How to Develop a Positive Attitude in High School

24 Jan, 2024 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge, Psychology Articles

High school can be a period of immense pressure. Students are expected to stay on track with their academics, take part in social activities, and make important and impactful decisions about their future. 

The combination of these pressures can take its toll on students, making it common for high schoolers to experience low mood and anxious thoughts. This makes it ever more important for students to know how to support themselves, and gain support from others, so they can make the most of their high school experience – both academically and socially! 

Developing and cultivating a positive mindset is essential for facilitating academic achievement, personal growth, and holistic happiness in high school and beyond. 

A big part of our residential summer school is helping students to develop all the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to thrive. In this article, we’ll delve into how you can develop a positive attitude to help you navigate the challenges of high school, and ensure you’re able to achieve your maximum potential.

The Importance of a Positive Attitude in High School

Developing a positive mindset can benefit many aspects of your life, from academic performance to relationships and mental well-being. 

Encouraging a positive mindset can sometimes sound like a vague attempt at motivation. However, there have been scientific links between having a positive mindset and exhibiting better thinking, greater resilience, and greater general life satisfaction (Taherkhani et al., 2023). 

Naturally, the benefits of a positive attitude extend beyond your teenage years. This means that developing a positive mindset during high school will not only benefit you in the short-term, but also the long-term. 

Starting early means you’ll be able to lay strong foundations for future habits and success!

Why Focus on Positivity in High School?

High school represents a transitional phase in a student’s life. High schoolers are expected to take on responsibility for their academics, and make impactful decisions about their future – all while lacking the full freedom of an adult. 

This is a very unique phase of life, and is accompanied by a range of unique challenges. Being able to face these challenges with a positive mindset can be vital to having an enjoyable high school experience. 

Taking the time to cultivate positivity during these early pivotal years puts you in the best position to tackle life going forwards. 

Teens showing thumbs ups to the camera

What are the Benefits of Developing a Positive Attitude in High School?

There are endless benefits to developing a positive attitude in high school, many of which are relevant to some of the most central aspects of life.

Academic advantages

Cultivating a positive mindset in high school has many academic advantages. It can help you view academic tasks and challenges differently, and help you feel more capable of tackling them. 

A positive mindset can therefore:

  • Enhance your concentration on tasks
  • Boost your focus during lectures and study sessions
  • Make you more open-minded and receptive to new ideas 
  • Encourage innovative thinking
  • Improve your problem-solving abilities

You might also experience an increased desire to explore and learn new subjects, introducing you to new opportunities.

Mental health

Having a positive attitude can also positively impact your mental health, reducing unhelpful thinking patterns such as rumination. 

Positive thinking is associated with lower levels of stress when it comes to academic pressures, as well as an increased ability to cope with challenges. 

In general, a positive mindset results in an overall improvement in mood and emotional resilience. As students experience a range of challenges, all of which naturally impact mental-wellbeing, the ability to bounce back from setbacks is an important skill to develop.

Social benefits

Approaching social situations with a positive mindset can help you connect with your peers, and aid you in forming a supportive and collaborative social community. 

Many of your peers will be experiencing the same challenges as you so being able to share your experiences with a positive perspective means you’ll all have something to gain from your interactions. 

It can also improve teacher-student relationships, making it easier to seek academic guidance. 

The social benefits can also translate to academic benefits, as you develop leadership qualities and improved collaboration skills in group projects and extracurricular activities.

Personal development

Having a positive mindset isn’t just about viewing challenges and situations in a positive way; it’s also about valuing yourself and your capabilities. 

This can make it easier to express your thoughts and ideas, as well as improve your conflict resolution skills in personal and academic contexts. 

Boosting your self-esteem and sense of self-worth can also drive you to explore new opportunities without fear of failure.

How to Develop a Positive Mindset in High School

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of a positive mindset, so now here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to actively cultivate one!


This first step is key. Taking the time to reflect on your current mindset, and identifying any negative thought patterns, will reveal the areas you might like to work on. 

Self-reflection can be quite difficult and intimidating, but there are lots of self-reflection resources tailored to students to help you in your journey.

Set positive goals

Define clear and positive goals for yourself. These can be academic goals or personal goals, but making sure you have a tangible measure of success can help guide your journey in developing a positive mindset. 

It can be helpful to include a range of short- and long-term goals, as well as to break goals down into smaller, achievable tasks. This creates a sense of progress, and ensures you don’t get lost searching for some big, far-in-the-future goal. 

For more tips on goal-setting, check out our step-by-step goal-setting guide for students.  

Practise gratitude

Take a moment each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life. This will help you apply a positive mindset to the situations you encounter in day-to-day life. 

