7 Ways To Change Your Attitude Right Now

Heart shape tree on green grass field landscape at sunset. Panorama, banner. Love symbol, concept for Valentine's Day, wedding etc.

We all know the benefits of a positive attitude, no?  According to research, the Mayo Clinic lists these:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

And of course, we can list more, hypothetically anyway.

And don’t we all get into a funk now and then?  Sometimes real life doesn’t bring us all wine and roses.  Pity that.

But one thing we know for true is that it’s not what happens to us, but how we handle it.  And “handling it” begins with our thoughts.

This is true in literature as well.  When writing a novel, we have the “what” happened, in every scene.  And after scene setting and conflict building, the conflict comes to a climax.  That’s the what.

Then, our character gets to the “why” of it.  She follows a natural progression of, in order: Feelings, Thoughts, Decisions, Actions.

Which all just means that you have to feel the feelings first, then analyze what happened, then make new decisions, in order to take future actions.

That pattern in fiction plays out in our lives as well.  Fiction, after all, did come from somewhere.

And none of us want the future to play out the negative way of what just happened, right?

So, if it all comes down to attitude (and all the new studies shows that it does!) just imagine what it would be like to have a better attitude right now.

And we can.  It all comes down to redirecting our thoughts, which redirect our emotions, and from there we can redirect our lives.

As one of my favorite characters in literature said, “Your car goes where your eyes go.” –Enzo, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

How do we do that?  Here are a few ways I’ve found:

  1.    Figure out where you are right now.

I know, that sounds silly, no?  But sometimes when I feel not so positive, I can’t quite pin down the exact negative emotion.

Do I feel anger?  Fear?  Frustration?  Hopelessness?

First and foremost, it helps me to pinpoint the exact emotion.

  1.    Accept where you are right now.

That can be a tough one.  I mean, we live in a world that revers positive thinkers, and the flip side can be judging when we’re not in a positive state.  So, no pressure there!  But again, if we’re honest, we all can slip into the negative at times.

And you know what?  That’s okay.  We’re human.  Even Jesus got mad now and then.  I figure if he could fall into that, then it’s okay for me to as well.

  1.    But don’t stay there.

That’s the key.  Once you’ve figured out where you are, then accepted and made peace with it, it’s time to turn around and refocus rather than obsess on the facts.  Because you can’t change what happened, right?  But only what you do with that and where you go from here.

  1.    Look for the next best thought.

Let’s be honest: We want a quantum leap from fear to joy.  At least I do!

But it doesn’t work that way.  When we’re in negative emotions and we try to jump to the highest ones, well, usually we fall into the ditch and then beat ourselves up all over again.  Or bemoan that positive thinking doesn’t work.

If, instead, we go to the next best thought, looking for one higher rung on the emotional scale, we succeed. And we feel better.

For example, if you’re angry, doesn’t blame feel a bit better?  And while this is so not PC, it’s true.  But you feel an instant bit of relief there.

And if you then take that blame and consider where the other person or situation was coming from, another bit of relief comes.

And then you can take . . . .

And so on.

  1.    Then focus on what you want to happen.

It’s difficult to stay in anger or fear without feeding it.  Scientists talk of humans having 60,000 thoughts a day, and that the vast majority of the time, those are the same thoughts over and over.

And for most people, the thoughts are negative ones.

But what if we spent more time focused on our dreams, on what we want to happen, rather than our fears?

If our car goes where our eyes go, and our eyes go where our thought directs them, wouldn’t that be a much quicker (and more joyful!) way to change our futures for the better?

And get in a better mood the quickest?

  1.    Find gratitude in what’s right in front of you.

We all have things to be grateful for.  No matter where I sit in my home, I can look up and immediately see a Labrador doing something Labrador silly.  I mean, no matter if the nuclear holocaust surrounds me, this crew is into doing their goofy things.  Making me laugh in the process.

But think about this another way.  Just take it in monetary terms:

If you live in this country, you’re richer than most of the rest of the world.  According to an article in Forbes, the bottom 10% in the US have better lives than the top 10% in Russia.  And Russia isn’t even considered a third-world country. If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84 percent of the world. If it’s $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99 percent of the world. And we don’t even need to get into the benefits of indoor plumbing!

The point just being, we all have a bounty surrounding us.  All we have to do is see it.

  1.    Focus on what you love.

The strongest force in this universe is love.  It’s what moves mountains.  It’s what motivates us to be and become all that we desire.

Love is the sheer joy of life.  And you simply cannot be in love and fear at the same time.

So, think of someone you love.  Didn’t you just feel a surge in your heart?

As Marianne Williamson said In Return to Love:

“Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of heaven.

Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell.”

So, when things aren’t going your way, how do you have a better attitude?

