A negative attitude carries with it a lack of awareness. You’re not necessarily aware of a negative attitude permeating your outlook on life, and because of this lack of awareness, your attitude affects your interactions with other people and your interactions with yourself. What if you were to become aware? What if, suddenly, you were able to step outside of the thought pattern that creates your attitude, choose a new pattern, and thus, a new attitude?
Think about your thoughts. Many sources of advice aren’t going to tell you this crucial point:
Changing your attitude is not about stifling or eliminating negative thoughts. It’s about changing your thought patterns through action. Negative thoughts will arise, but when you brood on them it’s like feeding and rewarding them so that they will come back again and form a pattern.
When you alter repetitive thought patterns, you alter your attitude — it’s a physical process, and with it comes the ability to change the world in which you live. You’ll achieve things you didn’t think were possible before. To undertake this change, understand what to do with negative or unhelpful thoughts when they arise. This understanding will help you take action towards changing your attitude.
Read on for some quick and easy suggestions on how to change a negative attitude.
1. Harness the Incredible Power of Redirection
Oftentimes, we think in a black-and-white, limiting way. It’s called binary thinking. Even thinking of thoughts as only negative or positive is a binary way of thinking. You develop a negative attitude because you are convinced this binary way of thinking is an accurate reflection of reality. When this way of thinking doesn’t achieve good results, you assign blame. Blame doesn’t help solve the problem of binary thinking — it perpetuates it.
Binary thinking causes you to have tunnel vision when you’re working on your goals. You feel one approach is the right one — but research shows that redirection improves creativity. Redirection requires you to think differently by changing tasks.
Take a step back from what you’re doing. Is there a different approach you can take? Who can you reach out to for help? What haven’t you tried? Redirect your actions and you’ll find yourself thinking more creatively and positively when it comes to solving the original problem.
2. Amp up Your Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk is exactly what it sounds like: these are uplifting statements you make to yourself. Then, you act on them. The thing about positive self-talk is it’s self-fulfilling. In other words, by concentrating on your strengths and making positive statements about yourself, you become what you tell yourself you are and your attitude changes.
Psychologist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker identifies key statements that mentally healthy people make:
- “I am lovable”
- “I am capable”
- “Most other people are lovable and capable, too”
- “Success comes from doing”
- “Challenges are opportunities”
- “It’s only human to make mistakes”
- “I have what it takes to cope with change — and to make changes happen”
Tell yourself these things every day. Note statement number 4, “Success comes from doing.” You want to change your negative attitude. To successfully change your attitude, do things that help you feel good about yourself and others. Volunteer work and community sports leagues are great options. Action creates change. Make positive statements to yourself, take action based on these statements, and your outlook on life will change.
3. Be a Change Agent, Not a Victim
An agent is someone who is actively engaged in making something happen. A victim is someone who suffers from circumstances beyond their control. Victimization is valid and real, but if there’s no active pursuit of a solution, you remain a victim — you remain passive, and your attitude is one of bitterness, helplessness, or cynicism. You’re an agent who can change your own attitude. Ultimately, your own actions are the only things you control.
You may not be able to control the rise of negative thoughts due to a tragedy that was beyond your control, but you can control how you respond to those thoughts.
Consider the following methods of coping with tragedies:
Sometimes tragedy is self-inflicted, meaning you have a bad experience that’s not necessarily a tragedy, but you treat it as such. You get down on yourself, turn to drugs and alcohol, and brood over your negative thoughts and feelings. Be sure to recognize if this is happening, and become an agent of recovery instead of victimization.
4. Dream Huge — but Set Realistic Expectations
This is the truth about your dream: it’s real. What you really want out of life — call it your dream or fantasy or ambition — is a real idea you can and should hold onto no matter what happens. To set realistic expectations, break your dream down into steps that are achievable in the short-term. If you believe you’re entitled — you expect everything to fall into place — you will not realize your dream. Even if you’re lucky and successful, it won’t feel like success because entitlement is a bottomless pit.
