9 Ways to Reframe Negative Thinking into a Positive Outlook

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

If your doomscrolling habit or a challenging work life has you on negative autopilot, it’s time to shift your default mode back to the bright side. How do you switch from gloom to glory? Simple: practice. Ready to do a fun and easy run-through of nine ways to reframe negative thinking into a positive outlook? Let’s chase that spot of sunshine!


A Positive Outlook Has Consequences (Good Ones)

If you’re naturally negative or have become glum during recent events, it won’t thrill you to know there are harmful effects to being a Debbie Downer. So, let’s focus on the pros of a positive outlook instead:


  • The most optimistic people in a Harvard study had a 30% higher chance of increasing their lifespan relative to a range of conditions, such as stroke and cancer.
  • Optimists are more likely to live to 85 or older.
  • Optimists have more satisfying love lives, even if their partner is a grump.
  • Optimistic salespeople sell more.
  • Optimism has a beneficial impact on job performance and job satisfaction (and could even influence how much money you make).

Sound appealing? With a few simple tweaks, it’s easy to start enjoying some of these benefits in your life.


9. Redefine Optimism as a Choice

Even if you’re a lifelong curmudgeon or catastrophizer, your pessimism is not permanently baked into your person. You have the power to change and it’s surprisingly uncomplicated.


Say it out loud: I am turning myself into a positive person. (Repeat as necessary.)

Male sitting with eye close meditating on how to reframe negative thinking into a positive outlook.8. Interrupt Your Negative Narrative

Hopelessness, fear, and anger are learned responses, and they can be unlearned. If you practice the skill of flipping the script on your running loop of loathing, you’ll guide your thoughts to more hopeful language and positive impulses.


Recognize your spiraling thinking and literally say, “Nope!” Or “Not true!” And repeat until your brain gets bored trying to circumvent your roadblock. It’ll give up eventually and you’ll find you’ve left the negative looping behind. That’s when you can begin following a more optimistic train of thought, even if it feels forced at first.


7. Treat Yourself Like a Toddler

When a preschooler has a tantrum, wise parents distract and redirect. This is an effective strategy for your own pessimistic meltdown. Let’s say you were overlooked for a promotion. It’s normal to feel angry and sad, possibly throw your lollipop. But it’s not healthy to stay off-kilter or to nurture grievances in the wake of disappointment. Time to reframe and divert:


  • Reframing would be looking for an opportunity in the loss. Could missing out on the promotion lead you to job hunt for even more responsibility and a higher salary? This is the equivalent of telling a toddler in the middle of a freakout that you’ll help them find their lost ball.
  • Diverting would be focusing for a while on something that brings you pleasure – Wordle? A long walk? Give yourself permission to get back to ruminating about your HR department, but for a moment, you have a reprieve. This is the equivalent of distracting a furious two-year-old with an improvised game of I Spy. It works.


6. Exaggerate the Good

Naturally negative people are experts at detailing their disappointments. If you build the skill of noticing, savoring, commenting on, and sharing good and beautiful experiences, your self-talk will improve and you’ll become much more delightful company, even for yourself. Optimists simply do not wallow.


Write down the positives. It reinforces joy. Keep a jar of favorite words, start a gratitude journal, or commit to posting three positive comments on Twitter for every line of snark you feel compelled to write.


5. Set Alerts

If gaining a more positive outlook is important to you, put it on your schedule. Keep reminders front of mind with an alert on your phone or a sticky note next to your mirror. These small cues can make a big difference in shifting your perspective.


4. Give Someone Else a Little Goodness

The fastest way to get into a habit of positivity is to show someone kindness. Deliberately go out of your way to write a positive review on Yelp, nominate a coworker for an award, or bring a latte to the guy who got your promotion. Focusing on others derails even the most obsessively negative self-talk.


3. Emphasize Your Senses

When you’re on the maladaptive side, it’s all about your feelings, right? Simply slowing down to experience your physical surroundings – the sounds and smells around you – can quiet the internal dialogue and make space for pleasure and positivity.


Instead of dwelling on the negatives in your life, try sensory distractions. A fragrant candle can calm you instantly if you associate it with comfort and creativity. The trick is to light it when you’re happiest, so it triggers the same response at times of negativity. A favorite flavor of tea, a rap song you love, or a squishy pair of socks can do the trick, too.


Female with arms crossed thinking about about professional development programs.

2. See Your Lungs as an Ally

It’s possible to be angry in a yoga class, but it’s not likely. All that intentional breathing clears the mind. You don’t have to twist into a permanent inverted triangle, though. Study the rise and fall of your belly when you’re in a silent rage about a workplace conflict. Or go for a bike ride when you’re mentally ranking every idiot you know. Breathing with purpose is the antidote to holding it all in, including your negativity. Simply breath it out.


1. Go Hunting for Constructive Criticism

If your negativity came in a wrapping of very thin skin, it’s time to get comfortable with rejection and criticism. Ask for feedback on a project before it’s offered so it feels like you invited it instead of being subjected to it. Smile when accepting it. Then sit on the feedback. Optimists respond thoughtfully instead of reacting (or overreacting).


Find Your Career Silver Lining

Your positivity level is not fixed. All it takes to reframe your negative thinking is a few simple steps. Start with easy, affirming alterations in the way you respond to life’s challenges and you’ll be on your way to brighter days.


Is your new positive outlook already making you optimistic about a career change? It’s time to check out the courses offered by Corporate Training and Professional Development at USF. Gain in-demand skills in leadership, business, process improvement, project management, and more. Land that promotion, light your happy candle, and put your new positivity to work.


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