A Priceless Ally – Cultivating a positive attitude

The words of my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Youree, still echo in my mind from time to time. Those words were: “Wegmann, if you ever expect to be something in this life, you had better change your attitude.” The message imbedded in those words didn’t mean much to me then, but as the years went by, the importance of what he had said took on greater significance.

positive_attitudeSo what is attitude anyway? On the surface, it is the way you transmit your mood to others. When you are feeling optimistic, you convey a positive attitude, and for the most part, people usually respond favorably. When you are pessimistic, you send out negative vibes, and people tend to shun you. But attitude is more than the way you communicate your mood to others; it serves as you mind’s eye – the way you see the world, so to speak. For example, a summer rain can be viewed as beautiful or ugly, a staff meeting as interesting or boring. Like using a camera, you take the snapshot of life you want to take.

Attitude never just stands still; it is an ongoing perceptual process requiring you to remain on constant guard. There’s negativity all around you that can easily alter your perspective and affect your disposition. This makes it a challenge to keep positive thoughts within the inner circle of your thinking. Of course, no one can be positive all of the time, and unbridled optimism – like that of the Pollyanna novels – is unrealistic and lacks genuineness. On the other hand, a chronically negative attitude dampens the spirit, saps energy, lessens enthusiasm, and compromises the immune system. So, if your attitude is in need of an adjustment, or if it is currently on life support, here are some practical suggestions for restoring it to good health.

  • Allow yourself adequate time to prepare for the day’s activities. Avoid getting out of bed at the last possible moment. It inevitably will cause you to rush, and you will become more anxious. The next thing you know you’re in a traffic jam, juggling a cup of coffee, and rushing in late for work.
  • If you read the paper before leaving home, don’t overlook the comic strips. Pick out a couple of your favorites that make you laugh and share them with you colleagues when you get to work. This can help get your day off to a lighthearted start.
  • Keep a positive motivational book at your bedside. Don’t Worry, Make Money by Richard Carlson, and any of the Chicken Soup books are great choices. When you feel down, turn to an inspirational passage and give yourself a quick pick-me-up.
  • As you go about your daily activities, be cognizant of your thoughts. Concentrate on what you do well in life. If negativity creeps into your psyche, substitute something positive in its place.
  • Need I extol the virtues of physical fitness? Exercise can do more to adjust your attitude than any happy hour. The better you feel physically, the more positive your attitude is apt to be.
  • The connection between a healthy self-image and a positive attitude can not be ignored. Accept the premise that your attitude will suffer if your self-image deteriorates. Pay attention to what you wear, and attempt to make the best fashion statement possible. Make improvements in grooming if necessary. Accentuate you winning features – hair, smile, eyes, facial appearance, etc.
  • Clarify you primary purpose in life. A mission in life provides direction and perspective, and helps you achieve better focus. As a way of helping you clarify your life’s purpose, consider the following question: If you had one year to live, and you were assured success at whatever you attempted, what would you aim to accomplish? Then think about ways you can make your answer a reality.

Make a daily habit of identifying specific things for which you are truly grateful. Don’t be concerned with how original they are, just identify them. Gratitude has always been a stepping stone to maintaining a positive attitude.

The game of life is difficult, to say the least. But with a consistently upbeat outlook it is possible to achieve personal satisfaction, build strong relationships and experience career success. So whether it is a lesson finally learned, a problem identified and corrected, the start of new relationship, there truly is something positive to be found in every single day.

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Joe Wegmann is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical pharmacist with over 30 years of experience in counseling and medication treatment of depression and anxiety. Joe’s new book, Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications is available at www.pesi.com. To learn more about Joe’s programs or to contribute a question for Joe to answer in a future article, visit his website at www.thepharmatherapist.com, or e-mail him at joe@thepharmatherapist.com.