16 Ways To Stay Positive at Work

As an HR professional, you’re always in a good mood, spreading cheer wherever you go. Wait—what’s that? You’re not always in a good mood? Sometimes you just wanna squeeze a stress ball until it explodes?

No one can stay positive at work 100% of the time, of course. But in HR, your attitude is contagious—because you interact with everyone from the executive team to the newest hire, your good or bad moods can affect your entire organization. It’s important for you and your team to set the right example and maintain a positive attitude in the workplace as often as possible. Doing so can help your whole team perform better, not to mention there are many physical and mental benefits as well. Let’s start by identifying what a positive attitude in the workplace looks like.

What Is a Positive Attitude in the Workplace?

Having a positive attitude isn’t as simple as ignoring the bad and gritting your teeth with a smile. That can come off as inauthentic and even naive at times. Plus, ignoring the bad can actually get you into more trouble: problems don’t just go away when we pretend they aren’t there.

Positivity in the workplace is more like optimistic realism, where you recognize the bad and negative aspects of a situation and still choose to focus on the good. It also means you’re looking to take meaningful action when something bad happens. You’re not just going to sit there and take it—you’re going to find a solution to the problem.

What Does a Positive Attitude Look Like to Others?

People with positive attitudes are easy to spot—they’re the ones you like to spend time with. These employees are focused and not distracted by menial inconveniences. They don’t cry over spilled milk, literally or metaphorically. They’re also not ones to engage in water-cooler gossip because they have other people’s best interest at heart.

Doesn’t that sound like a person you’d like to know? With that in mind, here are 16 ideas for how to stay positive at work:

1. Develop a solid morning routine.

You don’t have to be a morning person to get the day off to a good start. You may not want to go jogging for an hour while listening to upbeat music or cook a large three-course breakfast before work, and that’s okay. Maybe the routine that works for you is a warm shower, Pop Tarts, and a favorite podcast. Whatever puts you in a good mood, do that thing every day. At the same time, try cutting out morning habits that cause stress or set the wrong tone for the day—like checking your phone as soon as you wake up. Weed out the negative and replace it with the positive to make your morning routine serve you.

Health and positivity are related, so the more you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel mentally too.

2. Practice gratitude.

Whether you keep a gratitude journal or make a point to acknowledge things you’re thankful for each day, staying positive at work is easier when you lead with gratitude. Try expressing it verbally on a regular basis or performing random acts of kindness to pay it forward. You’ll feel good about yourself and others (and you just might live a little longer).

3. Live healthy.

Make your health a priority. Exercise regularly, and couple that with relaxation and meditation. Among regular exercises, make sure to smile and laugh as often as possible. As with most exercises, you may not be in the mood to do either sometimes, but the more you smile and laugh, the better you’ll be at it (and the better you’ll feel). Also, maintain a healthy diet, stay properly hydrated, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Health and positivity are related, so the more you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel mentally too.

4. Celebrate often.

You don’t have to organize a party every day, but recognizing the excellent performance of your coworkers and celebrating their successes (big and small) can help everyone stay more positive at work. And this recognition doesn’t have to be expensive: While bonuses and raises remain the preferred form of reward and recognition, 25 percent of employees said they would be happiest with a simple “thank you.” When you begin to offer more frequent, sincere recognition, many people will respond in kind. Soon, your whole organization can embrace a culture of positivity and recognition that will carry them forward to the next success.

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5. Keep learning.

Whether it be a new job skill or a personal interest, keep learning. Read good books. Pick up new hobbies. Try something that scares you. Positivity comes from appreciating all the world has to offer, and we may forget the world’s brilliance when we stop learning new things.

6. Take breaks.

It’s too bad people don’t actually come with batteries included. Because that way we would know when we absolutely must recharge. As it is, far too often we keep going until we’re burned out, at which point trying to stay positive at work (and everywhere else for that matter) is almost impossible. Take small breaks throughout your workday, and when you’re really lagging, go on a vacation. Giving yourself a chance to rest and recover will make you more productive and happier.

