…that was a mouthful!). So, if you want to feel more alert and enhance your concentration skills, eat more protein.
  28. Spend time in the sun. Don’t bake yourself to the point of skin cancer—just get a few rays. There is a link between depression and a vitamin D deficiency. You can’t think positively if you’re battling depression.
  29. Get more vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is responsible for maintaining the health of your nervous system. If you want your brain to function at optimum levels—and keep negative thoughts at bay—check your vitamin levels. Some experts say vitamin B12 even helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  30. Sing. It doesn’t matter if the entire tune is off key, it will make you feel better.
  31. Play a game—just don’t let it get too competitive!
  32. Revert to your childhood. Was there something you used to love to do but haven’t made time for it lately? Rekindle the flame. Dust off the roller skates, pull out the crayons…just be whimsical again.
  33. Look at old pictures. Remember the good ol’ days.
  34. Smile. Just smile–even if it is for no reason at all. Bad things can’t possibly seem as devastating if you’re smiling.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Whatever you can do—or dream you can—begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Be bold (and powerful and magical) in your thinking. Focus on the positive things in your life and the negatives will melt away.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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