Maintaining a positive attitude

Do you leap out of bed in the morning with a smile on your face? Or do you wake up compiling a mental list of the many things that could and probably will go wrong during the day? Optimists are able to look at the world differently. They expect only good things and, astonishingly, that is usually exactly what they get.  Fortunately, there is hope for those of us who are more likely to view the world through a mud-splattered windscreen than rose – coloured glasses. While we may never achieve a natural optimist’s automatically positive response to life, there are ways to up our hope level.

Avoid depression at all cost

Depression is something that can sneak up without warning. You may be feeling constantly guilty, angry, irritable or anxious. You have lost interest in life, lack motivation, have trouble sleeping or, alternatively, battle to get out of bed in the morning. You just feel hopeless. Many people don’t realise they are experiencing clinical depression. They attribute their consistently negative mood to all kinds of external events. The specific causes of depression can be hard to pin – point. Often because it’s due to a combination of external and internal factors. Telling yourself to “snap out of it” can’t work because it’s far more than just a sad mood. How can we then have the optimist’s attitude or let say avoid depression? One of the simplest ways to up your optimist levels is to check your sleep habits. When did you wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep? Most of us used to try to catch up on our sleep on the weekends, but now even so called “rest days” are jam packed with things to do and people to see. While not everyone need eight hours a night (you may need more or less) getting enough quality sleep is a good way to ensure you start the day in a positive frame of mind.

Be aware of your thoughts

Most of us aren’t even aware of the thoughts constantly racing through our minds. We just react to them. The problem with this is that our thought plays a huge role in determining how we see the world. The main difference between optimists and pessimists is that they view the world and events in significantly different ways. The defining characteristic of pessimist is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and are their own fault. Optimists however, when confronted by the same events, tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback and that it isn’t their fault. Circumstances, bad luck or other people brought it about.  Such people tend to be unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.  Studies shows that pessimist give up more easily and get depressed more often.  Optimists tend to do much better in everything they do.  Their health is usually good.   They age well, and evidence suggests they may even live longer.  But how do you know whether you are one of the doom –and- groomers? For a start, begin writing down some of the thoughts that race through your mind.   You may be amazed at what you are telling yourself.   Experts say it’s often not what is happening to us that is the problem, but rather the way we perceive it.   American psychologist Dr William Backus agrees, “Our feelings aren’t caused by circumstances of our long – lost childhood or our present circumstances,” he says. “They are caused by what we tell ourselves about our circumstances, whether in words or in attitude”

We can choose to view whatever happens to us in life either positively or negatively. Ultimately, we determine our own perception of the world.

Keep laughing

Someone wise once said “a laugh a day keeps depression away”. When last did you enjoy a really good laugh? It’s actually a very serious question.   Numerous studies have shown that laughing - even just smiling - is good for your health.  For many years, medical staff have recognized that patients who maintain a positive mental attitude respond better to treatment.   Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and boosts immune function.  Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, and produces a general sense of well-being.  In other words, when bad things happen, you will cope a lot better if you keep your sense of humour.  So what are you waiting for? Purpose to laugh.  You know have the perfect excuse to rent that funny DVD or tune into your favourite sitcom.  Sit back, relax and laugh – it’s good for you!

Be aware of your negative environment

Every day we are bombarded by information – most of it negative.   Then we wonder why we are feeling so down.  We continually hear and read about murder, rapes, robberies, corruptions, wars, unemployment, floods, accidents, fires on our TV screens, on newspapers and on radio broadcasts.   The problem is that the media doesn’t really regard “feel-good” stories and news, so instead we are fed a daily diet of all the most dreadful things they can find - and we simply take it all in.  Do yourself a favour, stop listening to news reports for a while, don’t read the newspaper and see if you start feeling any happier.  You will be amazed at how little you will miss it.   While it’s important to keep abreast of current events, it’s equally important to balance your perspective of them with good, wholesome experiences and realism that isn’t steeped in despair.

Keep a gratitude journal

Confirmed pessimists have a hard time identifying things to be thankful for.  But if you are serious about breaking out of your pessimistic mind – set, this is an area that will revolutionise your life.   One way to focus on the positive is to keep a gratitude journal.  The bible tells us to dwell on the positive rather than on the negative and to be thankful. The gratitude journal works very simply.   Often things happen during our day that make us smile or feel good, but they are quickly forgotten in the stresses of life.   So, once a day – perhaps before you go to sleep – write down five things you are thankful, and be as specific as possible.   They don’t have to be major things – perhaps you caught every green traffic light on the way to work, or a gorgeous stranger smiled at you in the elevator.  May be someone said “I love your dress”.  Perhaps you simply saw something beautiful, like a dramatic sunset or a bunch of spectacular flowers.  If you battle to find five things, don’t worry – write down as many as come to mind.   Eventually you really will start to see the world and the people around you in a whole new way.

A couple of thing for those immersed in bad news:

Limit the negativity you surround yourself with – and that includes pessimistic friends.

·         Do one thing each day that makes you feel happy.

·         Always purpose to laugh.   Laughing really does make a difference.

·         Make the hour before bedtime as peaceful as possible.   Read a relaxing book, listen to soothing music and calm your mind with some meditative, uplifting thoughts before you turn out the light.

·         If you think you are suffering from depression or anxiety consult your doctor.