Sometimes changing your circumstances isn’t possible – or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get to a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change against his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. So what options do you have left?
Change your perception, belief or opinion about your circumstances. Doing so will help you change your attitude and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it perfectly more than 2,000 years ago: “People are disturbed, not by things (that happen to them), but by the principles and opinions which they form concerning (those) things. When we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles and opinions.”
Modern behavioral science agrees too. American psychologist Albert Ellis, famous for developing rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), has proven that how people react to events is determined predominantly by their view of the events, not the events themselves.
Have no clue how to change your perception of things – and improve your attitude? Here are three easy ways to start:
1. Still your mind. – In order to gain conscious control of what goes on in your mind, you need to develop a keen awareness for this process. What helps is to hold still for a moment, take a deep breath and free your mind of all the chatter that is going on inside. This makes room for a change of state, for something new to enter. So give yourself a break. Don’t say you can’t. Yes, you have battles out in the world to fight, insecurities to overcome, loved ones to contend with and goals to achieve, but a break from it all is necessary. It’s perfectly healthy to pause and let the world spin without you for a while. If you don’t, you will burn yourself out. So refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching your breath, finding quiet solitude, focusing your attention inward, and otherwise making time for recovery from the chaos of your routine.
2. Change your focus. – From the awareness of your thoughts and emotions you become able to consciously redirect your focus. It’s time to take it willingly away from something that drags you down, and zero it in on something that inspires you. Focus on the next logical, meaningful step. There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. So keep your hope alive through positive awareness. Don’t let the pain make you desperate. Don’t let the negativity wear off on you. Don’t let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Spend your energy moving forward. Change your thoughts and you change your reality. Our thoughts are the makers of our moods, the inventors of our dreams, and the creators of our will. That’s why we must sort through them carefully, and choose to respond only to those that will help us build the life we want, and the outlook we want to hold as we’re living it.
3. Use your body. – The mind reflects your body by responding to its levels of tension, rate of breath, speed of movement and mental focus. Likewise your body mirrors your thoughts, feelings, mood, and responds to your state of mind, the questions you ask and the words you speak. So if the mind and body are intrinsically connected – meaning that one has a direct affect on the other – it becomes clear that if we directly and consciously take control of one, it will influence and transform the other. So by mindfully adjusting how you use your body you can directly influence your state of mind, and dramatically transform your attitude. Just imagine you’re sitting there in a bad mood, shoulders hanging forward, shallow breathing and frowning. Go ahead and do this right now to experience how it influences your state of mind. And then do the opposite: stand up straight and put a big smile on your face. Take some deep, strong breaths and stretch your arms into the air. Notice how you feel better? Bottom line: Take the vehicle your creator has given you and use it! Your body is the best tool for changing your attitude in an instant.
And of course, if you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.