6 Small Ways to Improve Your Mood and Spread Positivity

Everyone wants to be happier. Whatever that means for you—whether your measuring stick is money, love or your own self-worth—you’ve probably found yourself continually reaching for some higher level of joy, even when things are going incredibly well.

But as positivity expert Elizabeth McIntosh points out, happiness is simply an emotional state. It’s far more telling to look at what factors influence your emotions and work backward to become a happier person.

One factor that likely impacts your happiness more than you’d think? Your outlook on the world. Time and again, scientists have identified this as a key component of personal happiness.

Angry Latino office worker yells on phone. Rewire PBS Our Future Positivity
Sometimes all it takes is one bad phone call to derail your state of mind.

Unfortunately, the world can be a crushingly negative and distressing place, and technology and constant interconnectivity can intensify those feelings, McIntosh said. So where does that leave us? The good news is that the power of positivity rests largely in our hands.

The bad news?

“People are becoming more aware that they should be more positive and would like to think they are positive in their daily lives,” McIntosh said. “But the average individual finds it difficult to maintain mental resilience and a positive disposition when things are not going well or they are faced with adversity.”

By making a concerted effort to be a force of light and positivity, we can aspire for something better, for ourselves and for everyone.

Try these six tactics for starters:

1. Show gratitude

No matter what stressors you’re currently facing, there’s always something to be thankful for. In fact, McIntosh recommends that shining a light on the good things in your life daily can go a long way to brightening up each day. But more than just recognizing your good fortune, expressing this appreciation to loved ones or anyone you meet—a helpful cashier, a patient driver, a thoughtful co-worker—pays that positivity forward.

If you’re looking for it, you’ll find that life has a lot of great things to offer, even in the darkest of times. Regularly writing down the things you’re thankful for can have a big impact on your attitude about the world.

2. Lend a hand

When left to our own devices, many of us can become consumed or even addicted to our own troubles. One surefire way to shake ourselves out of this funk is to offer our assistance to others. This might be something as simple as helping a friend move or donating to our favorite charity. The critical aspect here is that you contribute to something bigger than yourself.

This approach keeps things in perspective, since so often your problems are not nearly as big as they seem in your head. 

3. Perform simple acts of kindness

A coffee shop interior as seen from above. Two people stand at the counter, a barista preps something on the other side. Rewire PBS Our Future Positivity
Surprise the person in line behind you by paying for their coffee and brighten their day and yours.

This might sound redundant. But, actually, performing frequent, small acts of kindness is even easier than lending a hand. McIntosh suggests that just three selfless acts each day can make a measurable impact “because, if everyone did this, everyone would be lifted higher.”

And these don’t have to be costly or time-consuming efforts either. Hold a door for someone while you’re shopping, let a car merge in front of you, compliment your server or cook dinner for your significant other. You have infinite possibilities for the good that you can do. So be on the lookout and seize them.

4. Simplify your life

From busy work schedules to our social calendars, it doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed. Still, don’t be afraid to declutter not just your home of unnecessary possessions—a tactic that has proven psychological benefits in itself—but your life as well.

Despite what you have going on, take a break (or cut a few items from your to-do list) to enjoy life. It’s so easy to get lost in day-to-day stresses and obligations and forget to absorb your surroundings and enjoy your loved ones.

5. Smile more often

It sounds cliché, but flashing your pearly whites can make a huge difference, according to science. Your facial expression, research has found, is tied inextricably to your emotions, and what’s more, it can brighten someone’s day in an instant.

Smiling doesn’t cost you anything and allows you to radiate positivity, even if only for a moment. Even if you’re feeling down, a smile will release endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, all of which promote happiness.

6. Train your thoughts

All these methods can have an exponential positive effect, but the most fundamental way you can make a difference is by reframing your own thoughts, McIntosh said. Most people are constantly mired by habitual negative thoughts, mentally tearing themselves and others down without ever realizing it.

By developing greater self-awareness of what clouds your mind, you can take control of your inner dialogue and create a more positive attitude from the ground up. This requires practicing positive mindfulness, which can be tricky but can have widespread positive effects, McIntosh said.

A headshot of a man. PBS Rewire. Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr. is a full-time freelance writer specializing in business, marketing and entertainment. Over the last 15 years, he has covered everything from the regional business scene to the latest movies and TV shows. You can usually find him—laptop on hand—sipping a latte or chasing after his young daughter. For more on his work, check out robertyanizjr.com or email him directly at [email protected] You can also find him on Twitter @robertyanizjr.