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How to Develop a Positive Mindset While Living Abroad

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Have you ever felt like the world is against you and as if everything you have to deal with is just TOO much to handle? 

If you ever lived abroad, then you must know what we’re talking about and if you’re only thinking of moving abroad, we promise we’re not here to discourage you, on the contrary, we're here to inspire you to thrive abroad.

We’ve been expats since forever, our first move was when we were very little girls, and since it just became part of our life, up to our most recent move a couple of months ago. Now let’s be straight, the challenges you’re facing abroad are real, and we faced them too. We actually are still facing them. And it’s true every move is different, and it is influenced by many things, but the day-to-day challenges are not going to just disappear by magic. 

One thing, though, has changed fundamentally for us over the years. Our mindset. 

It’s true, in our previous moves, when we first arrived, the first couple of weeks, maybe even months, felt like the “honeymoon” phase. We were excited from the new places, the new food, the weather, the culture, even going to the supermarket was a discovery. 

two sisters taking a selfie on a sidewalk while abroad
Two sisters on a mission to help others enjoy their lives abroad!

But then real day-to-day life burst our bubble. We had to start creating our life in the new place. That’s when we started facing local bureaucracy, searching for apartments, and looking for jobs abroad.  And don’t get us started about the language! We felt alone and especially misunderstood. 

Now let us tell you a secret: our brain (for all of us) is automatically drawn to the negative - that’s its nature. So we keep seeing the challenges around us - which make us feel very quickly frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed. And it was exactly what happened to us - our mindset was so negative that it ruined our experience. 

While trying to fix our life's issues (not only the aspects related to living abroad) we both were very active. We read books, meditated, started practicing yoga, went to seminars and lectures, and each of us, separately, also started working with a life coach. 

By doing all of these things, we were able to shift our mindset and start taking positive responsibility for our lives. Because let’s face it, if our mindset can keep us from enjoying our lives, then if we turn it around and develop it positively, it can improve our day-to-day significantly. 

So when we said that the thing that has changed fundamentally for us over the years was our mindset, we meant that we are constantly challenging our brain, for years now, to positively serve us, so that we can enjoy our experiences. And that’s exactly what we did in this last move to France a couple of months ago. 

The situation and challenges didn’t really change. In fact, they are still very much present. But our positive mindset and positive thinking allow us to see things differently and therefore enjoy our day-to-day abroad for real this time. 

What Is a Positive Mindset? 

First and foremost it is an attitude; It is how you perceive the world around you.

For us, having a positive mindset means you consciously choose to focus your attention on the positive things in your life.

It doesn’t mean you ignore everything else, but it does mean that you acknowledge that there are many things going on (both positive & negative) in your life and the world, and having a positive mindset helps you turn on the volume on those positive things. 

Basically, your mindset will be translated into your actions, reactions, thoughts, behaviors and everything else you do. When you think practice positive thoughts, positive emotions, and a positive outlook on life, all this combines together to help you develop a positive mindset.

So, better put it into good use, right? 

two smiling sisters taking a selfie while drinking coffee on a cold morning
We've both been able to find joy in the unknown

The Importance of Having a Positive Mindset While Living Abroad

If mindset is translated into everything you do, think, or say, having a positive one will make you look, speak, and think in a more positive way. It’s like changing the glasses instead of trying to change the situation. 

This positive mindset of yours will, among other things, shows you that despite all the challenges you are facing right now, you have some amazing things in your life abroad that should be celebrated. This alone will improve your day and will make you feel better. Because by shifting your attention from all that is going wrong or hard, to those things that are ok, even if they are tiny, you’ll be able to perceive the world around you differently.

And guess what?! When you focus on the good the good gets better. Meaning that today you might have just found 1 good thing in your day, but tomorrow you’ll find more, and in a couple of weeks you’ll be able to mainly see the good in your life.

In addition, having a positive mindset allows you to see your challenges as opportunities. With practice, your list of challenges, hard moments, negative thoughts, and the things you avoid doing will become a list of opportunities and things you can’t wait to do!

