Have you ever heard the term “attitude of gratitude”? Does it make you groan some days when you’re in the middle of your morning commute and reading it on someone’s bumper sticker? Well, today I'd like to invite you to survey your attitude and encourage you to cultivate a positive one.
It is my belief (and there are a bunch of psychological studies that back this up) that attitude colors your life experience in shades of gray or yellow depending on whether you're looking for rain clouds or sunshine. When I’m wearing my life coaching hat, I remind my clients that we have some control over our own thoughts (a.k.a. attitude). Even if there are things that are out of your control in your exterior life, you can facilitate your thoughts about them and bias them toward the positive.
How we choose to think can have a tremendous influence on our lives. The private narrative that we take for gospel is rarely quiet and has an opinion about everything. This “voice” comes from our desire to control things, the need to know what is coming next and plan accordingly. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. When it gets cloudy is when we are sprinkling those stories with negativity. Let’s look at an example of the mind’s filtering system.
Let’s say you get out of bed, stub your toe and start your morning believing you are having a “bad day”. You then go on with the rest of your morning accident-free, travel to work with no issues, get to work with your coffee intact and settle in only to read an email that has a tone that you don’t like and…the bad day continues.
Now, I want to remind you that there were plenty of things that transpired between the stubbed toe and the nasty email that didn’t fit into your “bad day” container but your mind did not notice because it was sifting through to find experiences to match your belief (attitude). The mind constantly tries to predict how things are going to play out and when we have fired a signal that we are having a bad day it will try to find evidence of that for us so we can feel a sense of control over our lives. Efficient, isn’t it?
Many times, we are unaware of our attitude. Noticing our inner landscape is powerful. If you are angry or upset or have a negative attitude, what “payoff” are you getting from it? Are you feeling justified? Do you believe you are being logical? Maybe you feel like you will be more secure if you don’t get your hopes up or expect the best. Think about what you are gaining by the attitude that you’re holding and decide if that is truly benefiting you. What would it be like to try another way?
For those of you who would like to try to get on the bright side, I have two simple hacks to help you shape your attitude toward the sunlight and away from gray clouds.
Everything’s going my way: Make a list of things that are going your way. This is an alternative take on a gratitude journal. When doing this exercise, make sure that you are looking at all of your life areas no matter how seemingly insignificant. If you have an aversion to doing this, ask yourself why. Improving your life isn’t just about thinking positively. It can also be about noticing where you have thoughts that are holding you back (negativity). I always tell my clients that if there is any kind of emotional reaction (positive or negative) to a tool or exercise we use, that it will deliver valuable insight about what is going on inside their heads.
Choose happiness: Yes, this is as simple as it sounds. If you’ve been making the choice to see the glass as half empty and that isn’t quite working for you, try making a concerted effort to look on the bright side. Imagine that the whole world is rooting for you and wants you to succeed. Just try it for one day. Trying something new is interesting at the least and this exercise can be empowering at best!
Caveat from the life coach: I know that sometimes it seems irritating to hear “just be happy” and other such quips when you’re having a rough time and I want you to know that I'm not taking your suffering lightly. However, I am here to be a gentle reminder that we all have free will and that is a precious commodity in a chaotic and stressful world. Sometimes there really are simple solutions and shortcuts to helping ourselves have the best possible life experiences. Why not allow yourself to put that cynicism away for a few moments today and choose to be happy?
If it makes you feel better, you can thumb your nose at me and give the raspberry. I’m not concerned at all because I believe you are all rooting for me and I’ll know I made you smile!