“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
During the first week of 2016, a friend of mine admitted he had already broken his New Year’s resolution: to start every day with a positive attitude. A noble goal and one many of us could adopt, I found it ironic that he was already looking at his first days as a failure.
He is not alone. According to a recent Ipsos Reid study, only 30% of Canadians set New Year’s resolutions, yet more than half (53%) believe setting goals to start the year is important. Disappointingly, 73% of those eventually break them.
Why is a positive attitude so important?
I think it is important to understand the power of attitude and the association with our experiences in life. Your attitude is one of the first things people notice about you. If it is positive, then people will want to be with you, talk to you and work with you. Attitude also impacts everything you do, the way you think and your motivation to be successful. This is important as parents and caregivers and particularly when working with children and teens struggling with their mental health. Having a positive attitude better prepares us for the daily challenges and modeling a healthier outlook on life will have a ripple effect on the children in our care.
How can you make the shift to a positive attitude?
It takes time, patience and an appreciation that there will be setbacks. Here are five steps to get you started:
- Take care of yourself with a healthier lifestyle. Make some adjustments to eat more healthily, allow yourself more time for sleep and get more exercise. By having good fuel in your tank and a more finely tuned engine, you will be amazed at the impact it has on how you feel, how you think and how much energy you have.
- Surround yourself with positive influences. Dismiss negative thoughts and experiences, and seek out the positives. If the watching the news on TV or talking to a pessimistic friend brings you down, limit your exposure. Instead, do things that make you feel happier and more optimistic like reading a book or being with friends who have a happier outlook. Filling your mind with positive thoughts makes it easier to overcome challenging situations.
- Say Thank You more. It is amazing how good we and others feel when we show some gratitude. By looking for opportunities to be grateful to someone, we are actually taking stock of positives in our life. When we thank someone, we pass that positive feeling on to them. They might even respond with gratitude or a compliment which will reinforce your positive feelings.
- Start your day off right. Set the context for your day with an optimistic thought such as “today will be a good day” or “something great will happen today”. Then, early in the day tackle something that has been bothering you. When it is done, the sense of achievement will help you feel more positive about yourself and set the tone for the rest of the day.
- Find tools to help you maintain that positive attitude. Prepare yourself for handling the day’s challenges. You can try affirming the good in yourself, visualizing what a successful outcome looks like, being enthusiastic about the challenge and seeking out people who will help you. Using these tools in will help you maintain your optimism and overcome negative experiences.
Of course, real change doesn't happen overnight. So be patient, don’t let setbacks derail your resolutions… and keep that positive attitude – both for your sake and for those around you.
"I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn and grow at the Waterloo Region Psychology Consortium. The range of experience across sites and never-ending support from my supervisors allowed me to meet every one of my training goals and provided me with professional opportunities that left me feeling prepared, confident, and excited about my future as a clinical psychologist."