Improve Your Positive Thinking

This post is a section of our report, A Leader’s Guide to Well Being. For a copy of the whole report, email

Cultivating positive emotions is crucial for your well being and your leadership. It’s not that great leaders don’t have emotional ups and downs—all the leaders we’ve worked with do. But leading with positive emotions puts the wind at your back because they’re contagious. If you feel good, your people are more likely to feel good.

The field of positive psychology focuses on what helps people be happy, rather than studying problems and dysfunction. Much has been learned in recent decades about what actually drives positive emotions.

Here are some simple, evidence-based practices to help boost your mood, increase resilience, reduce stress, and improve your health and productivity. Whether you have a more sunny disposition or are naturally prone to ups and downs, these practices will give you a boost.

Be grateful. Cultivating gratitude can be transformative. Keep a gratitude journal: write for a few minutes each day about things you’re grateful for, and savor the good feelings you associate with them.  If you have a partner, discuss what you’re grateful for over dinner or before you sleep.

Think like an optimist. A close cousin to gratitude, optimism involves cultivating an outlook that good things are coming. If gratitude gets you in touch with the positive things already in your life, optimism helps you focus on positive things that may be on the way. Notice when you are anticipating a negative outcome and instead consciously substitute thoughts about something good that’s coming.

Laugh often. Laughter is great for your health and happiness. Finding the humor in life helps us feel better and connects with others. Some of the best leaders we know bring a great sense of humor that diffuses stress for their teams.

Savor pleasurable experiences. This is the “stop and smell the roses” concept. Slow down and recognize moments of pleasure. Give yourself an extra moment to enjoy positive experiences, whether it’s the flavors of a good meal, the beauty of a sunset, or the warmth of good company.

Be kind to others and yourself. If you need a boost, give someone else a boost. Research shows that those who help others are happier. Or do something kind for yourself, something healthy that you enjoy.

Rewrite your inner dialog. Cultivate self-compassion by changing the way you talk to yourself in your head. Most of us have a pretty strong inner critic, saying things to ourselves we’d never say to others. Change that critic into a more encouraging voice. A Buddhist self-love technique takes this one step further: get very comfortable, relax, and cultivate a feeling of loving kindness toward yourself. Try it! It feels great and it’s good for you.

Keep a progress journal. Keeping a journal focused on progress you’ve made can be uplifting, helping you realize what you’ve accomplished. One major study revealed that shining light on progress is highly motivating.

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