A negative attitude stems from expectations that don’t line up with reality. Again, your actions are the only thing you control. Science shows you’re not even necessarily in control of your thoughts. But you are in control of the thoughts you choose to dwell on. Concentrate on your plans. You can expect to follow through when you concentrate on and check off the steps to completing a task. Concentrate on the tasks you need to complete in order to make your dream a reality.
5. Transform Negative Thoughts into Ultimate Questions
Asking questions opens your mind to new ideas. It helps you begin to build confidence. Positive self-talk can be tough, because your mind is like a broken record. You tell yourself you’re lovable, but for every time you say that, the thought that no one loves you pops up 10 times.
Forbes’ Melody Wilding makes a great recommendation:
“When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question?”
Here are some examples:
- Instead of, “Something must be wrong with me,” say, “What are the steps to success?”
- Instead of, “I hate going to the grocery store,” say, “How can I save time at the grocery store?”
- Instead of, “These people are annoying,” say, “How can I talk to these people so that this meeting is enjoyable?”
- Instead of, “I was a complete idiot last night,” say, “What can I do differently in the future?”
This way, you’re opening possibilities for new, constructive thoughts. You’re also paying attention to your thoughts and doing something with them.
“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” – Wayne Dyer
In almost all cases, you’ll develop a negative attitude if you choose to be angry and depressed instead of choosing to laugh. But how can you choose to laugh when something seems downright terrible? This is where the imagination and mental exercise kick in. Choose to look at a disappointing or disheartening circumstance in a different way. What is it that’s ironic, absurd, or outrageous about the circumstance?
Is there an opposite circumstance you can imagine, one that’s so fantastically great it brings tears of laughter to your eyes just thinking about it? Are there any details that are just flat-out strange? If you’re depressed, choose comedy — choose something that can bring a smile to your face. Train yourself to seek good opportunities for humour, and you’re training yourself to have a positive attitude.
7. Embrace Your Emotions and Release Them Confidently
The moment you experience an emotion, there’s a reason for it; and therefore it’s valid. Here’s the challenge: you must control what you do with that emotion. You could hold the emotion in and let it fester, but that leads to things like depression, pent-up rage, and low self-esteem.
You could release your emotion the moment you feel it without thinking, but that leads to relationship issues with other people. Or, you could release the emotion confidently in a way that asserts your self and your boundaries.
- Practice observing your emotions when you feel them on a daily basis. Note what the emotion is and be there with it.
- When you experience a strong emotion such as anger, take time to note your anger, take deep breaths, and calm down.
- Figure out what or who caused your anger, and why.
- Assert yourself. Don’t be mean about it, be confident. Say something like, “I would prefer for you to treat everyone as equals in the group, I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but it’s very important to me.”
- Set your boundaries by repeating “I” statements, such as, “I don’t want you to yell at me, I feel uncomfortable. If there’s a problem, I would prefer to talk about it calmly.”
If you embrace your emotions by processing them — by asking who, what, why, and how — and then you deal with them by expressing yourself confidently, your attitude will remain one of confidence, calmness, and positivity.
8. Create, Move, Believe, Contemplate Great Things
Once you know you are in control of how you react to thoughts and emotions, and in turn your actions create a pattern that reinforces itself, a huge world of greatness is there for you.
Greatness is there because at all times you can choose it. You can choose to listen to your deepest emotions, which are a thing of beauty because of their intense purity, and you can translate them into new things. New songs, poems, sayings, artworks, running routes, exercise routines, meals, friendships, jobs — it’s all there for you.
Each negative thought is a positive response waiting to happen. Feel how your positive responses and your positive attitude are so enjoyable you wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Believe that you are amazing and your actions will have amazing results — even if you are not around to see the results bloom and flower.
Contemplate great things because they’re the greatest things to contemplate. What if your decision to appreciate other people’s little quirks someday becomes love? What if your decision to write in your diary everyday someday becomes a memoir? You’re capable of all these things, and life can be great.