How to develop a positive attitude and enjoy life more
“Men are not disturbed by events, but by the views which they take them”- Epictetus
I have written about developing a good attitude before because I realize how much developing a positive attitude can transform your life. I didn’t always have a good attitude towards life. At some point, I must have thought about how life is not fair, or how I am a loser and all that kind of thinking when things were not going well for me.
However, in my journey of self-educating about self-awareness, I read books that helped me change my attitude towards life. Today, not that all things flow smoothly but I can have a positive attitude towards life even when things are not moving as well as I would like them to be.
The thing about human nature is that we tend to overthink situations. Sometimes we represent situations for more than what they really are about. If bad things happen to our life, we tend to develop a negative attitude towards life in general instead of understanding bad things are just that, bad things, and they don’t last forever.
Albert Ellis was studying psychoanalysis when he realized that even when a patient solved one problem, they replaced it with another problem. He thought that by helping a patient with a problem, the patient’s case was solved but he realized that solving one problem always led to another problem. This means that the problems the patients were having were not with the issue, but their thinking (cognition) is what caused the problems. This means changing thinking has more effect on solving the problem.
Am I making sense? This means that the issue was not the problem the patient was having, but the attitude towards the problem. As a result, when you have an attitude that’s always looking for problems, you will always find problems. Albert Ellis calls this irrational thinking.
A lot of the problems we go through are as a result of irrational thinking. A person who thinks irrationally is one who draws extreme conclusions from a certain event. For example, if a person loses their job, they don’t see it as an unfortunate situation, but concludes that there is something awful about them.
Our attitude is the problem
Their attitude towards the problem is so bad that it leads to a kind of thinking that is illogical, extreme, damaging and self-sabotaging. Irrational thinking happens when you start having thoughts such as, ‘I lost this job, I am such a loser. I will never amount to anything. Nothing good ever happens for me. Things always go wrong’.
You see, this kind of thinking can be very damaging. It is illogical and before you know it, you start believing these things that are in your thoughts. You start seeing the extreme sides of anything in such a way that you blow things out of proportion. This can make you start self-sabotaging such that even when things are working out well for you, you believe that you don’t deserve good things and you start screwing it up. I have seen self-sabotage in relationships and the workplace as well whereby a person will always find a way to mess things up even when they are going on so well.
On the other hand, rational thinking, or a positive attitude, has the opposite effects. It helps you as a person handle life’s difficulties positively. You become more resilient and bear distress without drawing farfetched catastrophic conclusions from every situation. This does not mean a form of naïve optimism. Not really.
When bad things happen, it is ok to feel sorrow, guilt or frustration, but it is not okay to conclude that you are a terrible person or the world is a terrible place because you have gone through some unfavorable conditions. Rational thinking or a positive attitude gives you optimism and even opens you up to possibilities.
If you go through some bad situations such as losing a job, or a relationship, rather than concluding such as ‘nothing good ever happens to me’, you need to differentiate events from your being. Such thinking will limit you from seeking other opportunities or from recognizing them.
How can you develop rational thinking and therefore a positive attitude?
Remember you are the captain of your ship
You determine how your life turns out and how you react to life events and situations. Knowing that your attitude is the determining factor of how your life turns out, you can make sure that you have positive dialogues with yourself in a way that you encourage and cheer yourself up. Learn to check yourself every time you feel irrational thoughts coming. You can stop them literally and start thinking good thoughts instead.
The moment I learned to laugh at my troubles, the lighter they became. I have been in some unfavorable situations and yet I chose to laugh them off. Finding humor in bad situations makes situations lighter. Even in the darkest of situations, even if laughing at them will not solve them, it makes them more bearable and less depressing. This helps you stay positive even when you are having a bad day because stressing over the situation will hardly make the situation any easier.
Surround yourself with positive people
Not all friends and family are beneficial to you. Some people have such a negative attitude towards life that it can drain you of all the positive juices in your soul. If you find yourself surrounded by complainers, whiners, people who never see the good in anything, it is time you have a good look at your circle. Limit the time you spend with such people and instead, focus on finding friends who are positive, who see the good side of situations, who have good hope for a better life ahead.
Surround yourself with people who will inspire and motivate you. This also applies to the media you consume. There are so many wrong things happening in the world and it is sad. The kind of media we have around us today is depressing. When you think of all the bad things that are happening, from wars to hunger, to violation of human rights, it is very hard to be positive about life.
Try to limit the kind of media you surround yourself with. I am not saying you become ignorant of what is happening around you, but unless you have a way to help with what’s happening, constant feeding on this content will only hurt you. Limit your media consumption to information that is important to you, educative, inspirational and motivational.
Think good thoughts
The first thing about this is to change your thinking such that you don’t view yourself as a victim of circumstances. Thinking good thoughts can transform your life. Develop rational thinking such that you separate what is happening to you at the moment from life itself. Don’t see as if the events in life are sent to hurt you, but instead, view them as events in your life to help you grow and become stronger and more resilient.
Don’t think thoughts such as oh good things never happen to me. It is very human for us to see all the wrong things that are happening to us and not all the good things. Positive thoughts also include having a positive vocabulary in your mind. Think thoughts such as I can do this, it is possible, I am a strong person, I am good at this. Such thoughts will help you see the positive side of things. Another way to think positive thoughts is to practice gratitude.
As I mentioned earlier, it is very normal for us to see all the bad things that happen to us but not the good things. Practice gratitude by acknowledging all the things that you are thankful in your life. Say things such as, I am grateful for my family, I am grateful I can afford to go to school, I am grateful for my little apartment, I am grateful that I perform well in school and work, I am grateful that I am healthy. Such thoughts will help you appreciate things in life that seem so obvious that sometimes we ignore them.
John Maxwell says, “Possessing a positive attitude is like possessing a secret weapon”.
Try to cultivate a positive attitude and watch your life transform.