Thursday, May 22, 2014

Holistic Living - Developing and Maintining a Positive Attitude

Attitude is a matter of choice
Attitude is a matter of choice
Last month we talked about stress. Sometimes, stress is caused by our own thoughts ... by how we choose to view a situation.

I once worked in a large office. On a grey and rainy morning, employees dragged themselves through the front door with heads down and angry looks on their faces. Everyone complained about the weather and commented on what a dreary day we had ahead of us.

An older woman entered, smiling and walking with purpose. Everyone noticed her. As she made her way to the desk next to mine, I commented on how she seemed to be so happy. What she said next would forever change how I view a cloudy sky:

"Have you looked at the sky? It's beautiful ... so many lovely shades of grey with purple and blue mixed in. It's a gorgeous day!"

Attitude is a matter of choice.
This woman made the decision to see beauty, regardless of what others were seeing.

Throughout that day, I noticed something interesting. She had a productive day. Most of the other employees endured a miserable eight hours ... things didn't go well for them, they seemed lethargic, and one person even went home sick.

I learned two important things ... attitude is our choice and it affects everything, even our health.

Choosing a good attitude is easy to say, but not always easy to implement. We've all heard the clichés ... when life hands you lemons, make lemonade or ... view the cup as half full rather than half empty or ... a frown is only a smile upside down. While there is some wisdom to those sayings, serious attitude adjustment takes strategy. Here are some tools:

  • Start a "positive thoughts" or "gratitude" journal

    Use a gratitude journal to develop a positive attitude
    Keep a journal of positive thoughts
    This daily practice helps us notice all the good in our lives. As we search for something to write, we train ourselves to see the beauty in the world. After awhile, looking is no longer an effort ... we notice all the wonder of life and, more importantly, we appreciate it. Keeping track of these positive thoughts is a powerful tool for improving one's attitude.
  • Breathe

    We tend to take shallow breaths, especially when we are unhappy. Five deep breaths can actually change our mood.
  • Change your thoughts

    Do you ever find yourself thinking negative thoughts? Left alone, they seem to grow and multiply. Here's a handy way to turn them around. When you notice a negative thought, say "Stop" (it might help to say this out loud). Then, replace that scene with something good, perhaps a happy memory or thoughts of your favorite place. Think of a lovely song or an image of a beautiful setting. This technique requires that one is armed with a good thought so that the negative one can be immediately replaced.
  • Positive Affirmations

    Gather together a list of your favorite affirmations, even the clichés. Reinforcing positive thoughts develops a pattern of thinking which, eventually, becomes a habit.
  • Use positive language

    The words we use, both in our speech and in writing, affect the way we think. Practice turning a phrase. For example, rather than say "Don't be late", try saying "Be on time". Instead of writing "I should", try writing "I will". Watch out for words like always, never, can’t, and won’t ... they typically have a negative connotation.
  • Get creative

    Develop a positive attitude through creativity
    Play to connect with your creativity
    I've spoken to artists who tell me that when they are creating, they are thinking of nothing else. They find art relaxing and cleansing. So, pursue something creative. Try to sketch a leaf or paint a scene. Grab some modelling clay and let your inner child play. Borrow your child's building blocks and see what develops. The benefit is not in what you create, or how talented you are, but rather in the process itself. But who knows, maybe you're a budding Michelangelo and will discover your hidden Muse.
  • Talk to a friend

    I have a trusted friend who listens to me complain and then offers me another way to look at a situation. Having friends who will do more than commiserate with us, helps us to change our thought patterns.
  • Turn off the TV

    Let's face it ... television often sends a negative message. While it might be entertaining in small doses, anything more contributes to negative thinking. Try turning off the TV and going for a walk or spending quality time with loved ones.

Our attitudes have power. They can bring us happiness and even improve our health.

Ultimately, how we view life is our responsibility ... we not only have control over our attitudes, we can choose them.

Putting a strategy in place, and using a few tools, will ensure that we see beautiful shades of grey on a cloudy day.

And that's something to smile about!

How do you maintain a positive attitude?

The information presented in our holistic living series is not, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical advice.