How To Develop A Positive Attitude

For years we’ve all heard happy, motivated people say it’s all about their outlook and attitude. That’s awesome insight… unless you’re someone who is suffering from a debilitating level of stress and/or fighting depression and have no idea how to develop a more positive attitude. In that case, the rosy outlook regarding “it’s all because of a positive attitude” could honestly make things worse. Reading or hearing that instruction can cause someone who is already in a dark place to spiral even farther downward.

No matter your mindset when you hear that truth – having a good attitude is the difference between a good day and a bad day – it doesn’t change the fact that it is true. Understanding that it is true, I’m writing this for that not-so-rosy bunch that needs to understand how to get a positive attitude on the dark days.

There are several ways you can shift your emotional energy to be more positive. If this is going to work for you, then you have to trust me on that point. The reason I know it’s true is because I’ve been there. I’ve simultaneously been at my dying mother’s bedside holding my infant daughter while going through a health tragedy of my own, mourning the loss of a very recently deceased close family member, battling a financial rock-bottom, facing a lay-off at work, an in the midst of a divorce from a physically abusive spouse. Beat that! HA! If I can face all of those things and still have the energy to smile and think positively, then I know you can. That’s a lot to go through at one time.

The first step to having a good attitude when that’s just about the last thing you feel capable of doing is slowing down. You can’t stop and realign your thinking when you’re going 90-miles-an-hour. You also can’t stop and realign your thinking when you’re allowing negative thoughts to fully inhabit your inner monologue. So, slow down. Take deep breaths.

Get out a notepad and a pen. Write down the reality of your situation. Usually, when we get the thoughts out of our brains and onto paper, we realize they’re not quite as big or scary as we’d built them up to be in our minds. This helps to put everything in perspective. Part of what causes our emotional downward spiral is the lack of a realistic perspective… so this step is crucial in making a shift to the positive side of things.

With the realistic perspective regarding your current situation on paper, go to the next step – write solutions to the issues that have overwhelmed you into feeling so poorly. Are you lonely? The solution is companionship. Are you struggling financially? The solution is spending and income related. Are you sick? The solution is healthcare related. There is always a solution, and always the possibility of a positive side, even if the healthcare issue is an incurable disease, there is always some way to spin this into a positive opportunity for you.

With your reality identified & possible solutions being brainstormed, there should be a tiny light inside you that is at least thinking about the possibility of turning on. That’s called “hope.” The thing that can give your light of hope the energetic jolt it needs to really send out a beam is gratitude. Don’t roll your eyes. This works. Go back to the third paragraph. This is how I stayed positive through a personal hell. If it can work for someone who has just lost one of her best friends (family members), is in the process of losing her very best friend (mother), is become a single mom of an infant during a brutal divorce from a physically abusive husband, and facing her own health battle and financial ruin – come on!  Get on board. What did I have to be grateful for at that moment? Here are a few things that fell into my gratitude journal:

  • I escaped the physically abusive situation – alive. Many women don’t escape and simply become fatality statistics.
  • My baby was healthy and smiled all the time. She overcame the stressful situation she was born into and was truly a bright light.
  • I had friends who loved me and drew near to support me.
  • I had a supportive faith community that also wrapped around me to help.
  • There was a treatment for my health condition and I was going to be healthy again.
  • I had a safe and lovely place to live thanks to a family member who helped me buy a new home for me and my daughter.
  • I was able to spend some precious time with my mom, and because of the circumstances, I got to know things about her I never would have otherwise known.

Plus, my loss of work during that hard time led to better opportunities and eventually owning my company and living out a career that is fulfilling. I didn’t realize that was happening at the time, but in hindsight, I could retroactively add A LOT of things to that gratitude journal including this short list:

  • I wouldn’t have found my extraordinarily supportive 2nd-chance husband were it not for the divorce.
  • My coaching expertise may have not stretched from purely executive coaching into the stress management field.
  • I likely would not have launched my own business & found a new sense of purpose and fulfillment.

…I could go on and on. (…and on.) But I won’t.

Practice active gratitude – that is the third piece to this puzzle. Just as it’s not possible to truly frown while you’re grinning (Try it. You can’t do it.) it’s extremely difficult to focus on the negative when you’re making yourself write down things about which you should be grateful. Whether it’s in your smartphone’s note system or in a journal, create a gratitude list and start writing things down at least twice a day: one thing in the morning and one thing in the evening as a starting point.

As I am typing this blog, I’m suffering from extreme pain from a pinched nerve. I don’t know how it got pinched, but yowza – it hurts! I could be using this time to complain and make everyone around me miserable, or I could have just taken a pain pill and snoozed the day away. I didn’t; instead, I allowed it to remind me of how much worse life can be so that I’m grateful I only have a pinched nerve. Does that sound strange to you? Here are the last few entries in my gratitude journal just to show you what you are capable of being thankful for while you’re going through something that is less than ideal:

  • ridiculously patient husband
  • it’s only a pinched nerve; temporary discomfort
  • my friends are so sweet
  • I have the softest, cuddliest puppy
  • we seem to have an endless supply of ice packs
  • salt baths are incredibly relaxing
  • extra time to write blogs for GILD
  • extra time to play games with the fam

Not kidding. Those are my most recent entries.

Attitude changes everything. The worse your attitude is, the less happiness you are able to have. It’s possible to go through the most trying time of your life and make it the most joyful. You have to be intentional with this. You have to really want the happiness – really want the positive attitude – even if you have to start from a pace of unhappiness.

To recap, here are your steps:

  1. Write down what is really going on; the situation is a lot smaller than your thoughts make it out to be.
  2. Brainstorm solutions to your reality in order to light the fire of hope within your heart.
  3. Practice active gratitude so you realize the good that surrounds you in all situations.

I guide clients through these steps all the time. These aren’t things that are easy for us to do without guidance and support, which is one of the things GILD offers its client group. Explore how these things can help make your life a better place, and then let me know when you’re ready to explore what GILD can do for you by scheduling a Coaching Exploration Session. It’s time your life had an upswing – you deserve to enjoy the one life you’ve been gifted to live.


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