We all breathed a sigh of relief when the last seconds of 2020 went by.. It is 2021.. everything will now be better… Right?

We all know it will not be that simple. There has already been some good news… vaccines are being rolled out. But we all know it will be a while yet for life to return to normal, or at least a better normal than now. And there are a lot of negatives to focus on if we wanted to. And it is really easy right now to let small irritations and frustrating interactions set us on a negative path for the day, or for life.

The reality is… We are all experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety, and it is hard to stay positive. But staying positive can change our lives in such a significant way, it is worth pursuing.

So what can you do to stay positive?

1) think it to become it…..

Being positive is a conscious decision. It’s something you need to decide to do and you have to work at it. Negativity is easy. Once you start down that road, you find yourself being swept away by it.

We can’t change the things that happen to us. But a large part of staying positive is our outlook, which we can change. How you choose to view what happened (or what is happening) is a large determiner in our mindset.

Have you become a glass half empty kind of person? And do you want to change that?

The brain is pretty amazing. To stay positive, start thinking of yourself as a positive person.

So, think it to become it!

2) take a step back…

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone over something that really didn’t matter that much? Later when you looked back on it, were you bemused by how quickly it escalated and how unnecessary it was? And if you had taken a step back at the time… How much better would the outcome have been?

So next time, when you are faced with an issue, stop, take out the emotion, think how much is this going to matter tomorrow, or a month from now? Is it really worth getting upset over? So often we react emotionally without thinking things completely through. But becoming aware of these responses and taking a step back helps.

3) laughter as medicine...

Humor is a really satisfying way to deal with things that frustrate us. South Africans tend to be good at using humor to cope, and it is something that can be really helpful in trying times. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself you try to see the humor in it, if it is possible. Obviously it would not be appropriate in all situations. But as long as it does not go into making fun of someone, this can be a very therapeutic release of emotions. It takes a negative instance or difficulty and turns it into something where you can get positive feedback. It has often been said that laughter is the best medicine and it certainly helps you to stay positive.

4) remember the bigger picture…

When you have a goal, you will have setbacks. That does not mean the end of your dream. So when you do have a setback, take a look at the long-term goal. Sometimes it helps to remember that the little setback will have little effect on the long term. Remember the positive lesson that you want to achieve or learn from this setback. And don’t sweat the small stuff.

5) try finding the why...

Sometimes understanding the “why” helps a great deal in learning to see the positive. Knowing why helps to calm our initial feelings and reactions.

Have you ever reacted harshly to something someone said or did, only to find out they had a good reason or was facing some hardship at the time? How bad did you feel? Now imagine this every time someone does something that irritates you… We don’t always know what they have faced that day.

Doing this does not change what the other person did to offend you, but it can help you to take the event or comment more in stride. This, in turn, helps you to stay positive as you go about life.

6) give the benefit of doubt…

This is similar to the previous point. It is easy to be skeptical of this. Why should I give the benefit of the doubt to someone that may or may not deserve it? The answer is simple: because you are the one that benefits. There is no need being upset about some imagined instance. Often people are not thinking what we think they are.

7) don’t overthink it…

Do not over-imagine and overthink every situation and scenario. When you imagine all the things that could go wrong, it puts a huge damper on being positive. It just makes you feel stressed and anxious for no good reason.

8) breathe

Deep breath in, deep breath out. As you breathe, try to imagine all the negative feelings, anxiety and worry being exhaled and breathing in peace, love, and joy. That is meditation in a very basic form. It helps you to be aware of how your body is feeling. Try to name the feelings that you are feeling. When you name the feelings it reduces the amount of anxiety that you feel. When you take time to breathe, you are consciously calming yourself down and you put yourself in a better state of mind to analyze what is really going on. It is hard to stay positive when you are consumed by the emotion of the moment.

9) don’t worry; be happy 🎵

Not just a Bob Marley song, this is really great advice. Worry is like a parasite. It sucks all the joy away of “now” and consumes you with what might happen in the future. Worrying has negative mental and health effects on you and it does not change whatever you are worrying about. Worry just causes you anxiety and it takes you away from what is happening in the present.

10) count your blessings

What are the positive things in your life? The more that you look for them, the more of them you will see. Unfortunately, the same is true for negative things as well. Which do you want to look for?

11) care for yourself….

Self care builds resilience. When you take time for yourself on a regular basis you are more mentally and emotionally equipped to handle challenges when they come. We all have a figurative “bucket” that we give from… emotionally, physically, and mentally. It’s very hard to pour from an empty bucket. When your bucket gets low, it affects your mood and your mindset. When you stop to refill your bucket at regular intervals, you feel happier, thus making positive thoughts come more easily.

This includes things like getting enough sleep, taking the time to breathe and refuel, being in the moment and enjoying what you love.

12) the power of a positive friend

Sometimes nothing recharges you like being around a positive friend. Attitudes are contagious. This applies to both negative and positive attitudes. Sometimes there is nothing like talking to a positive friend to lift you up. It’s so good to know that someone supports you and is in your corner. Celebrate the good things in life together. Sometimes you need a positive friend to help rekindle your own spark and to help you stay positive.

So make the choice now..

Staying positive does not just naturally happen…. make the decision to stay more positive and then take action.

Start thinking of yourself as a positive person. The brain is quite remarkable when it comes to things like that because it takes the input that it gets and tries to make it so. If you think of yourself as a positive person, you will be much more inclined to start taking the steps to live up to your own expectations.

And remember… Our attitudes are contagious. What kind of attitude are people going to catch from you?