Attitude Is Key ...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW
In a busy, fast paced and often negative world it is easy to lose sight of the really important things. Our attitude, defined as the position or orientation of our mind, is key to our well being. Most of us have experienced a dramatic attitude change when we have been faced with the possibility of a crisis in our lives and then suddenly things changed for the better.
For many of us it is only when we or someone we love experience a crisis that we stop and consider the things and people we are grateful for but often take for granted. This is a change in attitude.
A Healthy Outlook
Being grateful or thankful is not a New Age idea. If you are thankful for what and who you have in your life you create a state of mind that lifts your spirits and opens you up creatively. There is ample scientific proof that a positive perspective or attitude and a balanced outlook tend to enhance the natural power of the immune system, helping one to fight disease and stress more effectively.
There is also ample scientific proof that being angry, bitter and generally stressed (see my Newsletter on Chronic Stress) compromises the immune system, making one more susceptible to disease and system breakdown. The immune system is very delicate and can break down when stress hormones (acid like substances) are continually attacking it.
Emotions Drive Us
The way we feel will often influence our perspective. We are emotionally driven creatures, even if we are sometimes unaware of our emotions at the time.
Think about the way you feel and behave when you are having a “bad” day. Almost anything you do has a negative quality to it. Your perspective is dark, your thoughts are pessimistic, and you’re feeling low, perhaps irritable or angry as you see a narrow or limited picture of the world. You have a negative attitude.
Now think about the way you feel on a “good” day. You’re upbeat, your thoughts are positive, you’re mind is open and creative and you are a lot more pleasant to be with. You have a positive attitude.
What’s the difference between the “good” and “bad” days? Your attitude! How you see the world, the emotional lens you look through, determines your mood and what type of day or life you will have.
Some people go through life as “victims” of their emotions. They often fail to consider that they can intentionally impact and change their emotional experience. The truth is that you can change the way you feel…it is up to you!
Making the Change
Our behavior is informed or driven by the emotional state we put ourselves in. The more often we experience an emotional state, good or bad, the easier it is to slip into that state again. If you are accustomed to being in a pessimistic or negative state then it is likely that, as a result of the way you have trained your brain, you will fall into that state more easily. The same principle can be applied to being in a positive state of mind.
Having a sense of gratitude (an “Attitude of Gratitude”) helps to create a positive state, lifting the spirit, causing a more desirable effect on the mind and body. Practicing gratitude can help you change your thoughts from fearful and negative to thankful and hopeful. It is often the best therapeutic tool you can use, switching from a state of complaining (the poor me syndrome) to being thankful.
This type of switching can be learned. You can train yourself, with practice over time, to create a better state of mind. Using gratitude or thankfulness as a vehicle to achieve a better mind set or perspective is a method that people have been using for generations.
The Chinese use gratitude beads to accomplish this. A person is give an elastic bracelet made up of individual beads. When he notices that he is becoming negative or angry, he counts each bead as one of the things he is grateful for. He stops counting his gratitude only when he has completely counted all the beads on his bracelet.
Make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Keep this list handy and use it whenever you are feeling sorry for yourself or generally negative. Practicing this simple exercise may help you to change your attitude.