22 ways to develop a more positive attitude

by Roger Verdon on March 2, 2010 · 4 comments

in mood disorders,positive outlook

I came across this list of keys to leading a more positive lifestyle from the National Health Service of Scotland. I then went through the list to see how many I actually follow:

Talk about your feelings. Nope.
Write it down. Nope. (Although it occurs to me I am doing this exercise, so….)
Keep active. Yes, walk the dog, swim, bike. Roll a lot when sleeping.
Eat well, sleep well.
Nope and nope.
Drink sensibly.
Very little—that is, I drink sensibly because I drink very little alcohol.
Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Infrequent. I do talk with my wife and hold her hand in public. Does that count? However, I hate to break it to my alleged friends, who are few and far between, but my best friend tends to lick my hand when I’m scratching her back. All she asks is that I take her on a walk now and then. (I am the best friend you will ever have, but I have never found an individual who felt that way about me, probably because my expectations of myself and others are too high. This sounds like a Lifetime movie!)
Get the knowledge, take control. Nope. I know things I should be doing, but like many of us, I fail to act consistently.
Get professional help. Nope, not now any way.
Look beyond drug therapies. Yes, I often practice cognitive behavior therapy as a way to encourage better, more positive feelings and behavior.
Change the scene. Nope. However, I do get up from my chair at work to keep the juices flowing.
Time for another cuppa? I believe in this as Starbucks employees well know. I can’t tell you how many of their kids have been through college on me, but there must be some. Hold that thought, while I go for another cuppa.
Go for green. Enjoy a park or a public space. I enjoy my backyard refuge, which is a positive place when it is mowed and clean.
Let there be light. The advice is to go outdoors, although I can do without too much sunlight.
Listen up!
I do this all the time. Most people don’t really want any advice, they just want someone to listen and acknowledge their need to vent. This is a critically important function and I do this marvelously. I don’t judge, I just listen and nod. Unless you are a licensed mental health pro, this is the safest method.
Improve your coping skills. Yes, I practice deep breathing, stretch, meditate, go for short walks. It all helps.
Set realistic goals. I regularly set exceptionally high goals. And I often have setbacks. It occurs to me that my unrealistic goals may be a reason for disappointments or feeling blue.
Keep an eye on personal stress. I do try to do this. I monitor stress levels all the time and try to keep my heart rate steady and a level reaction to daily aggravation. (I do pound my keyboard quite hard sometimes.)
Three good things. This is a task that entails writing down three positive things that happen to you each day. (I’m skeptical. What’s positive: no accidents, wasn’t shot and wounded? OK, I’m being dramatic. I will try this.)
Get involved.
This suggestion directs us to join a group, be it a political group, church, civic groups, something. As for me, I’ve given up on groups. Call me ill-advised, but there you are.
The long way. Don’t cut corners and enjoy the process. Cook a meal from scratch, in other words, which I do most of the time.
Do good. Yes, give to charity, let the tentative gray-haired driver get into the traffic queue, don’t yell at the little old lady who brings 40 items to the express line. Go with the flow.
Ask for help. Before I ask for help, I would have to be pretty desperate. I admit this is not a healthy attitude and may be my biggest failing.

So let’s see what things turned out to be on my action plan to experience life in a more positive way:

Talk about my feelings more. Well, I’m about to….
Get more sleep and eat better. My first thought:  Let’s not go overboard here. I know both are important, but I think I’ll pick one and work on that for now.
Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. I do need to make more phone calls and drop a few more letters and cards. I know this activity will reap benefits. (And there is at least one relative who could leave me a fortune.)
Ask for help. I need to learn to allow myself to be helped.
Change the scene. I hate to travel, but I can certainly go to work a different way.
Let there be light. I will leave the office more and take in the sun. This can’t hurt, although I refuse to stand in the sun, which can be dangerous for men like me. Maybe I should invest in a toupee.
Set realistic goals. This is definitely the most vivid and truest insight and while I know this, I need to be reminded. (I vow never to let that happen again. Wait! Is that unrealistic?)

I knew some of this vaguely before taking this self-exam. It’s not a bad exercise if you want to see what a little honesty can reveal. As someone who works in the mental health field, I ought to know better, which can be said of many of my colleagues, including those with big-time degrees and expertise. We have to remind ourselves from time to time that we have to get the knowledge and take control.

Now my challenge is to implement some of these findings and then take the self exam again. I believe I will feel more positive down the road. Try it yourself; you may learn things that have been on your mind. If knowledge is power, then the exam works.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne McKinley March 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Roger: The reason i asked that is because it is difficult for patients to do many things they know will help. As in Jon Allen’s catch 22′s, the things depressed people need to do to improve their mood are the very things that are the hardest to do. Now we recognize this in some ways is true of all of us, even those who deliver services to the mentally ill. So does everyone suffer from the blocks those who are depressed do in terms of doing what can keep us practicing mindfulness and feeling a sense of wellbeing? Is it a human condition made worse by mental illness such as depression? Just questioning, not presennting answers.

Julie March 4, 2010 at 11:23 am

Roger, I really enjoyed this post and couldn’t help but think of the Optimist’s Creed when reading it. It is a great thing to post at your desk as a daily reminder. I read it every morning when I arrive to work and feel it’s a great way to start my day!

The Optimist’s Creed:

I Promise Myself…

To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.
To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.
To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

Roger Verdon March 3, 2010 at 10:55 am

Suzanne, That is the real question, isn’t it? I’m not a clinician, but my personal opinion is that I often lack mindfulness, being aware of the moment. I often refer to this as life getting in the way of my life. I think being more aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it raises the ability to be more disciplined. Setting goals is also a fine way to help oneself change things. A little change at a time is a great way to begin. Also, if we set goals and slip, then we should try again and not let failure allow us to fail completely. Dr. Karl Menninger said forgiving oneself was a real asset. That is a difficult chore but one I work on.
We are all works in progress and as soon as we realize that perfection is not the goal, but happiness and joy, then we can navigate in the right direction. That works for me.

Suzanne McKinley March 3, 2010 at 1:37 am

It’s a good list of things to do to improve ones attitude.

One question then: Why don’t we do what we know will help?? (This includes you!) :)

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