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. Joan Potter

    Susan – this article is point-on. Your point about a 10K income putting us in a better seat than 99% of the world puts it all in perspective. The only thing that I don’t completely agree on it that sometimes it IS what happens to us that gets us down. For instance, abused, neglected children frequently cannot recover no matter the subsequent positive efforts – this is not to say that we shouldn’t try, of course! I love your idea about taking just the next step on the ladder, and not shooting straight for the top. I live in an area of the country where teen suicide is at a ridiculous high level, and telling these kids to change their attitude to make things better … is insulting to the efforts they’ve already made, and only adds to their hopelessness. FAR more productive to go through the exact steps you’ve outlined here. Also, I enjoyed the very insightful point about even Jesus getting angry. (Hadn’t really thought about that, before!)

    1. Susan Malone

      I do agree, Joan–what happens does get us down. It’s just that we don’t have to stay there.
      Child abuse is a horror that keeps on giving, no? It’s so pernicious, and so very hard to treat. But I know people who have survived it, and gone on to thrive. Oh, the work involved though . . .
      I do believe that childhood issues stay with us. We deal with them in similar manner as 12-step groups advocate–we aren’t recovered, but in recovery. One day at a time . . .

  2. Beth Niebuhr

    I like to think of all the things I am thankful for and it perks up my spirits. Having a positive attitude isn’t hard if you stop and consider your happy things.

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Beth! And we’re surrounded by happy things 🙂

  3. Sabrina Quairoli

    Great tips, Susan. For me, when I am negative about my life, I turn to nature and take a walk to get out of my head. I also say a prayer and then let it go.

    1. Susan Malone

      Nature is such fabulous medicine, isn’t it, Sabrina! And a prayer and then letting something go works so well. It’s the “letting go” part that can sometimes take a bit of work!

  4. Carol Rundle

    I think thankfulness is key to having positive thoughts. You can’t be bitter and thankful at the same time!

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Carol! Thankfulness, gratitude, appreciation–the keys to this life 🙂

  5. Rachel Lavern

    Thanks for this list Susan.

    Whenever I can’t get out and about in nature, one of my top ways is to practice yoga and meditation, which have been proven to calm the body and reduce stress. Sometimes I practice them separately or sometimes together. They connect the mind, body, and
    spirit in a healthy, peaceful fashion in my effort to feel
    more positive, relaxed and refreshed.

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t meditation great, Rachel! I meditate daily, and do a classical stretch routine (which is much like yoga). Both clear my mind and reduce stress. Great points!

  6. Jackie Harder

    And you are now singing my song! I’m doing a women’s program right now and the focus of the first 4 videos is emotions in the workplace — yours and others. You hit the nail on the head when you said that we often don’t recognize what we’re feeling; that’s because we professional women have been trying so hard to be accepted as “one of the guys” that we no longer are in touch with our own emotions. Great read and great advice. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Jackie! Trying to be accepted as “one of the guys” in business sure did a number on women, didn’t it. We suffered and I believe our work did too. So thankful that is changing!

  7. Katarina Andersson

    Definitely think the attitude is the important thing and to always try to do things you like or think positive. 🙂

  8. Tamuria

    I love these steps and the order they’re in. It’s true we sometimes need to dig a bit to discover what is really getting us down, we so often cover our true emotions with fake ones. It’s tough to accept where we are without piling on more negative thinking such as “I’m weak”.My two favourite steps are, don’t stay there and find gratitude.I went through a really tough patch several years ago and I credit my grateful diary for finally pulling me out.

    1. Susan Malone

      I was just reading today an article called “Are you putting a happy face on it?” Ah, the pitfalls of doing so!
      But isn’t a gratitude diary a wonderful thing, Tamuria! The answer to, well, just about everything 🙂

  9. Beverley Golden

    My mother is the living example at 100 years young, of what a positive attitude can do for your life and longevity. I have admired that ability she possesses and wish it was as easy for me. Somehow I don’t have that ability to shake off the “negative” things that happen and focus on the positive.

    Through all the healing work I’ve done, I’ve learned not to judge the negative and to live into it. To see what it has to teach us about ourselves. I often have a reaction to something in the outside world and look to see what that is bringing up for me, as I’m one of those people who tries to figure out things before I let them go.

    I have the same experience with animals as you do, Susan, as both dogs and cats offer a perfect way to shift yourself into a more joyful and positive state. They always offer me endless entertainment and laughs just from being.

    Looking through your suggestions, I see that I’m also someone who imagines and focuses on what I want to happen, so that I get and do. The impatient part of me wants it all to happen…yesterday! Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. I know it is up to us to choose to come from a place of love or fear. Makes all the difference in the world.

    1. Susan Malone

      As I read this, Beverley, it strikes me that you actually do shake off the negative and focus on the positive–you just go about it in a different way! You accept yourself and what you’re feeling. And then you visualize what you want to have happen. Now, that’s a perfect prescription!

