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A is for Attitude

What is attitude?

The word ‘attitude’ developed in the 1660s from a technical term in art meaning the posture or position of a figure in a statue or painting. By the early 18th century it was generalized to include and imply some mental state, but it was not until the 19th century did it evolve to meaning a habitual way of thinking or behaving reflecting feelings or opinion. The more negative connotations of ‘having an attitude’ i.e. being ‘antagonistic and uncooperative’ didn’t develop until the early 1960s in slang speech.

Today we now see attitude as the way someone sees and responds to events and situations or the people around them and this can be positive or negative.

Why is attitude important?

“Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush; it can can colour any situation”

Attitude changes everything. Our attitude towards life determines life's attitude towards us. If we can learn to change unhelpful attitudes then we can change our life positively.

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it.

Others could be given a single weed and only see the wild flower in it.

Perception is a key component to gratitude and gratitude a key component to joy.”

Amy Weatherly

Life is not a bed of roses, it is full of uncertainty and it is not always easy to see the silver lining. We may not always have a choice in our circumstances and environment but we can always learn to control how we respond to the challenges or difficulties that we encounter or to those things where we have little or no control and are imposed upon us.

Our attitude determines our quality of life and our sense of happiness. We can choose to have a positive or a negative attitude and we will see the world accordingly.

“A person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” Earl Nightingale

Why is a good attitude important?

“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Our attitude has a huge impact on every aspect of our lives, from our relationships and careers to our health and overall well-being.

A positive attitude is good for one’s health. There is a close connection between one’s state of mind, (courage and hope or the lack of them) and the state of immunity of one’s body. When we lose hope and courage, it can have a serious effect on both our physical and our mental health; it is essential therefore that we guard hope and a belief in the future by reflecting on our values and making goals.

When you commit to changing your attitude for a more positive, helpful one, it is a commitment to work at learning how to become the person you want to be - for yourself and others. By changing negative ways of thinking, this leads to changes in your behaviour which has a positive knock-on in your interactions with others. Taken together this changes your perspective on life and leads to an improvement in your sense of well-being.

Optimist v pessimist

Our expectations can play a large part in our perceptions of life. People are sometimes described as optimists or pessimists but in reality often people’s attitudes tend to be on a sliding scale and related to the specific context that they are in e.g. you can be optimistic about some things but pessimistic about others, while other scenarios you can be completely neutral about.

“Something special awaits you each day. All you need is to recognize it and make the most of it. Have a positive attitude throughout the day and then that today is going to be the best day of your life.” Anonymous

For me, an optimist is someone that seems to naturally, or has learned to, accept life and focuses on the positive in the world. They are grateful and hopeful and confident about the future, expecting good things to happen when they have taken the steps to create opportunities or control what they can e.g. their attitude.

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” Walt Disney

Being an optimist is a conscious choice.

"I am an optimist… I choose to be. There is a lot of darkness in our world, there is a lot of pain and you can choose to see that or you can choose to see the joy. If you try to respond positively to the world, you will spend your time better." Tom Hiddleston

Optimists aren't happy all the time and pessimists aren't unhappy all the time. Every person experiences a range of emotions; good and bad, positive and negative. We are all on a continuum; the difference is how we deal with those emotions.

How do we change our attitude for the better?

Be positive

“Be positive. Your mind is more powerful than you think. What is down in the well comes up in the bucket. Fill yourself with positive things.” Tony Dungy

We have a natural negativity bias which means that something positive will generally have less of an impact on us than something equally emotional but negative which is why it makes sense to pro-actively look for positive opportunities and focus on things that will give us positive experiences and allow us to flourish.

A relatively small change in one’s perspective can lead to dis-proportionately positive shifts in well-being, quality of life and help us to flourish.

“Being a positive person doesn’t mean you don’t feel negative emotions. It means you have faith in your ability to get through tough situations, hope for better days and the willingness to see beyond the drama.” Leticia Rae

Although the following quote is a little simplistic, the spirit of the quote is correct

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Thomas Jefferson

Focus on the good in the world

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” Anne Frank

When we focus on the good in the world it gives us hope and reduces our cynicism. Focusing with gratitude, changes our attitude!

“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you This five-minute- a-day regime of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe” Wayne Dyer

Where we place our focus, can help us improve our sense of connection and help us to flourish.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.”

Walt Whitman

Develop gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance” Eckhart Tolle

Gratitude has the ability to change our perspective, shifting our attention away from annoying situations or pettiness that can bring up feelings of anger, frustration, impatience, indignation, intolerance, judgment, resentment etc. It can be seen as a tool that can reduce feelings of self-pity and self-centredness and increase feelings of connectivity to others and give us a sense of belonging to a greater whole.

When we express appreciation and gratitude, it improves our sense of connection and interpersonal relationships both at home and at work (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012).

The connection between gratitude and happiness is multi-dimensional. By expressing gratitude, not only to others but also to ourselves, it induces positive emotions, such as happiness and has a positive impact on our overall health and well-being.

Daily gratitude can bring awareness of the small but profound things in your life that are a daily gift.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

By developing an attitude of gratitude we focus on expanding the positives in our life, rather than dwelling on the negatives. When we focus on what we have, it increases our ability to enjoy the present moment rather than being kept ‘future-focused’

Develop a growth-mindset

“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” Maya Angelou

Develop a positive relationship with yourself

Spend time getting to know yourself and acknowledging and accepting yourself for who you are at this moment in time. Learning to love ourselves just as we are not only contributes to deeper feelings of inner peace, but also change our mindset and gives us other perspectives about things that are hard in our life.

Develop a positive relationship with others

Make space for and actively seek friendships and connections with positive people.

When we feel thankful we find it easier to express our gratitude and appreciation to family, friends and others we meet.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”.

Queen Galadriel (Lord Of The Rings)

Attitude is a pattern of thinking; it’s a mental and emotional construct that affects behaviour , identity our well-being and our interactions with others. Each and everyone has the power to change our own lives positively and enhance our relationships with others by working on our attitude.

"Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything." George Bernard Shaw

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