Power up your positivity


‘Unlock optimism by focusing on what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t – and write a positivity list to gain clarity’

A detox is as much a physical journey as it is psychological. Just as toxins and other nasties are flushed away from your body, unhappy thoughts can be flushed away, too. We often run our lives on autopilot, unaware of the effects of negative emotions until we’re close to breaking point. Sometimes we may not even realise we’re at breaking point, but if you’re struggling to get out of bed, you’ve lost your focus at work or you can’t motivate yourself to see friends or family, then a mind detox to help you focus on the positives could be just what you need.

Research by Yale University reveals that optimists live longer than pessimists, while another study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that being optimistic lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. But while putting on a happy face through tough times can have some great long-term benefits, looking on the bright side of life is not always as easy as it sounds.

‘Unfortunately we all have a negativity bias. It’s a common enemy that all human beings share, but by reframing experiences and learning lessons from hardships you can change your mindset for the better,’ says Cheryl Rickman, author of The Flourish Handbook and creator of The 30 Day Flourish Challenge (flourishchallenge.com). Here, our experts round up their top ways to find inner peace.

Makeover your mindset

Brighten up your attitude to life and achieve everything you want:

1. Live in the present

Holding on to the past will only leave you with regrets and resentment. ‘Just as you would never consider driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror, you need to realise that only focusing on the past will severely challenge your journey towards a happier future,’ says life and wellness coach Sloan Sheridan Williams (sloansw.com). It’s high time we looked at the silver lining if we want to boost happiness. ‘Avoid negativity by shifting your focus on to the things you have now that you’re grateful for and make plans for the future that inspire you to be the best version of yourself,’ adds Sloan.

2. Go with your gut

Your gut and your brain are inextricably linked when it comes to positive thoughts and emotions; in fact, 95 per cent of the body’s happiness-boosting serotonin is located here. ‘The chemical serotonin is manufactured by the nerve cells in the gut, and this prevents depression, regulates sleep, appetite and body temperature,’ says health and wellbeing expert Chris James (chrisjamesmindbody.com). That’s one reason why it’s essential to try to keep digestive health at its peak. Eating probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods like natural yoghurt, oats and asparagus will help to maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut while having a knock-on effect on your mood.

3. Lower your expectations

Being realistic is key to fulfilment. ‘If you feel frustrated all the time because your expectations are never satisfied in your work, your relationships or life in general, it is time to examine your wants and needs and figure out if your approach to life is really going to work for you,’ says Sloan. Frustration is an alarm call telling you to change how you do things, be that changing your beliefs or changing your circumstances. ‘A useful approach is to lower your expectations while raising your standards. This reduces the effect of outside influences, but increases your self-worth and determination,’ she adds.

4. Unplug from the technological smug

Most of us live in a bubble of technology. We’re forever tweeting, texting or emailing, which, over time, clutters up our minds and sends our stress levels soaring. So it’s time for a techno-detox to help reconnect with the real world. ‘Turn off electronics and power switches in the bedroom, along with Wi-Fi routers during spare time and in the evening. See how much time opens up for you and how you feel without being on call 24/7,’ says Chris.

5. Be grateful

Unlock optimism by focusing on what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t – and write a positivity list in order to gain clarity. ‘Ask yourself: what is going right for me? If your negativity bias kicks in to say “nothing, it’s all going wrong”, force yourself to think about the good stuff – whether that’s your health, mobility, the fact that you have great friends,’ says Cheryl.

6. Transform your thinking

We all have times when we need an emotional lift, but trying to change your mindset through positive images, messages and affirmations can also help. ‘Flood the brain with helpful thoughts and force out unhelpful ways of being. You can do this by only using positive self-talk, avoiding negative stimuli, and creating a vision board covered in inspirational images. If you start feeling negative, shift your focus by doing something extremely positive like sing your favourite happy song in your head,’ suggests Sloan. And try to naturally incorporate more exercise into your day to break the cynical cycle. ‘Studies show that just 10 minutes of walking per day can alter your mood for the better by getting endorphins flowing,’ adds Cheryl.. 

Happiness on a plate
Add these five foods to your diet for a cheery health upgrade

1. Salmon
The ultimate brain food, salmon is high in essential fatty acids, which help to keep cells healthy. Studies show that countries that eat a diet rich in these good fats have a lower rate of depression and other mood disorders.

2. Chocolate
There’s a good reason we chomp on chocolate when we’re feeling down: the sweet stuff contains the feel-good chemical phenylethylamine. Reach for a couple of squares of dark chocolate with 70 per cent cocoa solids (instead of milk chocolate) as it contains less sugar and more health benefits.

3. Quinoa
Need a happiness boost? Munch on quinoa. Packed with B vitamins, which help to regulate energy and stress levels, quinoa offers a quick mood lift.

4. Nut butter
Stable blood sugar levels are essential for keeping your mood in check so it’s important to fuel up properly. Protein-rich nut butter is a good dietary option, as it won’t leave you with a sugar crash an hour later. Team it with complex carbs like wholemeal toast to keep energy levels stable for a longer period.

5. Milk
Beat gloomy feelings with a glass of milk! It’s a natural source of vitamin D, which is thought to help fight depression.