We all go through phases of life where we feel a little down. Sometimes there’s something to blame – cold and cloudy weather, an injury, loneliness, the death of a loved one – and sometimes there’s not. Either way, it helps to know how to maintain a positive attitude. Not only will it improve your spirits, but it may also affect the people around you. Joyful energy is truly contagious!
How to Maintain a Positive Attitude
1. Simply smile.
Typically, we think of smiling as a response: We feel a positive emotion (happiness, gratitude, love), so we smile. But did you know smiling is also a powerful tool that can make you feel happier? There are several reasons why this might be the case. First, your brain senses that you’re using certain muscles when you smile and interprets this as “I must be happy about something.” Second, smiling around other people can make them happier, which will likely improve your mood as well. Third, smiling triggers a reduction in stress-enhancing hormones and an increase in mood-enhancing hormones.
All that said, faking a smile can be problematic if you’re suppressing negative thoughts. So if you haven’t yet processed your sadness or anger, give yourself a little time. Then, when you’re ready, start smiling!
2. Keep a gratitude journal.
It’s so easy to forget all of the wonderful things in our lives when we’re having a bad day (or a bad week, a bad year, etc.). Our minds often cling to negative facts, letting positive facts slip away unacknowledged. To correct this imbalance, try keeping a gratitude journal. Every day – perhaps as you drink your coffee each morning – write down five things for which you’re grateful. They can be huge, life-altering things (your health, your family, your life experiences), but most of the time they will be small, simple things that lift your spirits (a scrumptious piece of pie, a smile from a stranger, catching a movie you love on TV, etc.).
3. Reframe challenges.
When a new challenge emerges in your life, it’s tempting (and natural) to think of it with frustration, anger, or fear. Although this won’t work in every circumstance, when you can, try to reframe your challenges as adventures. Have fun with them, try your best, and appreciate that they give you an opportunity to grow as a person. Even if you fail, at least you tried and learned something along the way.
4. Use the word “get” in place of “have.”
So often, we think of our lives in terms of “haves.” For example, I have to exercise. I have to go to the doctor. I have to buy a birthday gift for my sister. If you change the word have to get, you’ll realize how lucky you are to do these things. I get to exercise (How lucky you are to be mobile and fit enough for exercise!). I get to go to the doctor (How fortunate you are to have access to quality medical care!). I get to buy a birthday gift for my sister (How wonderful it is to have a sister and bring her joy!).
Learning how to maintain a positive attitude can be challenging, especially if you’re going through a particularly tough time in your life. So don’t be too hard on yourself! Give yourself time, and gently remind yourself to smile and be grateful for all the blessings you have.
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