The Best Tips on How to Remain Positive in 2021
Last year was one we’ll never forget. And as we head into the new year, unfortunately the coronavirus is coming too—a test for many of us as we try to bring a positive attitude into 2021.
We’ve rounded up some easy tips on how we can retrain our brains to focus more on the positive and pay less attention to the negative. From changing up your routine to altering your thinking, try out these four tips in 2021.
Keep a gratitude journal
For some, doing something as simple as writing down what you’re grateful for and seeing it spelt out in front of you can be enough to alter your perspective on life—that’s the power of gratitude journaling.
The method is a favourite of Oprah Winfrey, who has long advocated for its benefit in helping her focus on what she has already achieved and wants to achieve in the future. “In the process of building a television network, I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb,” Winfrey says. “Only when I began feeling gratitude for the opportunity to serve a new audience in a new way did a shift happen. Viewers started saying the most amazing things—things that aligned exactly with my vision of what Oprah Winfrey Network can be.”
Listing out a handful of things you’re grateful for everyday can help to increase your awareness of the little things that happen—getting an ice cream in the park, meeting new people or getting everything ticked off your to-do list.
Here’s an example of Oprah’s gratitude list from back in 1996:
1. A run around Florida's Fisher Island with a slight breeze that kept me cool.
2. Eating cold melon on a bench in the sun.
3. A long and hilarious chat with Gayle about her blind date with Mr Potato Head.
4. Sorbet in a cone, so sweet that I literally licked my finger.
5. Maya Angelou calling to read me a new poem.
Just do it, even if you have to do it badly
Olivia Remes, a mental health researcher at Cambridge University, believes you shouldn’t keep waiting to do things perfectly at the perfect time—instead, do it badly. This is a strategy that can help to gradually cultivate optimism and encourage people to try new things while understanding that failure will always be part of the process.
"Our inner voice of criticism continually stops us from doing worthwhile things," Remes told the BBC. “Jump straight into action. Do things and accept that they might initially be done badly. When you do that, most of the time the results are actually not that bad—and they're almost always better than doing nothing." In short: get out there and try something new!
Reassess who you spend the most time with
As the old saying goes, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” When it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced by the people we spend the most time around. And while picking up small mannerisms from your friends or family might have minimal repercussions, their influence can also subconsciously dictate and sway major life decisions.
Studies show that the social norms of your close group of friends influences your personal decisions—whether or not they’re around you at the time. “We’ve evolved to live in a group to spread positive actions and to seek the approval of others,” said Christin Scholz of the University of Amsterdam to the BBC.
“There is good reason to believe that when we use normative behaviour it makes us feel good because we’re connecting with a social group,” added Suzanne Higgs of the University of Birmingham. “If you are with a new social group, you are more likely to imitate behaviours.”
However, Scholz also highlights that on the flip side, the need to connect can also be used to spread good. “The same way a negative behaviour can spread through a network of people a positive one can spread through a network,” Scholz said.
Change up your morning routine
For many of us, the moment we wake up is usually followed by grabbing our phones, wincing at the depressing coronavirus pandemic updates, checking emails and some mindless scrolling on Instagram. But as you likely know, checking your phone first thing in the morning leads to higher levels of stress and anxiety, and often makes people feel overwhelmed and unable to prioritise daily tasks.
Experts suggest you leave checking your phone until after you’ve allowed your body to fully wake up—at that point, maybe you won’t even feel like checking social media. But we know it can be difficult to stop yourself from glancing at your phone to see what you’ve missed out on while you were sleeping, so try to set yourself the goal of doing at least one full task before you check your phone, even if it’s a small win such as having a shower, making breakfast or brewing coffee, meditating or thinking about the top three things you want to achieve that day.