21 Positive Thinking Exercises To Be Your Best

positive thinking exercises

The next time you’re having a bad day, here’s some food for thought.

Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.

This quote hits the bullseye when it comes to positive thinking and the power our mind has over our mental state.

Our minds are consistently evaluating scenarios, forming opinions and creating perspective, and as much as we might like to, it is hard to avoid our negative thoughts when they pop up.

It’s human nature, after all.

We have a need to know what’s wrong, and how to fix it.

The problem is when these negative thoughts overload our mind, as the power and consistency of these thoughts can be destructive to our overall well being.

This can lead to anxiety, depression, or developing insecurities.

We can combat the likeliness of our negative thoughts surfacing by first identifying, challenging and replacing these thoughts by using positive thinking exercises.

This helps to shift our state of mind to a more positive and productive state.

Do you want to learn how to stay optimistic, no matter the situation life throws at you?

In this post, I am sharing with you 21 positive thinking activities you can use to help you have more positivity in your life.

By changing your thoughts to the positive you will live a happier and healthier life.

21 Positive Thinking Exercises

What Are Positive Thinking Activities?

Positive thinking techniques are short, fast activities that you can complete during your day that have a strong effect on your mental and emotional state.

Just as with physical exercise, they require practice and persistence until you master them and they become automatic.

It may take a couple of days, or even a week.

But once these positivity exercises become absorbed into your lifestyle, you’ll see a dramatic effect on your overall mental state and your happiness!

#1. Banish Negative Thoughts

The first, and most effective positive thinking exercise is to recognize and remove negative thinking when it pops up.

If you catch yourself midway through a destructive thought, replace this thought with mental images and affirmations that are positive and happy.

For example, replace “I’m having the worst day”, with “at least the weather is great today, I love the warm sun on my skin!”.

You’ll soon have your spirits lift, and whatever problems you are facing will feel much smaller and insignificant.

#2. Create A Gratitude Diary


Gratitude is immensely powerful. It allows you to appreciate and be thankful for the things, people and experiences in your life.

This positive thinking exercise involves writing daily entries in your diary of things that you are thankful for.

Don’t limit yourself to be thankful for only the good things. Be thankful for the not so good as well.

This includes your difficulties, frustrations, challenges and struggles.

After all, they are each a learning exercise for you, and will have a silver lining embedded in them somewhere if you look hard enough.

Consider these examples that can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

  • If you’re frustrated about losing your job, be thankful that this is now an exciting new opportunity for you to find a career you will really love.
  • If it’s raining on the weekend you’re planning on having a picnic, be thankful that your garden will get some much needed water.
  • If you’re upset that you are sick and have to stay in bed, be thankful that this is the perfect opportunity to read that book you’ve been dying to read.

Learn to train your mind to think about your life in terms of what is great about it, instead of what is missing from it.

If you can do this, you’ll realize that the challenges and difficulties you face can be blessings in disguise!

#3. Collect Smiles

What is more uplifting than thinking about all of the smiles and moments of happiness you’ve experienced with people throughout the day?

Purchase a small notebook, and any time someone smiles at you, record it in your book, and review it right before you go to bed.

Reflecting back on these happy moments from your day can help you finish on a high, no matter how frustrating and stressful it has been.

You’ll soon find yourself doing whatever it takes to make someone else smile, just so you can beat your smile quota from before!

#4. Surround Yourself With Positive People

This is more a lifestyle adjustment than a positive thinking exercise, but a valuable one nonetheless.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

If these people are negative, down on life and uninspiring, it’s likely that you will absorb this mental state too.

Try to surround yourself with happy people and you’ll soon see their positive thinking, optimism and good attitude rub off on you!

#5. Smile, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Just as our thoughts can affect our mental state, so can our actions.

Smiling even when you feel absolutely miserable is a quick way to send your brain a positive message.

This is true despite what negative beliefs you have rolling around in your head!

Here is the science behind this.

If you want to take it a step further, consider going out of your way to do something nice for someone else.

The positive actions you do will lift your spirits and can snap you out of your negative mindset.

#6. Believe In Yourself

Do you believe in yourself?

If you have doubts and listen to your inner thoughts too much, you will always second guess the decisions you make.

And when you second guess things, you never fully commit.

This is a classic example of not living life to its fullest.

Learn to believe in yourself and your abilities and you will find it becomes easier to be positive.

#7. Accept The Past

The past is what happened.

You cannot change it.

All you can do is accept it, learn from it, and move on.

This is a lot easier said than done.

But you must try.

The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can break free from your past, no matter how bad it might have been.

Stop allowing the past to define who you are today.

Start allowing today and tomorrow write the new chapter in your life.

