We often face challenging situations in our careers, health and relationships, and, a lot of the time, these circumstances are beyond our control. You may even believe in the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Despite the fact that you may not be able to control the negative situations in your life, you can choose your attitude during these challenging times.
Most of the time we aren’t even aware of our attitude towards negative situations. Negative situations put our coping mechanisms and resilience to the test. Generally speaking, we tend to address a challenging situation by thinking about all of the negative things that have and will come of it. We become fixated with this negative thinking—almost paralyzed—and before you know, it we are on a path to depression.
But, there is a way to cope that will lead to positive thinking and improved psychological health.
Here is a quick exercise that will help open your mind and allow you to choose a positive attitude during challenging moments:
- Think about a situation in your health, work or relationships that is, or was, particularly negative and challenging for you.
- Once you’re focused on that, take a DEEP breath.
- Now write down 10 positive things that could result, or did result, from this particular situation. You have to physically write down the list. Making a mental list will not have the same effect.
You have to be willing to let your mind be loose here. In the beginning, you might choose to be close-minded and think that there is nothing positive that could come out of your negative situation, but you have to be willing to let go of your mental resistance.
For example, let’s say that you experience an exercise-related injury that has you out of commission. The injury has halted your weight-loss progress, as the doctor ordered you to rest for four weeks. The start of your list of 10 positive things that could result or did result might look like this:
- The injury is not life threatening; I am alive and breathing.
- I have learned what caused my injury, and therefore can prevent it from happening again.
- I can share my experience with others so that they can prevent experiencing the same injury I did.
- Somebody was around when I injured myself.
Let’s use one more example to drive this concept home. Let’s say you had a goal of losing 20 pounds by a certain date, and you fell short of that goal by 10 pounds. The start of your list of 10 positive things that could result or did result might look like this:
- Even though I haven’t hit my goal yet, I have made big changes in my lifestyle/diet to lose weight. That was my biggest hurdle.
- I can feel and see the positive changes in my energy, clothes size and overall health.
- I’ve bought new clothes, as some of my old outfits are too big. This is in opportunity to redefine myself and try new things that I didn’t have the confidence to do before.
- I’ve had wonderful support and encouragement from my friends and family.
As you start this exercise, you may not see the immediate benefits of doing it. But by the end of it, your positive reflection of the situation will leave you feeling less negative and more positive. It’s almost as if you are pretending to be positive about the negative situation in the beginning, but by the end of the exercise, your mind will give in and start to believe that your list is 10 truly positive things.
A good way to reflect on something you have endured in your life is by writing or journaling. Writing always brings clarity. Clarity yields inner peace. This same exercise can be applied to any negative situation in any area of your life.
So, in the end, you have a choice: a choice to be negative and limited in your thinking by saying, “I will never get over this. Why me? I give up.” Or you can choose to move away from being part of the problem and move toward being part of the solution by exercising the freedom to choose your attitude.
I have found this exercise to be very useful in my life. Try it out and let me know what you think.