Look on the Bright Side With These Six Empowering Steps

I know, I know. It’s a cliche! But trying to look on the bright side is a worthy effort. Here’s why:

According to Jane Brody of The New York Times, “An increasing number of recent long-term studies has linked greater optimism to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments and to fostering “exceptional longevity,” a category one team of researchers used for people who live to 85 and beyond.”

So, that is an excellent reason to give it a try.

Here’s another. According to a research article from the JAMA Network, Dr. Alan Rozanski states, “There’s also a biological effect. Pessimists bathe their bodies in damaging stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine all day long. Pessimism increases inflammation in the body and fosters metabolic abnormalities like diabetes. Pessimism is also on the way to depression, which the American Heart Association considers a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

So, there are scientific reasons to lean into a more positive outlook.

Ok, great! But how do you do that?

Here are some tried and true methods that seem to work (for me and hopefully for you) if you work them:

woman rewriting negative storylines to look on the bright side

1. Rewrite your negative storylines.

So much of what I focus on here with this blog places value and curiosity on how we perceive the world.

Can you recognize where you’re angling negatively? What is the story you’re telling yourself about a situation?

Let’s try an example. Imagine that you’re nervous about the upcoming New Year because you don’t have exciting plans and you don’t have a partner with whom to celebrate.

Are you telling yourself, “Ugh! My life sucks!! I don’t want to be alone on New Year’s Eve!” Or are you saying to yourself, “I’m excited to start a new year because I love fresh new starts.

Also, I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that may present themselves! And I’m excited to have a relaxing new year’s eve. I think I’ll check into a spa for the weekend.”

Same scenario. Two highly different perspectives.

But how do you begin to work through this?

My secret weapon, always, is the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet.

Give it a try and see what you think! If you look through Byron Katie’s website and work through this sheet, you will quickly see how all negative emotions you feel come from judgments you make about yourself and others. In fact, through the process, you’ll walk away with refreshing new perspectives you’d never considered.

woman meditating - cultivating mindfulness

2. Commit to developing more mindfulness in your daily life.

I remember hearing Marianne Williamson say, “The ego speaks first, and the ego speaks loudest.” It’s true. Unfortunately, the negative roommate inside of us constantly finds ways to compare, complain, and focus on negativity.

Thankfully we can take a break from this constant chatter by cultivating mindfulness. One powerful way to get started is through a daily practice of meditation.

See my favorite practices here.

When you can take a break from the busyness and settle into a peaceful state of acceptance, it’s not only easy but natural to see hopeful possibilities around you. We only have to slow our minds down long enough to be able to see them! Because in truth we do live in a magically abundant world.

3. Look on the bright side by removing yourself from negative people.

It’s so important to remember that emotions are contagious.

You’ll undoubtedly fall into a negative state of mind if surrounded by negative people. Emotions are energy, and energy is real!

The same goes for hanging around those who are hopeful, optimistic, and upbeat. Have you noticed how your energy shifts when in the presence of these qualities?

So place a high value on who you surround yourself with to keep your vibrations high!

woman giving back - looking on the bright side

4. Take the focus off yourself.

This might be a surprise, but it’s very true.

In fact, in one of my all-time favorite books, The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama revealed that the secret to joy is giving of yourself in service to others.

You can look on the bright side when your heart is overflowing with joy that can only be felt when giving or “being a contribution.”

Seeing the bright side requires that your lenses are hopeful, and nothing restores hopefulness more than feeling you’re part of something bigger than yourself. 

woman running for wellbeing

5. Use discipline to help you look on the bright side.

As mentioned above, left to their own devices, our minds can hyper-fixate on adverse outcomes.

Thankfully, we have strategies that help build a positive baseline.

Some include:

  • A gratitude practice.
  • Exercise.
  • Eating well and staying hydrated.
  • Spiritual practice.

Meaningfully caring for yourself allows you to more easily access feelings of joy, hopefulness, and freedom that aren’t accessible if you feel depleted.

you always have the power to change perspective and look at the bright side

6. Recognize that you have power within.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the power all along.

In fact, we’re powerful beyond measure. Yet, it’s funny how easily we forget. Understanding and embracing the idea that we’re capable of rising above to look on the bright side is key.

An example of this involves my daughter’s travels to South Africa to volunteer at an animal reserve this summer.

As one of their weekly activities, her peer group traveled to a local school to help hand out meals. During one of her visits, she had a profound experience.

She said, “Mom, these kids have so little. A large group of around 50 kids only had two balls and one swing to play with. Their school seemed to be made out of plywood; they were so poor. I learned that many had to walk miles to school every day. And yet they were so happy! I’ve never seen happier children in my life. It was incredible.”

To me, these children’s radiant joy represents our inherent capacity to experience joy.

We’re all capable of accessing this joy. And tapping into it allows us to look on the bright side naturally.

We only need to discover our unique path to getting there.


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