Cultivating a positive mental attitude starts with a realization—a realization that you’re not the only one who has struggled, who has survived, and who has started over again.
You are not alone, and there is a way through the darkness. There is simple wisdom that you can rely on for help.
Find support, but also learn self-care in how you treat yourself, which is what positivity is all about. That self-talk, perception, and attitude you choose change you and those around you.
In a recent study, Stanford researchers looked at how the brain was impacted in achievement and learning when one felt or was positive about a subject. Unsurprisingly, outcomes were much more favorable for that student.
We do well in areas we are positive about. But what if we can choose to be positive about, well, anything? That would change everything.
Positivity is not about just being happy, which is often the misconception. In fact, acknowledging a range of emotions is healthy. Positivity is persistence while using positive thinking strategies. It is sitting with your feelings, accepting what is, holding on to what makes you happy, and finding purpose in pain.
Here are 5 steps to cultivate a positive mental attitude.
- Know That You Can Change Your Attitude
Maya Angelou once said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
When you choose positivity as your attitude, you select an attitude far more destined for resilient behavior than the alternative.
When you have a negative attitude, your brain gives itself permission to develop negative thinking patterns, and, in turn, difficult and dark emotions. You spend all your days ruminating or worrying about the same thing over and over again, thinking that will solve it. Doing this will cause you to miss the answers rather than make the most out of the moments in front of you.
In actuality, the first thing you need to do is calm yourself. It feels counterintuitive, but that means releasing your troubled mentality. When you release what is bothering you, you choose a safer attitude.
Attitude is everything. It’s how we heal ourselves, stay positive, and overcome challenges.
Without a positive attitude, we cannot persevere; Perseverance is the point of positivity.
Positivity denotes willpower. You can be standing in a storm and feel completely calm when you use positivity. Even if you get pushed down, you get back up again.
A positive mental attitude is about understanding you have power over your problems. Once you understand that, you can change your attitude. You have to choose positive thinking first to reap its benefits.
- Find Your Unique Meaning in Life
When you have lost it all, a positive mental attitude can help you regain the strength to find your purpose again. It’s the best way to live and learn.
Recognizing the power you have to carry on, make the best of things, and to keep going when everything inside you wants to quit will lead to more success.
You can’t always have it all, but you can always cultivate positive energy. That power keeps you grounded and safe.
For example, say you lost someone to a disease. Instead of just thinking about the loss and seeing it as the end, a positive person may decide to contribute to a cause dedicated to that disease. In doing so, the positive person becomes a beacon of hope, which gives them power over their hardship through positive emotions.
This is how people keep going: meaning. Meaning creates power over our emotions so that they do not define us.
Positivity affects one’s stress levels and overall health. When you are positive about a situation, you are less stressed and calmer and can reason better to solve the problem in front of you.
Cultivating this power is about realizing that a sense of meaning can be derived from all circumstances, even senseless tragedies.
You don’t always have to have a reason for why something happens, but you can use whatever happens for a greater cause.
“Whatever purifies you is the right path, I will not try to define it. Let go of your mind then be mindful. Close your ears and listen.” -Rumi
- Be Absolutely Present
In life, you have control over your ability to be present in the moment if you spend time practicing mindfulness.
A positive mental attitude is telling yourself that this moment is what matters. You can’t regret the past or see the future. The only way to be positive is to be here.
What do you have right in front of you that you are grateful for? Listing what makes us happy in a gratitude journal is one way to start developing a positive mindset.
Some techniques to getting there are through meditations or mantras.
For example, “Nothing bad is happening right now” is an easy one to incorporate. Your past traumas can’t trip you when you ground yourself in the present, and your ability to reason further develops to the point that even if you can’t see the future, you know it will play out like this—with you empowered and in-the-moment, using all your wisdom and tools and positivity to persevere.
Think about the past and future in small, manageable doses, but focus mostly on the present. This will reduce worrying, stress, and other negative emotions significantly.
If you can’t seem to get grounded in the now, try mindfulness meditation.
- Practice Self-Love
Self-talk is the core of self-love—the core of what a positive mental attitude is all about. We have to help ourselves first before we can help others.
What we say to ourselves is how we practice positivity or put it into action.
For example, there’s a children’s book called The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, where the train thinks, “I think I can, I think I can” throughout its journey. Of course, it was able to complete the difficult moments along its route.
This is also how self-love works. What you tell yourself is powerful and makes its mark.
When you write these positive mantras, you start to feel them. If you write “I am positive about this situation” enough times, you will start to feel that positivity seep in.
Loving yourself is not going to be easy and cannot be done overnight. There will be a mess of feelings, regrets, negative self-talk, and more that you will have to carefully tiptoe through to hold your own heart.
Your heart needs love, and often we deny what it needs in pursuit of purposeless pleasures, such as external rewards rather than internal motivation for a life well-lived.
Loving yourself needs to come from an authentic place, not a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. You have to start within and do the work necessary to heal and be healthy.
- Avoid Toxic Positivity
Avoid the white-knuckling type of positivity where you don’t acknowledge your struggles or pain (as they also serve you). You don’t just want to tell yourself to move on because that equates to repression.
Emotions are part of positivity. You want to sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, and give them a voice. Instead of telling yourself to move on, let your emotions lead to a breakthrough that helps you cope with the changes in life.
The greatest misconception made about being positive is assuming one does not have to feel in order to change. Throwing away hurt, anger, grief, sadness, and all those emotions we associate with being “negative” only thwart our growth and power.
Positivity is not about wearing a mask; it is the opposite of a mask. It is freedom from negative thinking strategies such as jumping to conclusions, black or white thinking, worst-case scenario assumptions, and more. It’s acknowledging that there may be more strength or ability in you than previously assumed.
Toxic positivity may suggest you simply put a smile on and act fine. That’s not real positivity.
Healthy positivity is about showing up when you’re tired; loving when you are feeling loss; healing when you want to cling to your hurt. It’s the realization that you are worth it, not worth writing off.
You’re not going to want to develop a positive mental attitude every second of every day. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel, but even then, recognizing the power of positivity will better your days and see you through your trials.
Positivity is about being curious enough to stay for the outcome because you simply believe, hold onto, and trust in yourself and some goodness in this world. That’s enough to keep one going, and enough to help them go from surviving to thriving.
You can start at any time. Positivity can be like a switch of perception. Once you uplift yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. And soon, you’ll be onto uplifting others, which helps even more.
Positivity is contagious and great for your mental health. It spreads like sunlight over the darkness, and you can be the source of that sunlight.
This article was written by Sarah Browne who is a speaker, writer, and activist.
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