How to Stay Positive at Work: 22 Helpful Tips

It’s not always easy to stay positive at work.

Sometimes because it’s Monday and you’re tired and would like another weekend right now.

At other times because it’s Wednesday and you are doing some boring routine work or you are being dragged down by negative attitudes around you.

So in today’s post I’d like to share my top 22 tips that help me to have and maintain a positive attitude while I work (and that often helps me in my private life too when things get tough).

I hope these tips will help you to be a positive person in your workplace and also spread the positive vibes to the people around you to make it a more enjoyable and successful experience.

Three women with laptops laughing.

1. Get your day started the right way.

Your morning routine and how you start the day tends to set the tone for that day.

A stressed and hurried morning with negative news as you eat breakfast can set a negative tone for that whole day.

A slow and unstressed start to your day with uplifting conversations over the breakfast table or a positive podcast in your ears as you ride the bus can on the other hand set a positive tone for the rest of your day.

So find a routine that lifts you and your spirits up to have a more optimistic and constructive day at work. One where you also feel strong to be able handle negative or challenging situations.

2. Protect your positive mindset from negative people.

No matter if you’ve started your day in a positive way, that can quickly be derailed by negative energy flowing in as you get to work.

Here’s how you can protect your mind and yourself from that:

Focus on minimizing.

You may never be able to fully remove negative energy and people from influencing you at work. So focus on making small changes to step by step improve your every experience.

Spend less time with negative people.

And more of your time and energy with the positive people. Actually sit down and think about this and make a list of the 3 most negative people and one of the 3 most positive people.

This list will bring you clarity and help you find simple ways in your everyday life to shift how you spend your time.

Take 1 minute for gratitude.

Ask yourself:

What are 3 things or people at work that I can be grateful for today and why?

Write down the answers on for example your smartphone (I use the free Simplenote app).

Practice gratitude in this simple way each day – or at least a couple of times a week – to keep your focus on what is positive in your workplace and to stay more resistant to negative thoughts or words from others.

3. Refill your mind with positive energy.

An easy way to further refuel your positive attitude – besides spending more time with the positive people – is to spend time with people and sources further away that uplift you.

You could for example listen to a positive podcast or music on your way to and from work. And read a positive book or blog post on your break or if you have some slow waiting time during the day.

Positive attitudes are contagious, so use that to your advantage as best you can to add more positivity to your day.

4. Plan for your day.

This will keep the stress down, help you be more relaxed and focused and so it’ll be easier to keep that positive attitude throughout your day.

Set realistic goals for the day and week. Because unrealistic expectations that you simply can’t match at the end of the day or work week will only make you feel bad and perform worse.

  • Use a limited to-do list. Prioritize your tasks for the day so that you start with the most important one and work your way down. Keep this list small to reduce stress and because things tend to take more time than we budget for.
  • Do the most important task first thing in the day. This is often the hardest task of the day too. But if you get it done then you’ll feel good about yourself, you’ll feel relieved and the rest of the day will feel lighter.
  • Take regular breaks during your day. Otherwise you’ll perform and feel worse in the afternoon or at the end of the workweek. I usually work for 45 minutes and then have a 5-10 minute break.

5. One thing at a time.

This simple sentence can help you to keep your focus – and your sanity – if things are hectic and stressful.

Plus, you’ll do a better – and surprisingly often a quicker – job if you only focus fully on one task or step at a time.

6. Let your environment help you keep your positive outlook.

Shape your physical workspace and, for example, your phone and computer to create an encouraging and supportive space.

You could do that by adding:

  • Inspiring quotes or tips on a note in your workspace.
  • A small plant to have some relaxing greenery.
  • A picture of loved ones and one of your private goals such as a dream destination you want to travel to.

The last idea is a good way to remind yourself of your purpose for doing this job during tough times. It’s always good to keep your most important whys close by to easily refocus and refuel motivation.

If you can’t keep them in the workspace for some reason then keep them on your phone or in a notebook in your work bag.

7. Help your co-workers and make them feel appreciated.

Build an upward spiral at work with kindness and a helping, grateful and positive attitude.

