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Last Updated on October 23, 2019

How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Destroying You

How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Destroying You

A negative attitude carries with it a lack of awareness. You’re not necessarily aware of a negative attitude permeating your outlook on life, and because of this lack of awareness, your attitude affects your interactions with other people and your interactions with yourself.

What if you were to become aware? What if, suddenly, you were able to step outside of the thought pattern that creates your attitude, choose a new pattern, and thus, a new attitude?

Think about your thoughts. Many sources of advice aren’t going to tell you this crucial point:

Changing your attitude is not about stifling or eliminating negative thoughts. It’s about changing your thought patterns through action.

Negative thoughts will arise, but when you brood on them it’s like feeding and rewarding them so that they will come back again and form a pattern.

When you alter repetitive thought patterns, you alter your attitude — it’s a physical process, and with it comes the ability to change the world in which you live. You’ll achieve things you didn’t think were possible before.

To undertake this change, understand what to do with negative or unhelpful thoughts when they arise. This understanding will help you take action towards changing your attitude.

Read on for some quick and easy suggestions on how to change a negative attitude.

1. Harness the Incredible Power of Redirection

Oftentimes, we think in a black-and-white, limiting way. It’s called binary thinking. Even thinking of thoughts as only negative or positive is a binary way of thinking.

You develop a negative attitude because you are convinced this binary way of thinking is an accurate reflection of reality. When this way of thinking doesn’t achieve good results, you assign blame. Blame doesn’t help solve the problem of binary thinking — it perpetuates it.

Binary thinking causes you to have tunnel vision when you’re working on your goals. You feel one approach is the right one — but research shows that redirection improves creativity.[1] Redirection requires you to think differently by changing tasks.

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Take a step back from what you’re doing. Is there a different approach you can take? Who can you reach out to for help? What haven’t you tried? Redirect your actions and you’ll find yourself thinking more creatively and positively when it comes to solving the original problem.

2. Amp up Your Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk is exactly what it sounds like: these are uplifting statements you make to yourself. Then, you act on them.

The thing about positive self-talk is it’s self-fulfilling. In other words, by concentrating on your strengths and making positive statements about yourself, you become what you tell yourself you are and your attitude changes.

Psychologist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker identifies key statements that mentally healthy people make:[2]

  • “I am lovable”
  • “I am capable”
  • “Most other people are lovable and capable, too”
  • “Success comes from doing”
  • “Challenges are opportunities”
  • “It’s only human to make mistakes”
  • “I have what it takes to cope with change — and to make changes happen”

Tell yourself these things every day. Note statement number 4, “Success comes from doing.” You want to change your negative attitude. To successfully change your attitude, do things that help you feel good about yourself and others. Volunteer work and community sports leagues are great options.

Action creates change. Make positive statements to yourself, take action based on these statements, and your outlook on life will change.

3. Be a Change Agent, Not a Victim

An agent is someone who is actively engaged in making something happen. A victim is someone who suffers from circumstances beyond their control.

Victimization is valid and real, but if there’s no active pursuit of a solution, you remain a victim — you remain passive, and your attitude is one of bitterness, helplessness, or cynicism.

You’re an agent who can change your own attitude. Ultimately, your own actions are the only things you control.

You may not be able to control the rise of negative thoughts due to a tragedy that was beyond your control, but you can control how you respond to those thoughts.

Consider the following methods of coping with tragedies:[3]

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  • Talk with a counselor or someone who can give you an outside perspective.
  • Turn off the news, stop wallowing, and get active. Activities such as exercise, art, and games will help you process your feelings better by giving you a break from concentrating on repetitive negative thoughts.
  • Offer your support to others who have had a similar experience. If, for example, you’re recovering from addiction, find a peer support group.
  • Redirect painful emotions by finding an activity, such as volunteer work, writing, music, or sports, that is emotionally fulfilling and allows you to release pent-up emotions.

Sometimes tragedy is self-inflicted, meaning you have a bad experience that’s not necessarily a tragedy, but you treat it as such. You get down on yourself, turn to drugs and alcohol, and brood over your negative thoughts and feelings.

Be sure to recognize if this is happening, and become an agent of recovery instead of victimization.

4. Dream Huge — but Set Realistic Expectations

This is the truth about your dream: it’s real. What you really want out of life — call it your dream or fantasy or ambition — is a real idea you can and should hold onto no matter what happens.

To set realistic expectations, break your dream down into steps that are achievable in the short-term.

If you believe you’re entitled — you expect everything to fall into place — you will not realize your dream. Even if you’re lucky and successful, it won’t feel like success because entitlement is a bottomless pit.

