20 Positive Habits to Free Yourself from Negativity

June 21st, 2013 by Nick Notas 14 Comments

Rocky Balboa Steps

Emotions are habits formed through repetition. To change the way we feel, we must change our behaviors.

For many of us, our default emotional responses are negative. We are easily annoyed. We always expect the worst. And we have become bitter towards the world and ourselves. Those negative responses create an endless loop which further ingrains our negativity. We get to a point where we forget how to act happy and therefore be happy.

This is why I’m passionate about the positive psychology movement. It’s rooted in science (not fluff), and actually works. By practicing mindfulness and choosing positive habits we can break our negative cycles to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives.

  1. Be grateful every day. Praise others often and praise yourself even more. What are you proud of? What are you thankful for? Journal something positive about yourself or your day. We are our harshest critic and our constant self-teardown reinforces a low sense of worth. Instead of always asking “What’s wrong with me?”, start asking “What’s right with me?”
  2. Stop victimizing yourself. Bad stuff happens to everybody — you’re not the only one. I’m not downplaying your problems but it’s a reality you have to accept. Absolving yourself of all responsibility and blaming the world won’t fix anything. You are not entitled to happiness. So…
  3. When you encounter problems, find solutions. Anyone can whine, worry, and complain. Be a man who looks at challenges as opportunities to grow rather than signs of defeat. If they can’t be resolved, move on and stop wasting energy. Spend the majority of your time on the solution, not the problem.
  4. Keep the gossip and “shit talking” to a minimum. Delivering the latest scoop may seem fun but put yourself in the position of the person you’re talking about. How would you feel to know that people are discussing your personal details or laughing behind your back? Don’t indulge in gossip started by someone else and catch yourself before you begin trashing others.
  5. Smile all the time. It increases life expectancy, lowers stress, makes you look more competent and attractive, and actually makes you happier. The physical act of smiling sends signals to your brain to release endorphins. Constantly remind yourself to smile even during the worst of times, you’ll feel better.
  6. Make yourself laugh often. I’m the funniest guy I know and I love my humor. I say stupid stuff that makes me giggle, act completely silly, dance like a fool, and get weird when I’m alone. It makes even the most mundane moments enjoyable. Being childlike isn’t childish.
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. “What the fuck, why’d I spill that?” “God damn I left my phone in the car!” I used to get so angry over the tiniest hurdles. All it did was add unnecessary stress and create a habit of bitching about everything. Ask yourself: will this even matter tomorrow, next month, or next year? Probably not.
  8. Stop taking things personally. The world doesn’t revolve around you and most people are more worried about themselves. Even if something is about you, try to listen objectively. Don’t see it as an attack but something to potentially learn from (if it’s legitimate). Acknowledging something does not mean you have to accept it as truth. But if it is something you can improve upon…
  9. Filter your mistakes through guilt, not shame. When you feel like you messed up, remember that it’s temporary and you can fix it (guilt). Tell yourself that it has nothing to do with your character or your value as a person (shame).
  10. Practice positive criticism. Calling someone an idiot is easy especially online when you’re safe and anonymous. It takes a strong person to challenge someone else for the better and want to raise them up. If you enjoy tearing others down then maybe you should…
  11. Stop basking in misery. The way you treat others is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. One of the biggest signs of insecurity to me is when someone relishes in making other people unhappy. Follow the old rule of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
  12. End surface level snap judgements. Try not to make assumptions about who someone is from their appearance or initial impressions. I don’t care if they’re overweight, have massive tattoos, or look like Skrillex. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let them show you their true personality. For some, your initial assessment may have been correct but many people will surprise you. And if you never give the latter a chance, you’ll have missed some great connections.
  13. Face of Satan NewsCut down on the news. Murders, massacres, rapes, and suicides — we are obsessed with the dreadful. But what is it doing for us? It makes us cynical, terrified, and depressed. It’s a huge time sink that adds almost no value. Think about this…

    “Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.” (Source)

    The average person spends half a day every week on news. Start by cutting that in half and put the extra time towards something beneficial: meeting new people, working out, doing a hobby, pursuing your passions, spending time with your family, or reading an insightful book. 