For example:

  • Help out with a practical task. Like fixing a setting for a computer program or carrying an extra bag to a meeting.
  • Express your gratitude. If something about a co-workers popped up in the your head during the one minute gratitude exercise in tip #2 then express that to this person. It may not seem much to you but it can make their morning or whole week if they are having a rough one.
  • Do a small act of kindness. Such as fetching a cup of coffee or a banana for them too.

These things make the days go by faster, make them more enjoyable and fun and improve morale and the positive attitude at work.

Plus, such kindness and help tend to flow back to you too in the long run and from most people.

8. Know how to make boring work more enjoyable (or acceptable).

No matter what job you have, you usually have to do some boring tasks.

But there are ways to make them more enjoyable. Or at least more acceptable.

You can:

  • Focus on how good it will feel when the task is done. Instead of focusing so much on how it’s boring.
  • Make a deal with yourself. Set a timer for just 10 minutes and then get going with the task. When the bell chimes you take a break or get to work on something more interesting. Do tasks like these in smaller bursts to get through them relatively quickly. That’s a lot better than procrastinating on them for hours or days.
  • Create a pleasurable distraction. Listen to the radio, to a podcast or some music. This and making a small deal with myself are usually my combo to get boring tasks done.

9. Let your lunch time be a slow and relaxing break.

If you can, let this natural midpoint to your day be a time of relaxing.

So, eat slowly. To make that easier, put the fork down between bites. Savor each bite.

Eating your lunch in a slower way like this can help you release quite a bit of stress. That’s at least been my experience. And I know that my afternoons tend to go better if I go about things this way rather than if I wolf down my lunch quickly.

10. Don’t get caught up in the complaining trap.

Author Anne Lamott once wrote:

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

I think the same goes for complaining.

Yes, venting can certainly be helpful. But do it for a bit. Don’t overdo it and don’t make it into a routine every day or many times a week.

Because it will hurt you more than the people or things you complain about. Plus, people may start avoiding you because now they want to protect their minds – as described in tip #2 – from your bad attitude and that one person that just won’t stop complaining.

11. Be kind to yourself when you make a mistake (or have a setback).

It’s tempting and for many of us a habit to beat ourselves up when we make a mistake or have a setback.

But I’ve found that a better path forward is to be kind to yourself and to be constructive. You can do that by asking yourself questions like:

  • What is one thing I can learn from this setback?
  • How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then you do things and you talk to yourself like he or she would.

12. Understand that other people’s negativity is often not about you.

Some criticism is certainly helpful to improve and do a better job. Some heated venting can absolutely help you or your co-workers let go of stress and frustration.

But if a co-worker or boss makes it a habit of being negative about the job all the time or critical of you then it is often more about them than you. It’s them lashing out because they are having trouble at home, because they don’t like their job anymore or because they’re having a bad week or year.

To lessen the sting of that, try to be understanding. Put it on them, not on who you are or what you did. And, if you like, spend less time with that person and more with the positive people at work.

13. Use mindfulness to make your day lighter.

I find that going about my work in a mindful way helps a lot to keep negative thoughts to a minimum and to more easily focus on what I need to get done.

To work mindfully simply means to me that I am fully in the present moment and focused on what I’m doing right now. I don’t think about the past. I don’t think about what I have to do tomorrow.

A few tips that help me be more mindful are:

  • Slow down. When I go a bit slower it becomes easier to think and focus again. I feel less scattered.
  • Do one thing at a time. Multitasking tends to make me unfocused.
  • Take a 2 minute mindfulness break in the afternoon. I like to clear my mind and reduce stress that may have built up by taking a small break in the afternoon. During these 2 minutes I sit or lie down. I close my eyes. And then I focus on taking deep breaths with my belly. And focus only on the air going in and out and nothing else.

14. Know quick ways to destress and center yourself again.

If the stress is ramping up during the day then it’s very helpful to already know what helps you the best to quickly reduce that before you get dragged down into a negative funk.

A few of my favorites are:

  • The 2 minute mindfulness break. As described in the previous tip.
  • Remembering to actually take my hourly breaks. Otherwise they won’t help.
  • Having a laughter break. Taking 3-5 minutes to watch something funny on Youtube or listening to a funny podcast.

