Tips for a better attitude.
“Attitude is a little thing that can make a big difference” was the brightly colored banner posted on the main wall in my elementary school’s lunchroom. From the time we are young, we are taught that if we can have a “good” attitude then success will be ours. What we aren’t taught is how to program them. Attitudes can feel like something out of our control. We can feel ourselves start to spiral down a rabbit hole of negativity when the lady in front of us grabs the last cinnamon bagel at the coffee shop. They can feel like something that is just happening to us in the moment with no way to get out or life raft to grab onto. And in a way, they are. They’re the reaction that our minds have programmed in us to protect us from anything “bad” or “unknown” or “unexpected”. The issue is that this programming doesn't always take into account all the wonderful things that can come out of these “unexpected” moments. It takes a lot of retraining to be able to create the attitudes we want to experience so I’ve come up with some tools that by utilizing regularly, I believe can help bring a little more clarity and joy to our attitudes and to our lives.
Breathe. You have no idea how many times throughout the day I’ve realized that I’m literally holding my breath. What happens when we hold our breath? Our bodies usually go into survival mode. So, imagine what it can do to our brains and to our bodies and to our attitudes to be in survival mode pretty much all day. That’s a loooooooot of stress. We are either resisting or flowing with everything in our lives. Breathing helps us to flow. Breathing it in and breathing it right back out. I like to set a few alarms on my phone to remind me to take deep breaths throughout the day. While I’m breathing out, I count backwards from five as a countdown to a new moment and a new chance to change my attitude and to be present. 5, relax those shoulders. 4, unclench your jaw. 3, uncurl your toes. 2, shake it out. 1, loosen your grip. Breathe baby, breathe.
Show gratitude. I know this is a big one and heard all the time but I think that might be why it’s so commonly ignored. Like okay, yeah yeah, we know to be grateful for what we have, sure sure. But do we really take the time to dwell on that? Do we take the time to think and to remember all of the little things that we are grateful for every day- even if it’s just the honey in our tea, or our cozy blue cardigan, or a funny and inappropriate text from our best friend. Spending just a few minutes a day writing down things we’re thankful for and reminding ourselves of tiny wins for the day is such a beautiful practice that puts things into perspective. I order this gratitude journal every few months on amazon. It has prompts to fill out in the mornings to check in with your goals and affirmations for the day, and prompts to fill out in the evenings to remind you of what things made you smile that day. It doesn’t take much to shift your perspective from ‘have to’ to ‘get to’ but it’s such a better place for your mind to be. There is so much to be grateful for and if we can show the universe how grateful we are for the things we already have, then maybe it will give us much bigger things to be grateful for.
Listen. It’s in our society’s nature to either react immediately or to be left behind. There’s almost a negative context associated with sitting with something for awhile - as if we are being lazy or indecisive. We will never learn how to properly react to anything unless we can sit, and listen, and then sit some more. I struggle with this a lot. I find myself constantly wanting to interrupt and compare and take control of the situation that’s being presented to me. We’ve been instinctively programmed to look at something and analyze it in a way to compare it to our own experiences as a way to connect, but that also causes us to constantly live in our pasts and take us away from the present moment. I’ve found it helpful to practice my 5,4,3,2,1 practice here as well. If I have a knee jerk reaction to something, I’ll let myself count (slowly) backwards from five and see if that thought still serves me when I’m done counting. Most of the time, I’ll have a calmer and clearer way of reacting. If we can be in the now and truly listen and take in what is happening to us, we can practice responding in a way that aligns more with who we truly are.
Don’t take it personally. Some people say this phrase so matter of factly. “Don’t take it personally”. Um... if you’re anything like me, you lie awake at night thinking of that embarrassing thing you did at school when you were nine years old. You'll leave an interaction with a boss replaying the conversation in your head for hours wondering if you said everything “right”. My biggest mantra to move me out of this headspace has been “so what? “SO WHAT?!” It is liberating and I can immediately feel the pressure start to roll off my shoulders. So what if they didn’t like what I said? So what if I don’t get that job? So what if I was an asshole teenager when I was 13? What can I do about it now? The answer is usually just to keep going. Forgive them or forgive yourself and move forward. Dwelling on things is only going to keep our energy right there, on that one thing, instead of in the real time. And real time is the only place that matters. How someone reacts to us has nothing to do with us. And how we think someone reacts to us is a made up scenario that doesn’t even exist. Any projection we put on that interaction comes from our own fears and worries - so let's try to recognize that and say “SO WHAT?”
Have no expectations. When I snap at my husband or get road rage or get short with my mom, it’s helpful for me to step back and ask myself why? Okay, like five percent of the time it’s because I’m hungry (you feel me?) - but most of the time it’s because I had a preconceived expectation of how I thought something was going to go. I expected that my husband would have the trash taken out when I got home. I expected that the car in front of me would drive the speed limit and not ever ever have to turn. I expected that my family would agree with my every thought and not have something to say about it in return (LOL). As soon as I do that, I set myself up for failure. Nothing will be “good” unless it’s what I expected so I lose the opportunity to live in the now and take moments as they come. Expectations are actually limitations. They limit your beliefs on how you think things should go instead of letting you experience the real time of how things get to go. What if you get to take out the trash when you get home because your husband didn’t have a chance to, and you end up meeting a new neighbor in the alleyway and having a lovely conversation? You could never have expected that - and that is where the magic happens.
Do what feels good. I’ve mentioned before that we live in a sort of “no pain no gain” society. We have a hard time accepting that we are worthy of playing and having fun once we “grow up”. We think that to truly succeed and get what we want, we have to have no distractions and put our heads down and work hard. You know what causes a good attitude? Joy. You know what causes joy? Playing and having fun. I try to schedule an hour date with myself - just myself - every week where I get to do whatever I want without any guilt or judgement. Maybe I want to walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. Maybe I want to go get a root beer float. Maybe I want to watch Freaky Friday three times in a row. Maybe I want to dance around in my underwear to Spice Girls. Whatever I do - I make sure I feel good doing it. Our minds and hearts and attitudes open up so much when we give ourselves those pleasures and let our inner children play. You try having a bad attitude after singing your lungs out to Spice Up Your Life.
I definitely don’t have all the answers. These are just things that work for me but it’s a long, ongoing process. You’re never going to have a perfect attitude all the time and that’s ok - that’s what makes you human and gives you your flows. But if we can start to create our own toolbox to help guide us out of the programmed reactions we are so used to, then over time - it will become easier. A good attitude will start to be your norm. If any of these resonate with you or if you have any other suggestions or questions about any of them (or the embarrassing thing I did when I was nine) please reach out with a DM at @ashleypaigeandersen so we can continue the conversation together. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let’s do this baby.