  10. Lisa Swanson

    I just got finished recording the 5th module for my online group coaching program and it’s all about asking yourself solution focused questions to what’s holding you back from reaching your goal. As you mention it’s not what’s happening to you that’s the struggle, it’s how you deal with it. I just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to letting problems bring me down, but I find if you remember to take a breathe and ask yourself “What can I do to turn this around?” you usually can shift your energy back into a positive state pretty quickly.

    1. Susan Malone

      I love your solution-focused blogs, Lisa! They’re so helpful. But what a great process–breathe, than ask what you can do to turn the situation around. That’s great!

  11. Kristen Wilson

    Agghhhhh, you WERE talking directly to me, right? Thank you so much for this IN YOUR Face kind of blog…much appreciated. I hear you!

    1. Susan Malone

      You’re so funny, Kristen! I loved your Time Management for Small Business Owners blog!

      1. Kristen Wilson

        Well thanks… it was all Jackie.. but so relevant to my target market

  12. Meghan Monaghan

    Susan, this was so inspiring. You made such a poignant remark about accepting where you are. I think only when you’re honest with yourself, can you begin to make change. After some hard times in the past, I’ve really been cultivating much positive energy in my life. This has been especially true since last year and it’s changed everything for me. I love what I’m doing and it shows.

    1. Susan Malone

      It takes courage to accept where you are, no? And you’re so right, Meghan–from there you can start to grow.
      You exude such wonderful energy, Meghan, and it does show!

  13. Roslyn Tanner Evans

    A key point that resonated with me is, don’t get caught in the myth that feelings come before thoughts. How pervasive this myth is- a trap.
    Early on in life somehow, I created the most helpful mindset that I still have today, every day is a new day. I learned to put yesterday behind me and create the day with enriching thoughts. Circumstances happen but who I am being in the face of them is stronger & I have choices how I respond.

    I grew up in foster care & my life could have turned out very different. I always felt that I created my life and then 25 years ago did transformational work (still do) which reinforced my ability to continue doing something I didn’t even know I was doing. I was a voracious reader as a way to deal with my home life & I believe through reading I learned ways to grow & think that I was not surrounded by. How grateful I am the world of thinking & words was there for me.
    An inspiring, thought provoking post, Susan.

    1. Susan Malone

      You always inspire me, Roz. Along the way, you’ve always stretched and grown–even with a start that was more difficult than most. I’m always so amazed at the self-reliance that comes through you!
      It took me a long while to believe that my thoughts formed my feelings, rather than the other way around. I resisted 🙂 But once I found the truth in it, it turned my life around too.
      I’m not surprised that you’ve been an avid reader all your life. For my money, nothing changes one’s world for the better than reading. It just opens the universe. And you’re such beautiful proof!

  14. Teresa

    It is soooo my intent to keep my eyes on where I want to go and avoid those sideway distractions that steer into a sometimes negative downward spiral. Thanks for being on the same side with me with his great reminder Susan.

    1. Susan Malone

      My intention too, Teresa, although at times I do (insanely) turn left after something not wanted! Your articles help keep me on track 🙂

  15. Andi Reis

    Fear runs in my family, and it manifests itself as negativity sometimes. I’m worried that by being positive it makes me weak or vulnerable. Spinning negative into sarcasm makes me feel like I’m being funny, but I realize in my lengthening years that this is still just poking at the bear. When I force positive Renee wonders what the heck I’m doing. lol Thank you for all of your great thoughts on this, I read your blog often for a pick-me-up.

    1. Susan Malone

      Fear runs in my family too, Andi. I was raised looking over my shoulder! And honestly, I thought that was what “being real” was all about. It took me a long to realize I was actually in charge of my thoughts. I’m a slow learner. LOL.
      I actually like the idea of spinning negative into sarcasm! Laughter is often the answer 🙂

  16. Joan M Harrington

    Hi Susan,

    Great post! Our attitude determines how we feel about something and if we focus on the positive and feel grateful for what we DO have in our lives then we begin to live with that attitude 🙂 Sometimes it is hard and I struggle with my attitude daily, but as long as I feel gratitude for everything in my life, it helps me to have not only a great day but a great week and a great month and an awesome year!

    Thanks for sharing! Always enjoy your posts 🙂

    1. Susan Malone

      Sometimes it really is hard, Joan! I find that those days take extra gratitude 🙂 And so true–that leads to not only a great day but carries on! Love that.

  17. Joyce Hansen

    Of all the important things you said, the one that touched me the most is looking for the “one higher rung on the emotional scale.” Too often we want to shift to the complete opposite position and become disappointed when we can’t. By only having to change our emotions slightly from where we were, it gives us a sense of change, not a big change, but a still a change for the better. I much appreciate how deeply and caringly you wrote about this.

    1. Susan Malone

      That was my nemesis for a long time, Joyce–thinking I needed to go from a negative emotion to joy in one fell swoop. What a relief when I found that just going that one higher rung changed my attitude enormously, which changed my life! You are so right–it gives us a sense of change for the better. And that’s all we need.

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