Feed the Positive Dog

UPDATED: May 15, 2024
PUBLISHED: January 9, 2014

Research shows we can grow the positivity in our lives and then share it with those we live and work with. The more we feed the positive dog—the strategy for increasing an optimistic outlook in my book, The Positive Dog: A Story About the Power of Positivity  (FeedThePositiveDog.com)—the bigger it gets and the stronger it becomes. The key is to take action.

In this spirit, I have created an 11-day action plan with a daily strategy so you can feed yourself with positivity. Its purpose is to help you experience more positivity in your life and provide you with simple strategies to take charge of your positive thoughts and emotions. My hope is that when you are done with the plan, you will choose the strategies and exercises you like best and make them a habit. For example, I take a thank-you walk every day and it has become my favorite positivity booster. I also ask my children each night before bed their success of the day.

When you finish the plan, you’ll be able to create your own plan and incorporate one or more of the following strategies into your life and work. So let’s start feeding the positive dog.

Day 1—Take a thank-you walk.

It’s simple. It’s powerful and it’s a great way to start feeding the positive dog. How does it work? You simply take a walk… outside, in a mall, at your office, on a treadmill, etc., and while walking you think about all the things, big and small, that you are grateful for. The research shows you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time, so when you combine gratitude with physical exercise, you give yourself a double boost of positive energy. You flood your brain and body with positive emotions and natural antidepressants that uplift you rather than the stress hormones that drain and slowly kill you.

Note: If you love the thank-you walk, feel free to do it every day.

Day 2—Devote a day to gratitude.

A number of studies show that grateful people tend to be more optimistic, which in turn increases immune function and improves heart health and happiness, according to Robert Emmons, a gratitude expert and psychology professor at the University of California-Davis. 

Today as you live, work, interact, shop, drive, etc., turn off the negative news and identify all the things you are grateful for throughout the day. To help you do this, you may want to implement the get to instead of have to strategy (approach a task with the idea that you get to do it instead of have to do it). You also may want to write down things you are grateful for in a gratitude journal on paper or on a mobile device.

Day 3—Find more ways to laugh and smile.

They say children laugh about 400 times a day and adults laugh only about 25 times. Perhaps we need to be more like children and smile and laugh more. Research shows that smiling produces more serotonin in your brain and laughter reduces stress, increases your immune system and causes your body to release feel-good endorphins. Today I want to encourage you to find more humor in your life that will make you laugh and smile today for at least ten minutes. Here are some ideas to smile and laugh more today:

1. Find and watch funny videos on YouTube.com.

2. Rent your favorite funny movies and watch them.

3. Get a joke book and read funny jokes.

4. Watch a funny show on television.

Day 4—Celebrate your success of the day.

According to sports psychologist Jim Fannin, the last 30 minutes of every waking day is recorded and replayed that night by our subconscious minds 15 to 17 times. This replay occurs five times more often than any other thought at any other time. Thus it’s important to go to bed thinking positive thoughts. If you go to bed thinking and feeling like a champion you’ll wake up thinking and feeling like a champion who is optimistic and ready to win.

Today before you go to bed, celebrate your success of the day. Identify the one great thing about your day—the one great conversation, accomplishment or win that you are most proud of. Or identify the one person you helped most today or the one thing that made you smile. Focus on your success, and you’ll look forward to creating more success tomorrow.

Day 5—Spend time with positive people.

Research shows that the old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness is true, but being rich in friends certainly does make a difference. According to a survey from the National Opinion Research Center, the more friends you have the happier you are. Other studies show that close relationships promote health, enhance longevity and enhance positivity.

So today make time to connect with the positive people and take the time to strengthen your relationships with them. Get together with an old friend. Call a loved one. Or take action to make a new friend. Positive people make us feel more positive so spend time with them today.

Day 6—Share the gift of kindness.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, has been researching different techniques and strategies that increase our happiness. It’s not surprising that one of the successful happiness boosters is performing acts of kindness—such as volunteering for a charity, opening the door for someone, feeding the homeless or taking your elderly neighbor grocery shopping.

Lyubomirsky has found that by engaging in five acts of kindness in a single day (the impact is more powerful if performed in one day rather than spreading five acts over five days), participants in her studies experience a measurable boost in happiness.

Make today a day of kindness and engage in five acts of kindness. Some acts you will likely have to schedule and plan while other acts can be more spontaneous. The key is to perform five acts in one day. For ideas visit GiftOfKindness.com.

Day 7—Smell the roses.

According to Barbara Frederickson, author of Positivity, research shows that spending time in nature boosts your positivity—especially when the weather is good. However, anyone who has been to the beach or taken a walk through a forest or spent time fishing on a lake knows how good it feels to be immersed in nature.

Today, take the time to smell the roses and spend time in nature. Take your lunch break in a nearby park. Ride your bike to the beach. Take your kids hiking in the mountains. Go fishing at a nearby lake. Exercise with a friend in a park. If you love golf, consider a visit to the golf course as beneficial as a trip to the park so long as you take the time to enjoy the air, the trees and the green grass. Connect with nature and connect often. It will feed your positive dog.

Day 8—Take out your telescope.

I often talk about a telescope when encouraging people to create a big-picture vision for their future and dream about the life they want to create. The telescope represents our dreams for the future, and—according to Barbara Frederickson’s research—clarifying them is a simple way to boost positivity.

So today dream about the life you want to create. Write down your big-picture vision. What does it look like? What are you doing? What do you hope to accomplish? What difference do you want to make? What is your mission and purpose? Spend some time visualizing the future you want to create. Then write down your vision, dreams and goals.

Day 9—Make a gratitude visit.

Martin Seligman, Ph.D., the father of positive psychology, suggests that we write a letter expressing our gratitude to someone. Then we visit this person and read them the letter. His research shows that people who do this are measurably happier and less depressed a month later.

Today schedule and make a gratitude visit to an old boss or mentor, a friend who helped you through a tough time, a family member or someone who made a difference in your life.

Day 10Lose yourself in the moment.

When we are engaged in an activity in the present moment and doing something that interests us, we feel more positive.

Today choose an activity that will engage, interest and energize you. Play an instrument, listen to your favorite dance music and dance, paint, play a sport, surf, plant some flowers, play checkers or chess, read a good book, or choose another positive activity that will allow you to enjoy the present moment and feed your positive dog.

Day 11—Be a coach.

Coaches bring out the best in others. The best coaches mentor, encourage, praise, inspire and lead with optimism and positivity.

Today feed others and yourself with positivity by being a coach. Instead of complaining about what others are doing wrong, start focusing on what they are doing right. Praise them, encourage them, love them, recognize them and inspire them to be their best and you’ll help others feel great and you’ll feel great too.

Every dayPray.

Scientific research shows that daily prayer reduces stress, boosts positive energy, and promotes health, vitality and longevity. When you are feeling stressed to the max, stop, be still, plug in to the ultimate power, and recharge.

Starve the Negative Dog

Jon Gordon shares these ways to dial down negativity:

1. Turn off the news.

2. Don’t participate in gossip.

3. Turn complaints into solutions.

4. Identify the negative stories you tell yourself and replace them with positive stories.

5. Replace fear with faith.

6. See negative people as teachers who help you become more positive.

7. Choose positive words instead of negative words.


Speaker-author Jon Gordon’s other books include The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work and Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else.

Tiffany Cruikshank, L.Ac, MAOM, E-RYT, is the founder of Yoga Medicine.