#8. Talk To Yourself

Having conversations with yourself doesn’t make you crazy.

In fact, it is perfectly healthy and normal to talk to yourself.

By having internal conversations, you can change your thought pattern and thinking.

The goal is here is to have positive self talk and not negative talk.

If you find most of your talks are negative, then work on using the tips in this post to improve the words you say to yourself.

#9. Breathe

just breathe

Life can get overwhelming at times.

The negativity creeps in and the next thing you know, you are sour on everything and everyone.

The easiest thing to do is take a few minutes to breathe.

Find a quiet place if possible, but if you can’t just close your eyes where you are and focus solely on your breathing.

Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds, and slowly breathe out for four more seconds.

Repeat this a few times. You will slowly calm down and relax.

This will then allow you to start thinking more clearly.

#10. Realize You Are Human

The biggest flaw most of us make is we forget we are human.

We make mistakes all the time.

We even make mistakes at times when we know better.

Don’t punish yourself for this.

Allow every situation to be a learning moment.

Accept the fact that you are not perfect and never will be, no matter how hard you try.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be better all the time.

Rather it means don’t give up just because you failed or made a mistake.

#11. Keep Happy Reminders Near By

When I get into a negative thinking funk, I have tools and props I use to halt the negativity and get back to a more positive outlook.

For me, I have some funny pictures and videos.

These make me laugh, and when I laugh, my spirit and mood pick up.

Take some time to find things that make you happy and laugh.

These can be funny pictures, videos, stories, quotes, whatever.

Once you have a handful, make sure you have them somewhere where you can easily access them.

Mine are on my phone since I always have it with me.

#12. Practice Finding The Positive

I’ve found the skill of always finding the positive in any situation to be a game changer.

It wasn’t easy at first, but over the years, I now find it comes naturally.

Start by practicing in small moments and work your way up to larger ones.

When you are rushing to work and get stuck in traffic, instead of getting mad or upset, be thankful you can listen to the music you love for a few extra minutes.

If you are work and your boss hands you another item to get done, be thankful you have a job instead of getting mad you have a work a little more.

Over time you will find it is easier to see the bright side of any situation.

#13. Understand What Went Wrong

Not only is this a great way for how to think more positive going forward, but it’s also one of the best personal growth exercises too.

By looking back on things that have gone wrong, you learn a lot.

You learn what you could have said or done differently.

This will help you to make smarter choices going forward, so you aren’t in the same situation again.

And if you do find yourself in the same situation again, by understanding what went wrong, you can approach it differently in hopes of getting a better outcome this time around.

#14. Take Advantage Of Affirmations

Using affirmation exercises is a simple way to get you into positive mindset.

I say simple affirmations when I wake up in the morning before getting out of bed.

They are great because they help you start the day off on the right foot.

I’ve found when I say have positive self talk with myself, when negative things happen, I am able to shrug them off most easily.

In other words, the negative beliefs I have don’t stick around.

For example, if I say my affirmation and realize I am running late for work, I don’t get as stressed.

I know things will work out.

But if I’m running late and haven’t said my affirmations, I am angry with myself and others.

Make it a point to say some positive affirmations throughout your day and you will stay positive a lot more often.

Here are a few more ideas for affirmation exercises to get you thinking about what works best for you.

  • Create a vision board
  • Recite The Guest House poem by Jelaluddin Rumi
  • Sensory awareness
  • Daily motivational awareness

These are just a few ideas, but you can see there are plenty of ways you can use affirmations to help you be more positive.

#15. Practice Visualization

visualizing your goals

Trying to stay positive is a lot easier when you practice visualization.

Take a few minutes to close your eyes and visualize what you want out of life.

You don’t have to make this all about the long term either.

You can focus on your day if you visualize first thing in the morning.

You can even visualize important parts of your day, like a meeting with a client or the talk you need to have with your child.

By taking the time to see the situation in your mind, you make it more likely to become reality.

And since you will be visualizing a positive outcome, you will have a positive mindset throughout your day.

#16. Stop Trying To Control Everything

When you try to control everything, you are being negative.

You are saying that you don’t trust anyone else to do it and you don’t think it will be done right.

You first need to change over to a positive attitude and give up control.

Then you need to accept the outcome, regardless if it is good or bad.

Sometimes it will be good, and other times it will be bad.

But you will work through whatever the outcome is and learn to find the positive in the result.

#17. Say Thank You

One of the best personal thinking techniques I’ve used is to say thank you a lot more.

It sounds simple, but it works.

In the past, I’ve been thankful for things but haven’t always expressed my thanks.

I didn’t think it was a big deal.

But then I decided to challenge myself to verbalize my thanks to see what would happen.

I was blown away at how saying thanks kept me in a positive frame of mind.

I felt a joy come over me after I said thanks and that feeling lasted with me for a while.

It felt like I was walking on air.

And the more I was grateful, the longer the feelings lasted.

I encourage you to give this a try and see what happens.

#18. Turn Off TV And Social Media

If you want a sure fire way to become negative, jump on social media for a while.

You’ll see a lot of arguing over everything, which will sour your mood.

Then you will see others “picture perfect” lives and question why your life isn’t so great.

By limiting your time on social media, or better yet, staying off it completely, you will be much happier.

In fact, I challenge you to stay off social media for a week. Take note of your mood during this time.

Are you happier? Are you having more positive thoughts?

My guess is you will be amazed at how much of an impact staying offline has for your mental health.

#19. Be Active

No article about how to think more positive would be complete without mentioning physical exercise.

If you are feeling bad, get active.

Go for a walk. Lift weights. Garden.

Whatever it is you love doing where you are active, start doing it.

I’ve found when I feel in the dumps, getting active totally changes how I feel and how I think.

If I have a cold, lying in bed makes me feel worse.

But when I get up and go for a walk, most of my symptoms lessen and I am happier.

Even when I have a bad night’s sleep and am dragging the next day, if I can find the courage to be active, I instantly start feeling better.

The key, as with most everything in life, is taking that first step.

#20. Nothing Is Forever

There is a great quote that says the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

While you don’t have to remember this quote, it does serve as a reminder that nothing is forever in life.

Every day is a new beginning and a new opportunity to be your best.

Learn to accept that no matter the situation you find yourself in, it won’t last forever.

It is a temporary thing.

Focus on life afterwards.

For example, if you are sick, remember it only lasts a little more than a week.

Instead of laying around feeling bad, think about the great things you will do once you are better.

When times are really bad, try to take things an hour at a time.

Focus on getting through each hour.

Before you know it, a whole day will have passed.

Use this success to push your forward.

#21. Develop A Personal Mantra

Do you have a personal mantra or mission statement?

If not, you need to take the time to develop one.

By knowing what you are about and what you stand for helps you in everyday life.

It makes difficult decisions easier and helps when times get tough.

And it will help you stay positive when negative things happen in life.

Final Thoughts

By following these positive thinking exercises, you will learn how to practice positive thinking throughout your day.

And the activities I shared are critical if you want to enjoy life.

This is because there is a lot of negativity in the world and it is too easy to get sucked into it and trapped in the downward spiral.

By learning the power of positive thinking and to have a positive outlook, you will achieve more happiness and success in life.

Understand this isn’t to say you ignore the negative feelings or thoughts.

It is important to have and acknowledge these thoughts and feelings.

But it is critical you don’t let these negative thoughts control your life.

These activities are simple ways to stop you from going down a path of negativity.

6 thoughts on “21 Positive Thinking Exercises To Be Your Best”

  1. Awesome idea for a post.
    This week, I am writing down all of the tasks that I get done during the day. (I am not at work this week and afraid that I will feel like it has been a waste of a week when I go back next week.) It is kind of like the gratitude diary or the collecting of smiles… something to look back on and thing “hey, that was pretty good actually.”
    Here’s hoping it works!

  2. Hi, Larissa, nice post! I totally agree with you that happiness comes from our own mindset and our own choice. So many miserable people seem to be totally unaware they are unhappy because they simply have not made the conscious DECISION to be happy! It takes some mental effort at first, like following the exercises you outlined, until they train themselves to view life differently. We can all improve our lives by forming habits to improve our happiness levels.

    1. I agree Deborah. It’s all a choice. You choose how to respond and react to the situations life throws at you.

  3. Sebastian Aiden Daniels

    Gratitude journals, reframing your thoughts, and smiling are powerhouse ways to feel better. I think it is so cool that smiling when we aren’t happy can trick our brains moods. I also find the reframing thoughts to be very helpful when you consciously do it.

    Gratitude journals are a blessing too just as you said. I have knocked out my anger towards a person by learning to be grateful for everything they had done for me and even for the anger I felt towards them because it was teaching me a lesson.

    1. It is funny that when we are in a bad mood and we start smiling how our entire outlook and mood changes quickly.

  4. Nice tips! I sometimes write advice on optimism on my blog for students https://writethisessay.net, so I thought I’d add some here from myself.

    1) Make peace with the past – what happened is left behind in the past: you failed on your Math exam, but it’s in the past, you’ll do better next time.

    2) Mirror exercise. Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, give yourself a compliment: “You look great today, you look so confident” and so on.

    3) Write a list of positive things that happened to you through the day. This will improve your mood.

    Hope I’ve added some value with these tips!

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