I’ve shared before that I am a pessimist by nature. It usually takes a great deal of diligence and effort for me to maintain a positive outlook since I default to doomsday scenarios and self-doubt. That’s not the type of person I like to be around so I am always looking for ways to avoid being that type of person. Recently, I’ve been trying out some new strategies that I have picked up from others and a few of them have been so remarkably successful for me, I thought I would share them in the hopes other people will have the same success with them.
I know you have heard this advice before but the reason it is so widely shared is that it truly is effective! Smiling triggers the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These feel-good transmitters are proven to be bona fide mood lifters. Better yet, because of the way our cingulate cortex works, people are biologically programmed to mimic a smile meaning that smiling really is contagious. When you smile, you not only improve your mood, but the moods of those around you, increasing the chances of maintaining a positive attitude longer.
2. Make a Mental Thankful List
I attended a church service at a friend’s church for her daughter’s baptism. The preacher’s message that day was to spend the first 10 minutes of each day making a mental list of all the things for which you are thankful. He claimed that in starting your day this way, it would change your outlook and perspective for the rest of the day in such a way that you would continue to feel thankful and be less irritated by obstacles and inconveniences. Frankly, I thought it sounded like some religious mumbo jumbo to me, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and no one was more shocked than me when I discovered it really works! Because I’m always eager to start my day, I have been horrible about devoting an entire 10 minutes at the start of the day. Instead, before I get out of bed, I make a mental list of 10 things I am thankful for. If, during the day, I feel myself slipping into a negative frame of mind, I pause and try to come up with 5 things for which I am thankful. This simple redirection always improves my mood.
3. Make a Silent Wish or Say a Silent Prayer for a Difficult Person
My husband is a cool cucumber. He can deal with difficult people with so much patience and control, that I am often in awe of his ability. One day when I knew I was going to have spend a significant amount of time with someone that I have a hard time getting along with, I asked him for some pointers. He told me that when this person said something that when I started to get irritated with her, I should instead try to identify the motivation behind her words. If they were hurtful and I believed the intent was to hurt me or make me feel bad about myself, I should realize that it was because she was unhappy herself and take pity on her. Then, I should say a silent prayer for her to find happiness. I don’t think I have ever rolled my eyes as far back in my head as when he finished explaining this piece of advice to me. He had to be kidding, right? He wasn’t. Since I couldn’t avoid seeing her, and since my usual reaction to her was to silently steam about her unkind remarks and then stew about them for days making myself and those around me pretty miserable in the process, I thought it might be worth it to try my husband’s approach even though it sounded absolutely ludicrous to me. I’m pretty sure I did it wrong (at least not how my husband intended), but it worked nonetheless. When she started in with her verbal attack, I retreated into my mind picturing her how horrible her home life must be and wishing she could find a way to improve it and be happy so she could stop her campaign to make everyone else miserable. I did, indeed, pity her which somehow made me feel superior to her (which I’m pretty sure was not what my husband was encouraging) but it did make me feel better while sitting with her.
If you find yourself feeling sad, angry, frustrated, worried, or anxious, I hope you’ll consider trying at least one of these strategies. I know they work and the work immediately. If you do try them, I hope you come back and let me know how well they work for you. If you have additional tips, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.