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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?