Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead at AXA Health

How to have a positive mindset


14 April 2023

We often hear the term “positive mindset” but what does that mean? It doesn’t mean being happy all the time or being positive about everything that happens to you. It also doesn’t mean that we should ignore the challenges we face, and the disappointments we might experience.

It’s much more about embracing both good things, the not so good things, and choosing optimism as our outlook. 

Eugene Farrell, AXA Health’s Mental Health Lead, explores why choice is the important aspect here, and highlights that if we allow the negative to take over, our whole outlook is clouded by that negativity.

As a result, our opportunity to exercise control might be lost, as that negativity directs our thoughts, feelings and our actions. Therefore, maintaining a positive mindset, puts us in a different frame of mind.

Don’t allow negative self-talk in

We have an innate tendency to go to the negative, this is a built-in protection from long ago. If you find yourself leaning into the negative over a situation, then stop and consider an alternative. 

A good technique is to write down your thoughts so that you can challenge them. By asking questions you can begin to see things differently. 

  • Is this a fact or fiction?
  • Is there any evidence to support this?
  • Why did I focus on this negative?
  • Am I going to trust my mind or my experience?
  • What is this teaching me?
  • How will I feel about this in a week, a month, a year?
  • What would you say to someone else in this situation?

By seeing things differently, we can move away from the negative.Now try to replace the thought with something more positive:

  • “Yes, I made a mistake, but we all make mistakes, I have learned something and will be better next time.”
  • “I am prepared, I’ve done this lots of times without an issue and no one will think I am a failure.”
  • “This situation is not perfect, but there are things I can do.”

Focus on the now

The past has already happened, we can never change it no matter how much we think about it. Whilst it may be useful to learn lessons from the things that happen to us, dwelling on them, revisiting them or replaying them will never change a situation. 

Keep your focus on what’s happening now around you, and what’s coming next. This will keep us in the present and maintain our focus.

Focus on the good stuff

We have a natural attraction to bad things, to bad news and this can create a fog through which we see the world. We can develop habits of seeing only negative things, we remember insults more than compliments, respond more to unpleasant things than pleasant things.

In our lives there is good and not so good happening all the time, if we intentionally look for the good and filter out the not so good, we can begin to change our outlook on life

  • What is going well?
  • What am I enjoying?
  • What good things happened today?

If we can find even just one thing to appreciate during bad things, we can gain a powerful positivity.

Find humour in situations

Life is full of humour and amusement; it happens all around us. We mostly miss these things as we are preoccupied with a task, or with things happening. If we actively look for amusing things, things that make us smile or feel good, we find they are there. 

Humour increases the feel-good chemicals in our body, reducing stress, improving wellbeing and memory. It can also shift our perspective towards the positive.


Gratitude has been shown to create positivity, reduce stress and make us happier, improves relationships and life satisfaction. We can begin by showing gratitude to others, it doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, it can be a simple appreciation thank you. Both the giver and receiver of the gratitude will benefit. 

Look around for things to be grateful for, your kids, the birdsong, great colleagues, hot coffee. Things are literally all around us.

Start and end your day with gratitude, a quick review of 3-things to be grateful for, works powerfully.

To be grateful of others we must also learn self-gratitude. Reflect on things you’ve accomplished, how wonderful you are, your talents and skills. Allow ourselves to feel the gratitude, let it in and let it sit with you.

Take control

We can’t control everything that happens in life, but there are some things we can control

  • What we watch and listen to – avoid the constant bad news that can cause the world to seem negative and bad. 
  • People we talk to - surround ourselves with energisers, people who lift you up, have positive energy. We can choose to call up, text, chat with those who have positive energy.
  • What we say out loud – saying something out loud makes it 10x more powerful. So, say good things, powerful things.


A positive mindset takes time to develop, you may well already have many of the skills and actions above, and others you may need to work on. If we work at it every day, it will eventually become a habit, and a good one. It will replace the bad habits we might already have. Habits take time to become a habit, so stick with it!

>Read more on how to form healthy habits 

Further resources

Harness the power of positive thinking - AXA Health

Mindful breathing tips - AXA Health

The health benefits of being kind - AXA Health

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