And generally speaking, expats with a positive mindset are happier, healthier, more hopeful, and optimistic, and, best of all, they live their lives exactly like they want to. 

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3 Ways to Start Shifting Your Mindset

As you can imagine, there are a lot of things you can do to shift your mindset, but to get you started here are three things you can really start doing right now. Yes, I do mean you can go ahead and get started while reading this article.

1. Pay Attention to the Words You're Using

A great start to shifting your mindset is to pay attention to the words you are using, both in your head and out loud. Words like: chaotic, impossible, horrible, terrifying, complicated, frustrating, boring, stupid, unworthy, lonely, confusing, etc. are triggering your negative mindset. The same thing happens when you say things like: I can’t, I don’t know how, why bother, why is it happening to me.

By using this kind of language, even just to yourself, you're giving space to your negative emotions. Trust me, negativity breeds negativity, meaning the more you focus on the bad, the more your positive attitude will dwindle.

To trigger your positive mindset, first you need pay attention to what you say to yourself, or your inner voice, and then the things you say out loud. Just by being more aware of your language, you’ll be able to start shifting the conversation to a more positive one. Then, you can start using more positive words that will benefit you. For example words like: exciting, new, inspiring, overcoming, discovering, simple, appreciating, together, accepting, loving, and thank you. 

So right now, while reading, try to finish the following sentences:

  • I can…
  • I want to…
  • I am excited about…
  • This is a good opportunity for me to…
  • I’m thankful for … 

By practicing these examples you’re already consciously focusing your attention on the positive things. 

two sisters taking a silly selfie in an empty courtyard.
Developing positive mindsets have changed our entire perspective

2. Be Present

Once you focus attention on the right here, right now, it’s easier to begin thinking positive.

We tend to worry about the future with thoughts like: what if?, when will?, how should I? or feel guilty and ashamed about things we did, or didn’t do, in the past by thinking : If only I would have, why didn’t I, what a waste.

Yet this attitude is keeping us from seeing all the positives we have right now. By focusing our attention on the present, this exact moment, we can turn on the volume on the good that is happening, and enjoy it.

To practice this right now, stop everything you are doing and thinking right now, and ask yourself, “What is positive right now in this specific moment?"

If you need to be held more accountable to really feel present and grateful for your life, I recommend starting each day with a morning routine that includes writing a few notes in a gratitude journal. Another idea to add into your morning routine is repeat positive affirmations. These are simple sayings and phrases, said in the present tense, meant to help you challenge negative thoughts an turn you into a positive thinker.

3. End Each Day on a Positive Note

We love this one! And we’ve actually been doing this for years now.

Because our brain doesn't know how to think about two things at the same time, by bringing a positive thought to your brain, you’re “forcing” it to think about a more positive thing. When doing it before falling asleep, you will actually improve your sleep and your mood the day after. And look at that, improving your sleep and mood are 2 more amazing side effects of focusing on your mindset. You’re welcome!

At the end of today and each day, before going to sleep, ask yourself, “What’s my positive moment of the day?” and enjoy thinking about this moment, or even go further and write it down to keep track of your daily positive moments.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be crazy big things, something as small as a really good, relaxing shower can be the positive moment of the day. The key here is to focus on doing this daily and less about what the moment actually is.

Those 3 things we shared with you today are the tip of the iceberg. Embracing a positive mindset is something that requires your attention constantly, and therefore there are many ways to practice it. The shift toward a more positive mindset doesn’t happen overnight, but once you start paying attention and challenge your brain to perceive the world around you in a more positive way, you’ll soon start seeing positive changes in your daily life.

On a final note, you made a wonderful decision to go on an adventure and live abroad.

It doesn’t matter if you made this call 20 years ago, or last week, be sure that it is an amazing gift you gave yourself. We honestly believe it. Now you just have to decide to see it this way and enjoy it. If you want to hear more about positive mindset for expats, be sure to follow us on Instagram.

Sending positive vibes your way!

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