A negative attitude stems from expectations that don’t line up with reality. Again, your actions are the only thing you control. Science shows you’re not even necessarily in control of your thoughts.[4]

But you are in control of the thoughts you choose to dwell on. Concentrate on your plans. You can expect to follow through when you concentrate on and check off the steps to completing a task. Concentrate on the tasks you need to complete in order to make your dream a reality.

5. Transform Negative Thoughts into Ultimate Questions

Asking questions opens your mind to new ideas. It helps you begin to build confidence. Positive self-talk can be tough, because your mind is like a broken record. You tell yourself you’re lovable, but for every time you say that, the thought that no one loves you pops up 10 times.

Forbes’ Melody Wilding makes a great recommendation:[5]

“When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question?”

Here are some examples:

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  • Instead of, “Something must be wrong with me,” say, “What are the steps to success?”
  • Instead of, “I hate going to the grocery store,” say, “How can I save time at the grocery store?”
  • Instead of, “These people are annoying,” say, “How can I talk to these people so that this meeting is enjoyable?”
  • Instead of, “I was a complete idiot last night,” say, “What can I do differently in the future?”

This way, you’re opening possibilities for new, constructive thoughts. You’re also paying attention to your thoughts and doing something with them.

6. Laugh!

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” – Wayne Dyer

In almost all cases, you’ll develop a negative attitude if you choose to be angry and depressed instead of choosing to laugh. But how can you choose to laugh when something seems downright terrible?

This is where the imagination and mental exercise kick in. Choose to look at a disappointing or disheartening circumstance in a different way. What is it that’s ironic, absurd, or outrageous about the circumstance?

Is there an opposite circumstance you can imagine, one that’s so fantastically great it brings tears of laughter to your eyes just thinking about it? Are there any details that are just flat-out strange?

If you’re depressed, choose comedy — choose something that can bring a smile to your face. Train yourself to seek good opportunities for humour, and you’re training yourself to have a positive attitude.

7. Embrace Your Emotions and Release Them Confidently

The moment you experience an emotion, there’s a reason for it; and therefore it’s valid.

Here’s the challenge: you must control what you do with that emotion.

You could hold the emotion in and let it fester, but that leads to things like depression, pent-up rage, and low self-esteem.

You could release your emotion the moment you feel it without thinking, but that leads to relationship issues with other people. Or, you could release the emotion confidently in a way that asserts your self and your boundaries.

  • Practice observing your emotions when you feel them on a daily basis. Note what the emotion is and be there with it.
  • When you experience a strong emotion such as anger, take time to note your anger, take deep breaths, and calm down.
  • Figure out what or who caused your anger, and why.
  • Assert yourself. Don’t be mean about it, be confident. Say something like, “I would prefer for you to treat everyone as equals in the group, I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but it’s very important to me.”
  • Set your boundaries by repeating “I” statements, such as, “I don’t want you to yell at me, I feel uncomfortable. If there’s a problem, I would prefer to talk about it calmly.”

If you embrace your emotions by processing them — by asking who, what, why, and how — and then you deal with them by expressing yourself confidently, your attitude will remain one of confidence, calmness, and positivity.

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8. Create, Move, Believe, Contemplate Great Things

Once you know you are in control of how you react to thoughts and emotions, and in turn your actions create a pattern that reinforces itself, a huge world of greatness is there for you.

Greatness is there because at all times you can choose it. You can choose to listen to your deepest emotions, which are a thing of beauty because of their intense purity, and you can translate them into new things. New songs, poems, sayings, artworks, running routes, exercise routines, meals, friendships, jobs — it’s all there for you.

Each negative thought is a positive response waiting to happen. Feel how your positive responses and your positive attitude are so enjoyable you wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Believe that you are amazing and your actions will have amazing results — even if you are not around to see the results bloom and flower.

Contemplate great things because they’re the greatest things to contemplate. What if your decision to appreciate other people’s little quirks someday becomes love? What if your decision to write in your diary everyday someday becomes a memoir? You’re capable of all these things, and life can be great.

9. Leave with the Four Agreements — but Agree to Come Back Again and Again

A man named Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. With these agreements, Ruiz distills pearls of ancient Toltec wisdom. To transform your attitude, agree to do the following:

  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Do your best

That’s it. Think about how these agreements inform your actions.

If you are doing your best, you are in the moment.

If you are impeccable with your word, you say things that reflect on the world you want to create.

If you don’t take anything personally, you don’t get offended by other people’s words and actions, so you don’t lash out at them.

If you don’t make assumptions, you have realistic expectations.

Furthermore, check out these other tips on how to change your attitude. Return to advice that helps you again and again. With an attitude that says, “I’m always learning,” you’ll do just that, and your life will keep improving.

Featured photo credit: Carolina Heza via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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