15. Look at challenges as a way to learn and grow.

I find that I feel a lot better and more confident when I face the inevitable challenges at work with a growth mindset. The mindset that is all about keeping on learning and keeping on growing to find new knowledge, motivation and purpose in the work.

Rather than from the perspective that I don’t want anything to change and just stay in my comfort zone.

This is of course sometimes easier said than done.

But breaking down a challenge into small or tiny steps and then just doing and focusing on one step at a time can make it a lot easier and doesn’t mean that you have to go too far outside of your comfort zone if you’re not up for it today or this week.

16. Celebrate both big and small successes.

Don’t just celebrate big successes and achievements. Refuel your motivation and be a more positive person more consistently by celebrating those small successes too.

If you’ve for example finished the first step of a challenge or a new project then celebrate that with a tasty snack or your favorite lunch.

17. Let a small waterfall of positive moments and achievements rain down on you.

If you’re having an uninspired or tough day then take 2 minutes to think back.

Vividly remember some of your top moments and achievements at work. Maybe when you saved a client that had a big problem and that time when you faced a challenge with a co-worker. Or when you won a sales competition or got glowing words of praise and an extra bonus.

You can also expand this exercise into your personal life and remember how you’ve improved in your favorite sport or hobby or recall a few of the most positive moments you’ve had with your family or friends.

This will lift your spirits and get you into a more optimistic headspace once again.

18. Keep a minimalistic and organized workspace.

I find that if I keep a minimalistic and organized workspace then it becomes easier to think clearly, to focus and I get less stressed or lost in overthinking things.

Because what’s happening on the outside tends to affect what’s going on the inside.

So my workspace contains a big monitor and a small computer on an adjustable standing desk. I use a comfy chair and usually have a glass of water and a small pad of paper and a pen for my daily to-do list.

That’s it.

19. Do your best.

I’ve recently started reading this quote by writer Don Miguel Ruiz every morning after breakfast:

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

This sets the right tone and aim for my day. And I find that working according to this piece of advice helps me to feel good at the end of the day.

20. Know what you can control, and focus on that.

Don’t spend too much energy on challenges that may be beyond you such as some parts of how your company work, the attitude of your most negative co-worker or that you have to do some boring routine work during each week.

Instead, use your limited energy, willpower and attention as best you can to improve upon the things you can control.

And if none of the tips in this article and none of the ones you or your loved ones can come up with help out where you work because the company culture is too stressful, the work environment is too toxic or because you’re sick and tired of the daily grind then maybe it’s time to make a change.

Time to take a look at what you can control in this situation and start looking for a new job where you are likely to have a better and more positive experience.

21. Have things to look forward to.

It’s a lot easier to stay positive at work if you have plenty of things to look forward to in your life.

Maybe it’s a date next week, a trip during the summer or going fishing with friends in a couple of weeks.

And if you don’t have much going on in your calendar right now, then plan for one or two things to feel more excited again.

22. Have things outside of work that recharge you and make you happy.

To be able to consistently stay positive in life and during your work hours you need things outside of your work that recharge you and make you feel joy.

You need that work and life balance.

So don’t neglect your favorite hobby or sport. Don’t work too much so you don’t have enough time and energy for an evening with friends or the weekend with your family.

Make time and have energy to spare for these most important things in life and you’ll find that it’s easier to be positive about your work too.

Here’s the next step…

Now, you may think to yourself:

“This is really helpful information. But what’s the easiest way to actually stick with it and stay positive even on tough days?”

Well, I’ve got something special for you.

A free step-by-step checklist that includes my 14 best tips for staying positive in daily life. Save it or print it out so you have it for the next time when you get stuck in negative thinking.

Click the image below to download the free checklist:


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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • These are all great tips! I always try to start my day right away since it helps me feel more motivated!

  • After reading this blog post, I’ve realized how crucial it is to start my day positively, focus on one task at a time, and maintain a balance between work and personal life. These strategies will definitely help me foster a more positive attitude at work.

  • Hi Henrik Edberg

    You are My Favorite Blogger. Recent Time i’m facing a lot of bad experience at my work.

    But This your line

    “Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”

    Give Me Some Wings

    So Thank You

  • Hi Henrik,
    Great post, I personally think work and life balance is key to help build a positive attitude.