What Is Positivity? The Definition May Surprise You

Positivity is a word many of us use, but what does it actually mean? Take a look at this positivity definition and the meaning of positivity on HealthyPlace.

Positivity is a state of mind we would all like to achieve, but it isn’t always easy. During a period of depression or loss, having a positive mindset can feel impossible. Many of us are also skeptical about positivity. We ask ourselves if it’s even possible to look on the bright side when there's so much negativity in the world.

Part of the problem could be that we’re approaching positivity all wrong. Being positive doesn’t necessarily mean being happy all the time or seeing the good in everything ("Does False Positivity, Fake Positivity, Help or Hurt You?"). In fact, the official positivity definition may surprise you.

Positivity: The Official Definition

Positivity is often looked down upon as an irritating personality quirk. However, the official definition implies that positivity is not something you are – it’s something you do.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, positivity is: “The practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

That’s right. Positivity is a practice, not something you’re born with. Just like running or learning the guitar, positivity is a skill you get better at the more you do it. What's more, scientists are now learning that the power of positive thinking is more than just a buzzword – it can actually rewire our brains to rewrite trauma and overcome negative thinking patterns.

What Is the Meaning of Positivity?

The philosophy of positivity is one that goes back thousands of years. The idea that changing your thoughts can change your reality is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist teachings, for instance, but it’s also at the heart of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other scientifically-backed therapy models.

There is no one meaning of positivity. Positivity is the act of training your brain to think and respond to situations calmly and optimistically. It takes time and a little effort every day, but the rewards can be life-changing.

How to Achieve Positivity in Challenging Times

The definition of positivity is only helpful if you can put the words into action. Here are some steps to help you live a more positive life.

1. Be Mindful

Studies show that people who practice mindfulness are calmer, have better memories and are more creative than those who don't. This is because our brains are programmed by neural connections. Like working a muscle in the gym, the more you work on a particular neuron (e.g. positivity), the stronger it gets. The neurons you don't use will eventually disappear. This is how habits form.

Here are some tips to help you become more mindful:

  • Observe your thoughts: Try not to label them as "good" or "bad" or get too invested. Watch them pass like traffic in your mind. Don't try to stop them or intervene.  
  • Do one thing at a time: When you’re eating, for example, just eat. Don't watch TV or listen to music or work on your computer. Focus on the tastes and textures of the food in your mouth.
  • Do nothing: Every day, set aside 5-10 minutes to sit with yourself and just do nothing. No phone, no book, no TV, no music. Only you and your thoughts.

2. Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is surprisingly simple. Find a time of day that suits you (the last thing at night works best) and write down three things for which you are grateful.

You may choose something as small as a hot shower or the coffee you drank on your way to work, or as general as support from your friends and family. If you’re unable to get out of bed due to mental or physical illness, be thankful that you have a soft pillow and a comforting space to rest and recover.

3. Journal

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, starting a positivity journal could help you achieve a happier mindset. You can keep your gratitude lists here, jot down inspiring quotes and collect images that make you feel good.

When you're having a particularly bad day, you can look back at your positivity journal and know that there are things in life to feel good about.

Practicing Positivity

If you suffer with depression or you’re experiencing hardship, you may resent being told to “think positively” ("Positivity for Depression: Is That Even Possible?") However, by taking a few small steps each day towards positivity, you can re-train your brain to look for the good things in life. All we ever have is this moment – so why not make it the best it can be?

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2021, December 31). What Is Positivity? The Definition May Surprise You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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