WELLNESS
01/14/2016 01:35 pm ET

10 Signs You're A Positive Thinker

Do you look at life through a glass half full?

When something goes horribly wrong, your emotions hardly feel like a choice. It's logical to feel upset, angry or guilty about a negative situation, so it only makes sense to react accordingly -- right?

Not entirely. Research suggests that your happiness is more of a choice than it is purely influenced by circumstance. As William Shakespeare's famous line from "Hamlet" goes"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

The nature of your situations may just be determined by how you categorize them. In other words, a negative attitude may appear to be the logical reaction, but that doesn't mean you have to adopt one.

It isn't hard to be one of those people who looks on the bright side of life. Here are 10 signs you're a positive thinker.

1. You don't ignore the negative...

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Despite popular belief, positive thinkers don't always see the world through rose-colored glasses. Part of effectively adopting this mindset is becoming a realistic optimist, says positivity expert Joffrey Suprina, dean of the college of behavioral sciences at Argosy University.

"Many people think that positive thinkers only look at the good side and ignore everything else," he told The Huffington Post. "But if you go too much in that direction, there's a potential for harm as well."

2. ...But you choose to focus on the good.

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Positive people aren't Pollyannas -- but they also know that things can be worse.

"Positive thinkers really are individuals who recognize both the bright side and the negative, but they choose to focus their energy and time on the side that's going to promote the most positive outcome," Suprina said.

3. You're aware of your own thoughts.

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The difference between those who see the positive over the negative also lies in their observations. Suprina says positive-minded individuals squash the ANTs, or automatic negative thoughts, as soon as they start to appear.

"Most negative thoughts aren't conscious, we're not even aware of them," he explains. "Positive thinkers are aware of those messages they're telling themselves and the direction they're taking them. They don't go down that rabbit hole of negativity -- they catch it and reverse it around."

4. You don't fear failure.

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Positive thinkers don't let mistakes stand in their way. They let them fuel their growth. Obstacles -- and how people deal with them -- are indicators of a joyful life. Research from a comprehensive Harvard study on happiness found that challenges can actually improve well-being in the long run. As the old proverb says, "Fall seven times, stand up eight."

5. You're mindful.

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"In order to achieve this [positive] thought process, we also need to let go of judgment," says Suprina. "In our society we have this tendency to label something as either good or wrong [so quickly]."

One way to do this is through mindfulness. By engaging in the practice, people gain more recognition over what goes through their mind, and as a result, they're more capable of addressing it.

"The work for anyone struggling with perpetual negative thinking is to recognize that these thoughts are just that -- thoughts, and not facts," licensed psychotherapist Courtney Gregory wrote at Greatist. "Then, it's time to challenge these automatic patterns of thinking. This is where mindfulness meditation comes in."

Need some tips on how to start practicing mindfulness meditation? Try using this guide.

6. You engage in positive activities.

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The only way to expand any skill set is to build habits that reinforce that behavior -- and that goes for positive thinking as well, Suprina says.

In order to become a more positive person, he suggests doing activities that can help cultivate those emotions. Studies have shown that practices like meditation and journaling, as well as spending time with your friends and family, all have the ability to increase positive feelings. And positive feelings = positive thoughts.

7. You exercise.

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Positive thinkers' mindsets not only fuel their minds, but their bodies as well. And it's no wonder, considering a significant amount of endorphins -- the body's happy hormone -- are released during a sweat session. A 2013 study also found that an optimistic attitude is tied to a greater likelihood of exercising among heart disease patients. 

8. You lift yourself up.

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It'd be hard to find someone who didn't have at least one piece of self-criticism, positive thinkers included. The difference, Suprina explains, is they turn those negative statements into something actionable.

"Positive thinkers are sometimes going to have those negative self-talk statements that flash through their heads, but the difference is they're going to be aware of it and do something [about it]," he says. "They counter those thoughts and refocus themselves."

9. You surround yourself with positive people...

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Toxic people are easily the one of the biggest influencers on a negative mind. Research suggests that stress is indeed contagious. In order to maintain their sunny disposition, positive thinkers only surround themselves with people and things that will help that attitude flourish, Suprina says.

10. ... And you make everyone around you happy.

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On the flip side, studies show that happiness is also catching. Positive people have a way of making others feel jubilant, too. And as a result, everyone's lives are a whole lot more, well, positive.

A previous version of this article appeared in September 2014.

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