  14. Don’t rehash all of your little mistakes. Address the critical ones, devise a solution promptly, and let go of what won’t affect any major decisions. Stop thinking through everything you did wrong that day before going to sleep. Stop wishing you said something different. And stop wishing you could go back in time. Accept what happened and be thankful for the experience you gained from it.

  15. Take the Tony Robbins 10 day mental challenge. I’m not a huge Robbins advocate but this idea is a good one. The goal is to acknowledge but not dwell on or invest time in any unhelpful, unhealthy, or unproductive thoughts for 10 consecutive days. It’s difficult but regardless if you hit the full mark, it’s extremely beneficial. Plus, you can always try again. Read the details here.

  16. Stop generalizing. You can’t place everyone or everything in the same box. If a girl mistreated you before, it does not mean every girl will. If you failed at one thing, it does not mean you will fail at everything. It’s your fear of being hurt or rejected again that forces you to think this way.

    When you hear yourself using blanket statements, call your insecurities out. “Is this really true? What proof do I have? Am I being fair to the other person or to myself? Or am I just protecting myself because I’m scared?”

  17. Distance yourself from negative influences. Just because you can hang out together, doesn’t mean you always should. We are shaped by the connections we make and maintain. Surround yourself with positive people who improve the quality of your life.
  18. Give random acts of kindness. Do something nice for a stranger or a friend — without expecting anything in return. And as long as it’s not adding additional stress to you. Studies have shown people who give freely have higher self-esteem, more control over their life, and feel connected to other human beings. It’s hard not to feel good when you make someone smile.
  19. Express your anger constructively. This is tough, even for me. The first step is to force yourself not to scream or raise your voice. Breathe deep and walk away for a few minutes if you have to. Whether it’s in your head or to someone else, try not to swear (it just exacerbates things). You can then speak your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational manner.

    Also, as impossible as it may seem in the moment, try to place yourself in their shoes. Remember…this is water.

  20. Replace “I can’t” from your vocabulary. When you start doubting yourself, reframe your negative statements to “I can” or “I will”. “I can’t go talk to her” becomes “I will go talk to her.” The simple shift in words will alter the way you handle situations and subsequently improve your results.

By practicing positive habits you’ll become…

  • More attractive to higher quality people. We are drawn to those who provide value in our lives and are fun to be around.
  • More productive. You will spend less time questioning your abilities and see more successes. You will take more opportunities which will lead to better jobs, relationships, and experiences.
  • More happy with yourself and with others. And who doesn’t want that? 

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” – William James 

  1. Dave on June 21, 2013

    I think #16, making generalizations, is one of the most common defense mechanisms for me to fall back on. Making things to be black and white when they’re really grey.

    Thanks for the article Nick! I’d like more material like this.

    • Nick Notas on June 21, 2013

      You’re welcome Dave. It’s hard to not generalize when you’ve been jaded in the past but you’ve got to keep an open mind.

      I’ll definitely be writing more article on well-being and happiness in the future.

      • Alvin on June 21, 2013

        Cool blog here Nick! I enjoy reading them when I have the free time even if Im at work!!! lol

  2. Obie Garcia on June 21, 2013

    Nice job Nick! I will save this article and read it and memorize it.

  3. Eric on June 21, 2013

    Disclaimer: Void for front-line retail employees.

  4. Rebekah on June 22, 2013

    One other thing that really has helped me is asking for help. Whether that help is a small favor from a friend or a big favor from work, asking for help, and then negotiating for mutual benefit often helps to get out of bad situations into something that better and more fulfilling. If nothing else, it helps you see the picture better, including making an exit strategy more obviously necessary, in some circumstances.

    • Nick Notas on June 22, 2013

      This is great Rebekah! I think one of the best benefits is seeing how another human being is willing to help which reinforces that there are good people in the world. Thank you for the wonderful comment!

  5. David on June 22, 2013

    I’ve been getting you articles for over a year now and they’re always interesting. I never replied or left a comment but I had to with this, I thought this article and references were amazing and inspiring!! Thanks again

    • Nick Notas on June 22, 2013

      You’re very welcome, I’m glad the article inspired you to reach out. Don’t be shy in the future :)

  6. Rick on June 23, 2013

    Great points! I shared this with my friends.

    • Nick Notas on June 23, 2013

      Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing.