7 positivity practices for skeptics

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Lately there’s been a lot of talk about “practicing positivity”—and not all of it is coming from the mountain top.

The Happiness Project to Daily Love and Positively Positive have become happy-making phenoms. And in fitness classes like IntenSati and Circuit of Change, instructors point out that “Whatever we focus on, becomes our reality.” And, hey, if that’s true, they might as well be happy thoughts.

So we tapped several (super sophisticated) spiritual seekers for simple practices that even busy skeptics can use to get positive. —Carla Vass and Melisse Gelula

brian delmonico circuit of change forearm stand splitBrian Delmonico, champion gymnast, Ironman triathlete, yogi, and founder of mind-body boot camp Circuit of Change

Whatever we focus on becomes our reality. When we work on our internal life by reciting positive words, our energies and outlook benefits. I find it super helpful to create an "I am” list, and put it somewhere visible—tacked up on your mirror?—and recite it daily. It could be something like this:

I am happy
I am grateful
I am capable
I am understanding
I am full of LOVE

Photo: Peter George

susan lordDr. Susan Lord, former associate director for Medical Education and director of Nutrition Programs at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine

Cutting-edge neuroscience teaches us that thinking stressful, negative thoughts can actually overdevelop the primitive “fight or flee” part of the brain. However, when we think positive, optimistic thoughts, we go into relaxation mode, which develops the prefrontal cortex where we do our most creative, life-fulfilling thinking. If you keep your brain in relaxation mode, you will habitually revert to a positive way of thinking.

Take a few minutes everyday to fantasize about something that makes you happy or laugh or that you’re grateful for. Imagine yourself as you want to be. Get lost in the daydream. Habitual negative thoughts tend to close doors, while positive thoughts open doors to a life of possibility.

lori abelesLori Abeles, SoulCycle instructor, mind-clearer, joy-seeker

Something that I try to implement in my class is spending time (a ride or even a whole week of rides) devoting the practice to someone else in your world who is in need of your positive energy and focus and light.

We ALL can think of someone struggling with something greater that our own worries.

If you surrender the gift of your focus, care, love, heart, soul to the needs of another, the gifts to self are immeasurable. It's the most uplifting win-win situation.

rupa mehta
Rupa Mehta, founder of the Nalini Method, author of Connect to Your One, philanthropist

It can be tough to stay positive when growing a business. Sometimes my business feels like an expensive hobby, while other times I feel like an unstoppable Olympic athlete.

Between all the highs and lows, I think it’s necessary to be able to come back to a constant that can keep you positive during tough moments and can humble you during very successful moments.

That constant for me is having a clear personal and professional vision that I am committed to. My vision helps keep me on track.

I suggest writing your personal and professional vision down, having it easily accessible and making it part of your weekly routine to read.

gabrielle bernstein
Gabrielle Bernstein, motivational speaker and bestselling author of Add More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness and Spirit Junkie

Practice Random Acts of Kindness: Buy someone a coffee, hold the door for a stranger, send an anonymous love letter to a friend. You'll feel energized by your own kindness.

Dance Your Ass Off: Dancing is one of the best ways to shift your energy and get out of a bad mood. Turn on a hot Spotify mix and jam out in your bedroom. Close your eyes and dance your ass off. Don't worry, no one is watching.

dr. jeffrey morrison
Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, integrative physician, founder of The Morrison Center, author of Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind

Try Ho'oponopono! This mouthful of a name for a Hawaiian meditative practice translates loosely as a phrase that you can repeat any time you have negative thoughts or are feeling depressed or anxious.

Pick a positive phrase and repeat it as many times as desired. It could be something as simple as "I love you." This tiny shift will cause mood to improve and, over time, will attract new, positive people or outcomes. Like attracts like.

maggie lyon
Maggie Lyon, wellness and spirituality writer and holistic lifestyle consultant

Okay, stop whatever you're doing and sit quietly.

Drop out of your frantic head by taking a conscious breath and with the exhale release any tension or crazy angst you are holding. Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground.

If you are about to eat, slow down and do it with full focus! Really experience yourself. If you are about to write an email, do it with the same complete awareness. By giving yourself fully to the moment, stress is instantaneously cleared from your system.

Seriously, try it. It takes like two minutes to make this shift into mindfulness, and it can profoundly change how you feel.


5 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. October 26th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Wow! Another great article by the Well and Good NYC staff. Congratulations. I would like to mention some related books (all based on solid research). First, there is a wonderful book by Barbara Fredrickson that focuses on the significant research on positivity. The book is titled “Positivity” and written by Fredrickson, copyright 2009. I have it in paperback and a kindle version. That should say a lot about how much I value this research stream and how well the book is put together. Also there is another similar vein of work on “flow” by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi [pronounced sig-sent-me-holly]. There are two books by him that best describe flow theory and the meaning of it for everyday life: 1) “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Steps toward enhancing the quality of life” (c)1990 and 2) “Finding Flow: the psychology of engagement with everyday life” (c) 1997. Despite the age of these books the ideas are very current and related to happiness theory and to positivity. I would also like to mention three books on “happiness” which is also related to positivity: 1) Sonja Lyubomisky: “The How of Happiness” (c) 2007. “The Happiness Hypothesis: finding modern truth in ancient wisdom”, by Jonathan Haidt (c) 2007. And finally Rick Hanson’s book, “Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness” (c) 2009. As you might guess, I am a student of these interwoven subjects and have successfully applied them to my meditation and mindfulness courses.

  2. October 26th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    This is fantastic! Can not wait to share it with our wonderful clients!

  3. October 26th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you for a wonderful post. It is both powerful and positive to see so many diverse strategies in one article. Not everyone resonates to every option, so there’s something here for each of us. And, even more important, some days I may be more drawn to a particular strategy. No more negative excuses…here’s to positive actions!

  4. April 11th, 2014 at 6:21 am


  5. April 13th, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Wonderful tips…. thank you!

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