Consider keeping a gratitude journal and regularly writing down the things you’re thankful for. You could incorporate this practice into your morning or evening routine to build up the habit.

Surround yourself with positivity

It’s difficult to keep a positive attitude when those around you are constantly expressing negative thoughts and behaviours, so seeking out positive influences is especially helpful. This could be through friends, family, a mentor or coach – the list goes on!

This applies to both the real-world and the online-world. Minimising your exposure to negativity, regardless of its source, can have a substantial impact on your mindset. 

Two teens dancing together at Oxford Scholastica's boat ball

Challenge negative thoughts

Positive thinking doesn’t mean you’ll never have a negative thought again, and taking on a positive attitude won’t mean you’re always going to think positively. 

However, challenging any negative thought patterns you catch yourself engaging in will ensure these negative thoughts don’t have the chance to impact your mood or attitude. 

Try to replace these negative thoughts with positive affirmations or realistic perspectives instead. 

Develop a growth mindset 

A growth mindset is the belief that you can improve your skills and abilities over time. Approaching challenges with a growth mindset allows you to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow, and develop your skill set through dedication and hard-work. 

If you apply this to your positive mindset journey, you can see that your ability to engage positively isn’t fixed, and any challenges and setbacks you experience along the way can strengthen your positive mindset.

Create a sound support system 

It’s always important to have a support system – we all need help sometimes! 

Surround yourself with supportive friends and mentors you feel able to trust. Sharing your goals and challenges with them can help your journey to seem more concrete, and they might also be able to offer encouragement or advice.

Group of Oxford Scholastica students forming a circle and looking down at the camera

Take care of your well-being

Although focusing on your goals is important, you should also prioritise self-care by ensuring you get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. 

Remember that your physical well-being has a significant impact on your mental well-being – and vice versa! – so keeping up good habits in both areas is key to staying healthy and well.

Stay organised

It can be quite stressful to think about all the goals you’re striving to achieve and the tasks you need to complete. Developing strong organisational habits is really helpful for reducing this stress. 

There are plenty of tools available, including planners and calendars, to help you keep track of assignments and deadlines, and many of these tools are available online with plenty of apps to help you stay organised and productive.

Learn from setbacks

As with anything, you’ll likely experience some setbacks along the way. Try to view these as opportunities to learn and improve. 

Take some time to think about what went wrong, what adjustments you can make, and how you can move forward with a positive attitude. Learning from your setbacks is a critical part of developing resilience as a student.

Celebrate successes

Just as you’ll experience setbacks, you’ll also experience successes! Make sure you acknowledge and celebrate these, no matter how small they may seem. 

This kind of positive reinforcement can help keep you motivated, emphasising the positive progress you’ve made.

Seek help when needed

If you’re struggling with maintaining a positive mindset, never hesitate to seek help from teachers, counsellors or mental health professionals. There are plenty of people who are happy to help, and you never have to struggle alone.

Oxford Scholastica student on a river boat, giving a thumbs up to the camera

Resources for Cultivating Positivity

It’s quite common to feel a bit stuck when developing a positive mindset. You might find yourself not knowing how to progress, or catch yourself in negative thinking styles you’re not sure how to correct. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Some of these include:

Workshops and courses

Workshops and courses provide interactive sessions which encourage self-reflection and personal growth. Enrolling in courses tailored to academic success and personal development means you’ll have some guidance along the way. 

Our Oxford summer courses are a great way to do this. Focusing on personal success, as well as academic exploration, you’ll get the chance to learn more about yourself, strengthen your mindset, and make supportive connections for life!

Counselling and support services

If you’re encountering any academic, personal or emotional challenges, don’t forget to make use of your school’s support services to discuss these in a supportive environment. 

It can be incredibly helpful to have someone to talk through your challenges with, and they’ll be more than happy to provide resources on stress management and emotional regulation techniques.

Inspirational webinars

There are also lots of online resources available to keep you motivated, such as webinars. Setting some time aside to attend webinars featuring renowned speakers sharing insights on positivity and resilience can help you stay inspired. You can often watch recordings of webinars after they’ve been broadcast too, in case the timings don’t work out on one you’re interested in.

Inspirational webinars give you the chance to hear from experts in psychology, education and personal development, so you’ll be able to get invaluable expert insight on how to successfully develop and cultivate a positive mindset.

Overall, there are endless benefits to developing a positive mindset, including academic and social benefits, and personal development. While it can sometimes seem quite difficult to stay positive in high school, there are plenty of useful strategies that don’t require a lot of time. 

If you’re looking to get some extra guidance and support for developing a positive attitude in high school, we have plenty more resources available to help!


By Kylie Li

Kylie is reading Experimental Psychology student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She is most interested in developmental and cognitive psychology, and how these can be applied to the education system.

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