Chances are, you’ve probably had someone tell you to “just be positive” or “to look on the bright side!” And while they may be well-intentioned, as anyone who has ever been blindsided by a breakup, taken care of a sick family member, or has been laid off from work will tell you, that’s often an easier-said-than-done scenario.
But here’s the thing: Being a positive person may have less to do with staying positive all the time and more to do with having a resilient (not to mention realistic) response. “The most helpful definition of being positive is having hope and confidence in one’s ability to handle what’s tough, along with remembering that nothing is all negative all the time,” explains Jo Eckler, PsyD, an Austin-based therapist and author of I Can’t Fix You—Because You’re Not Broken.
Instead, she defines positivity as the ability to identify sunnier takeaways or moments of relief from negative situations—which in turn may impact not only your quality of life (studies have shown optimistic individuals tend to have better mental and physical health), but also possibly your longevity. In fact, a study published in 2019 found that people with the highest levels of optimism had an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan on average than those who practiced little positive thinking.
Even better? If you’re naturally prone to cynical thoughts, all is not lost. There are plenty of positive-thinking techniques that can help you train your brain to have a brighter outlook. Ahead, we asked a variety of mental health experts and psychologists to share their best strategies for how to be more positive—from reciting a motivational affirmation, to spending time outdoors, and practicing gratitude—all of which may also make you happier, healthier, and more confident.