7. Maintain balance.

Make time for the most important people in your life, namely your family and loved ones. If your personal life is in order and you’re in healthy relationships outside of work, it’ll spill over to your job in a good way (and the opposite is also true). Never overlook the importance of a solid work-life balance.

8. Make your coworkers your friends.

It’s always easier to stay in a good mood among friends. Make sure you start off every office friendship on a positive note; don’t try to relate with someone over something you hate. Look for similarities in your interests outside of work, and go out of your way to be nice to them. As you practice generosity and kindness to your coworkers, they’re more likely to return the favor.

Try following the SMART goals model so you can get into a steady flow of satisfying work and consistent achievement.

9. Avoid the negative people

As you’re developing friendships with coworkers, navigate towards positive people. Of course be friendly with everyone, but be careful not to spend too much time around those who are disgruntled or gossipy. They may start to wear off on you, steering you into a dead-end of negativity.

10. Decorate your workspace.

It’s a small thing, but if your desk is uncomfortable or sterile, it will affect you. Make your workspace your own. Whether that means it’s covered with family photos or Star Wars paraphernalia, you should surround yourself with the things that remind you to be happy and positive.

11. Control Your thoughts and emotions

It’s pretty hard for some people to manage, but a huge part of becoming a more positive person is controlling your thoughts and emotions. This has a lot to do with changing your perspective. If you come to work and think “I have a lot on my to-do list,” you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and exhausted than if you were to come to work and say “I have a lot of opportunities to prove myself.”

Try and find a positive way to spin any situation. Additionally, decide how you’re going to react to a situation ahead of time. There will always be meetings or clients who will upset you, but if you decide ahead of time to keep a positive attitude and not let them get to you, you’re more likely to achieve that. Put yourself in the driver’s seat—not your emotions.

12. Set realistic goals.

If you’re setting realistic, achievable goals regularly, you’ll constantly feel accomplished. But if your goals aren’t realistic, you’ll always feel behind, like you’re failing. Unrealistic “stretch” goals may motivate you for a time, but eventually, they will lead to negative feelings and attitudes. Try following the SMART goals model so you can get into a steady flow of satisfying work and consistent achievement.

13. Focus on your strengths.

You were hired for your job because there are certain things you do really well. As much as possible, focus on those things, and keep your head up. From that place of confidence, you should select one or two weaknesses at a time to work on. Trying to tackle the whole list at once is a quick way to burn out, lose confidence, and become pessimistic. On the other hand, making small improvements over time as you lean on your strengths is a great way to stay positive.

14. Be creative.

Creating something—whether it be a piece of art or an innovative HR solution—brings personal satisfaction. And when you’re creating something that will improve your company, everyone is better off. Others will be grateful for you, you’ll be grateful for their accolades, they’ll be grateful for your gratitude, and so forth and so on. It’s a circle of goodness.

15. Find the positive.

One of our values here at BambooHR is “Assume the Best.” This means keeping a positive, optimistic outlook towards other people and things. When negative thoughts come, or people appear to be acting poorly, look for the positive. Assume that people are trying their best and want to work with you to find the best solution. You’ll be surprised how much good there is in every situation. Just look for it!

16. Fake the happy

If by some tragedy, none of the tips above have helped you find positivity at work, you have one more option: fake it until you make it. The reality is, we can’t force emotions on ourselves, and sometimes happiness and positivity don’t seem to be on the horizon.

So how do you find these emotions? Mimic them. Do the things happy and positive people do, and those feelings will show up eventually. And don’t think too hard about what a positive attitude looks like to others, just replicate what you see the most positive people in your workspace do.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to stay positive at work, or at least what a positive attitude in the workplace looks like. There is so much to like in this world, it’s just a matter of finding it every day. Now go spread some positivity!