Skip to main content

Blog

Four ways to stay positive

< Blog home

Four ways to stay positive

Do you have an Optimism strength? 

I do. What does that mean you ask? Well, I would define that as a way of looking at the world which energises me and keeps me feeling productive and useful and which enables to me to see the glass as being half full, looking for the learning in disaster, believing that things will work out for the best and that the future will be even better than the past.

People have told me that I am optimistic (sometimes over optimistic) and that mostly they see this as a positive quality which helps them to see the good in themselves and in the situations and challenges they’re facing.

So whether like me you have Optimism strength (by the way, you can check out www.strengthscope.com to find out if you do or not), or if you definitely see the world as a cup half empty kind of place, or if you’re somewhere in the middle, keep reading if you want to find out some ways you can stay positive.

 

What’s the negativity bias?

From the moment we’re born, we’re pre-conditioned to notice risk and danger. It’s an evolutionary survival mechanism that has been around for millions of years. But what that can lead to is an inherent negativity bias in all that we humans think and do because we’re pre-wired and taught that we need to focus first on avoiding danger and that only once disaster is averted, can we think about more positive things like happiness, flourishing and wellbeing. As a result, we can get easily triggered by the negative. In fact, research shows that it takes five positive experiences to balance out one negative experience, at least as far as our brains are concerned. And that’s a concern if we ever want to get to a place where we can feel fulfilled and truly enjoy life.

 

Why is getting into a positive mental state a good thing?

There are good reasons to stay positive – being in a positive state has been scientifically shown to deliver a whole range of desirable outcomes, including, amongst many other things, getting and keeping jobs, being more productive, being more resilient and being less likely to burn out.

The reason for this is that when we experience positive emotions, like optimism or hope or trust, this opens up various centres of the brain that are less accessible or even entirely inaccessible when we are experiencing so-called ‘negative’ emotions.

‘Negative’ emotions tend to lead to a narrowing of our thinking and to a diversion of our brain centres towards dealing with the perceived threat. But ‘positive’ emotions do the opposite and with that, our brain becomes open to learning, open to experience and is able to grow and develop much more easily.

 

Can being in a positive mental state ever be a bad thing?

‘Negative’ emotions of course have their place and if we’re going to experience the world in full colour and in full tonal range then we need to get familiar and comfortable with being uncomfortable, with negative emotions as these aspects of life also serve a range of vital functions. In fact, if you move too quickly away from experiencing more challenging emotions or even actively suppress them, that can lead to negative outcomes. So it’s important to stay emotion-inclusive and balanced.

 

Four top tips for bringing in more positivity

For now, let’s get back to the positive. Science gives us some good evidence on how best to go about doing this. I am drawing in part from Shaun Achor’s TED Talk on the happy secret to better work and in part from other places but do check that TED Talk if you haven’t seen it before. He’s good.

My Top 4 tips for staying positive are: Find things to be grateful for, Record and recall one positive thing that happens every day, meditate and lastly, be kind. Why? Because science tells us these things work!

  1. Find things to be grateful for

The research I’m referring to in this case showed that capturing three NEW things each day that we’re grateful for, for three weeks, was sufficient to get the brain to start retaining a pattern of scanning the environment for positive things. As I’ve already said, our brains are naturally wired more towards scanning the environment for the negative, for threats and problems because, we’re told, if we find and fix those, we’ll survive. Well, we might survive but will we thrive? Not necessarily because positive and negative emotions work differently in the brain.

So writing down things to be grateful for allows us to get better at seeing and experiencing positives in the world when they comes along, which means more full colour living, more of the time.

  1. Record one positive thing that happens every day

By writing down for two minutes all the details you can remember of that experience. Actually, going over the experience again in your head for two minutes with your eyes closed, should have the same effect, as this visualisation enables you to relive this positive meaningful event. And the brain finds it hard to tell the difference between a real event and a visualised event if it’s re-experienced in enough detail, so you get access to the same emotions that way.

Again, with our inbuilt negativity bias, we tend to spend longer ruminating on negative events than savouring positive ones, so this activity is training our brains to redress the balance and to more easily access positive emotions by having easier access to a rich library of positive experiences that we have stored up. And we all want those playlists right?

  1. Meditate

Meditating, for as little as two minutes per day, but quite frankly the more the better, helps greatly with focus. And this enables us to better regulate our emotional state, which in turn helps us to access more positive emotional states by making more conscious choices in the moment about how we respond to the things that happen to us during an average day.

We also know that by focusing on our breath, a practice that sits at the centre of most meditation practices, we become better at being ‘present’, more in the now rather than having our minds race off to unhelpful places all the time. This greater focus and groundedenss in the moment also helps us to appreciate positive experiences and identify things to be grateful for. Plus meditation improves sleep and decreases stress.  So it’s well worth it.

  1. Be kind

The final idea is to be kind to people. In general. Show compassion, show interest. This invokes at least two positive systems for us: first, humans have an inbuilt need for relatedness and by showing kindness to others, we are more likely to feel a closer relationship with the person or people we have shown kindness to… so we feel part of something bigger than us, socially-speaking.

BTW, if we show appreciation and gratitude towards people in our social network, this can create even more positive outcomes for us emotionally because it helps us feel more socially supported and that has a major impact on wellbeing and positive mental health.

Secondly, by being kind, we’re more likely to like ourselves more (probably because kind people are generally more highly regarded in most societies… being kind is a good thing to be), so we get a self-esteem boost from engaging in this kind of activity.

 

In summary – how to stay positive…for the long-term

For all of these ideas, the key is to do it, and do it again and again. Create habits with any of the activities I’ve mentioned and it’s easier to stay positive more of the time. And as I’ve said, staying positive has some major performance and wellbeing benefits.

Having got this far, what one thing are you going to pick to make a habit of? What one new habit are you going to build by repeating it for the next month or so? Just pick one and give yourself the best chance of staying positive more of the time, forever.

 

Dr Paul Brewerton, Doctor of Psychology, Founder and Chair of Strengthscope, Host of The Strengths Guy podcast

Email: paul.brewerton@strengthscope.com

Website: www.theyoucollective.com

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“Love it. I will pass to the boss, but I think it's awesome.”

Matt Fletcher — Met Police

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“I have worked with Alive with Ideas for many years now and they are by far the best Ideas and design company I have ever worked with (I’d even go as far as to say the best company of any sort that I’ve ever worked with). They are an incredibly talented and creative team, who are normal human beings, completely grounded, totally down to earth, approachable, friendly and an overall joy to work with.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“We worked with Alive on our new website and branding project. They wowed us during the pitch and they didn’t stop “wowing” us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo