How to Improve Your Attitude Toward Life and Self
Having a negative attitude is harmful to you and to the people around you. The longer you have a negative outlook on life and yourself, the harder it may be to change that attitude. But if you are willing to change the way that you view the world and yourself, then there are several things that you can do. You can start by examining your attitude about the world and about yourself, then start looking for little ways to improve your outlook, and then work to correct some of the major problems that you have with the world and with yourself.
Examining Your Attitude
Challenge your existing beliefs.If you believe the world is a bad place, you will probably tend to have a negative attitude. As such, if you can work on changing your beliefs about the world, your attitude will likely follow suit.
- Also remember that beliefs tend to be quite subjective and there are multiple ways of looking at the same thing. So, try to look for evidence that runs contrary to the belief that you hold.
- For example, if you believe the world is a bad place, you might spend a couple hours researching all the ways in which people help each other in times of need.
Examine your ideas about the world.Your negative ideas about the world may cause you to act a certain way and this can determine the outcome of some situations. Your negative ideas may even start to take the form of predictions and, each time one of your predictions comes true, your negative views are reinforced. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- An example of a self-fulfilling prophecy is if you think that the world is a cold, mean place and so you are cold and mean to people. As a result, people may be cold and mean to you in return. You might then interpret their actions as being in line with your view of the world, which reinforces your attitude.
Take responsibility for your attitude.You have a lot of control over the way you think about the world. Try to keep that in mind and use it to your advantage. Ultimately, you are responsible for your attitude and cannot blame how you think on others or on your situation.
- Remember that although you may not be able to change your circumstances sometimes, you can still change how you react to them by adopting one kind of attitude over another.
Re-frame your focus.In some sense, much of reality is subjective, such as whether you enjoy what you are doing or not. This depends in large part on the thoughts that you emphasize and focus on.
- For example, if you do not much enjoy your job, you might think with a bad attitude "This really sucks and is pointless."
- However, you could also take a more positive attitude toward the exact same situation and think "It is pretty amazing that I can do a task and get money to feed myself and my family. Imagine living in a time when people had to forage for food and no meal was guaranteed."
Fake it until you make it.In part, your attitude is formed when you watch yourself act in certain ways. This is called self-perception theory, and it is the idea that people infer their own attitudes by perceiving their own behavior.
- For example, one study found that if you focus people's attention on the number of religious activities they have participated in before, they tend to report more favorable attitudes towards religion.
- So, if you want to improve your attitude about life and yourself, you can partly get there by behaving like you want your attitude to be. This "faking it until you make it" can be an effective way to improve your attitude.
Making Small Changes
Set reasonable goals.Setting goals that are not achievable is a surefire way to reinforce a negative attitude about the world; that it is too difficult, that it is unfair, that the tide is always working against you, etc. Setting such improbable goals can also kill your motivation.
- Rather than setting goals such as "I'm going to get all As in school this semester", try setting goals such as "I'm going to try my best to do well in my classes"; or, instead of setting the goal of becoming a famous musician, you might set the goal of practicing music regularly.
See failure as an opportunity to learn.The idea that your talents and skills aren't fixed and unchangeable but that you can learn and grow from your mistakes is a great one to tap into. You can use the power of that idea to become more skilled and talented and positive in your life.
- By seeing failures as opportunities to learn and grow, you will be less likely to become pessimistic in the face of any defeats that come your way.
- For example, if you perform badly on a paper at school, rather than beating yourself up about it and calling yourself dumb, you might tell yourself "I really didn't do as well as I wanted to on this paper but I can talk to my teacher and find out how to improve my work for next time."
Smile.If you are having trouble adopting a more positive attitude toward life and yourself, try putting on your happy face. Force yourself to smile for a few minutes each day while you reflect on life and yourself. Studies show that there is a bi-directional relationship between the facial muscles and one's emotional state: while we generally feel happy and then smile, we can also smile and then feel happy.
- If you want help smiling, try sticking a pencil between your teeth so that the eraser is towards one corner of your mouth and the tip is toward the other corner; holding a pencil between your teeth in this way will cause you to smile.
Look to those around you.We are great at learning from those around us.So, become inspired by the actions of people around you, what they’ve done, by their biographies or simply the life stories of the people you meet. Try to be on the lookout for a unique and inspiring quality in each person you meet.
- When you find someone with an attitude toward life and self that you are particularly impressed by, try to adopt the aspects of her attitude that you like best.
Keep things in perspective.Sometimes little events come up in life that may get you in a foul mood or reinforce a negative or pessimistic attitude in you. However, try to keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, these minor events matter very little.
- For example, if you ruin your favorite shirt doing laundry, ask yourself whether you will still upset by this a week or month from now. Chances are you won't be because, in the bigger picture, it doesn't matter all that much.
Monitor and expel negative self-talk.Your self-talk is all the unspoken words that run through your mind. Sometimes the ways in which you talk to yourself may be irrational or based on a lack of accurate information. Try to watch out for this kind of negative and inaccurate self-talk so that you can expel it from your mind.
- For example, if you're telling yourself that you're worthless because you should have finished your college degree by now, ask yourself some questions about this, such as:
- Why does the fact that you didn't finish college exactly when most of your peers did make you worthless? Why should college define your self-worth? Was what you went through while not in college a learning experience? Did it help to shape who you are today?
- Instead, use positive language to re-frame things. Try this even if you don't feel like being positive. Rather than saying things like "I'm never going to succeed" re-frame your thoughts to be more positive by saying things such as "I will try my best" or "I will give it my all."
Working on Big Issues
Forgive others' mistakes.No one is perfect and people will let you down from time to time. To improve your attitude towards life, try practicing some forgiveness. By forgiving others, you will let go of negative emotion; doing so is also good for your physical health. There are several things to keep in mind to cultivate forgiveness.
- Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, including yourself. Try to remember the last time you did something like what was done to you. This will make it easier to take the perspective of the individual who wronged you and facilitate your forgiving him.
- Treat forgiveness as something for you, and not as a gift for the person you are trying to forgive. This is something that will bring you peace, and so is beneficial for you.
- Look for hidden benefits in the transgression. Although this is somewhat of a controversial point, trying to find the silver lining, that is, searching for possible ways being hurt may actually benefit you (e.g., by making you more resilient in the future) can be an effective way to forgive someone.
- Remember that forgiveness will take time; it isn't something that will happen instantly.
Don't ruminate on the problems of life.When you overthink the things you don’t like, the lack of money, the feeling that you're too fat, too weak, or not appreciated, you will likely just bring more misfortune and unhappiness into your life. This can happen because of self-fulfilling prophecies where you think something is some way so it becomes that way, or because you become depressed and think that you cannot possibly change, or simply because rumination can fuel negative feelings.
- Instead, try to focus on positive things in your life or on changing for the better.
- You can also fight against rumination by letting go of things you have identified that are out of your control, or by thinking about what the worst case scenario is and asking yourself whether you could survive it (most likely the answer is yes, which will help you stop ruminating over it).
- For example, imagine that you dislike something about yourself that you can't change, such as how tall you are. You might let go of this by reminding yourself: "since I can't really change my height, there's not much point in thinking about it, so I may as well turn my attention to things in my life that I can change, such as how confident I act or my sense of humor."
Look to the future.Avoid spending too much time in the past, because that time has already come and gone. If you are upset about something you did in the past, you could ask yourself how you can use that information to improve for the future, but other than that don't dwell on the past. Instead, look to creating the future that you want.
- Try to remind yourself that whatever great opportunities you missed in the past are not as important as the potential opportunities that lie ahead.
- Also, remember that the past is something that you can't change, whereas you can change your future. Doesn't it make more sense to spend more time thinking about what you can change over what you cannot?
Cultivate gratitude.Gratitude involves being thankful of and acknowledging that there are good things in the world beyond ourselves. Practicing gratitude is good for your physical and mental health, and can improve your relationships, all of which can help you improve your attitude toward life. To cultivate gratitude you can:
- Keep a journal and write down a few things each day that you are thankful for.
- Write and send a letter of gratitude to someone.
- Focus on the intentions of others' actions and not necessarily just the outcomes that are brought about.
Practice mindfulness.To be mindful is to maintain an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings in the moment and to accept them without judgment. Studies show that practicing mindfulness can lead to better physical and mental health, and can lead people to be more compassionate and prosocial — all of which are important for an improved life attitude. To practice mindfulness you can:
- Pay close attention to your surrounding environment.
- Listen closely to your breathing.
- Focus intently on your sensations, the sights, smells, sounds, etc., you are experiencing.
- Accept your thoughts and feelings but do not judge them; you can do this by acknowledging that they are real, and then moving on to other sensations, thoughts, feelings.
Volunteer and help others.Studies show that helping others, such as by volunteering, can help foster a positive self-image. This may be because helping others can provide you with a sense of worth and accomplishment.
- Look online or in your local newspaper for ways to become involved in your community.
Accept your body.People are bombarded with unrealistic body images by the media. This can make it difficult to accept how you look. Accepting and loving yourself is an important part of improving your attitude towards life. To better accept your body you can:
- Stop dieting and eat normally. By dieting, you are telling yourself through your behavior that there is something wrong with you that needs fixing. Instead of dieting, work on eating normally, eating only when you are hungry, having balanced meals, and getting exercise and being healthy.
- Focus on yourself in your entirety, not just how you look. Remember that you are a unique individual who is so much more than just a body; you have a personality, a mind, a unique history, and a way of looking at the world (your attitude!).
- Respect how others look; if you find yourself judging others negatively for how they look, you may be more likely to judge yourself, too. Try to accept people as unique individuals and remember that looks can have an automatic but dubious impact on your impressions of others.
QuestionMy parents say I have a bad attitude but I don't realize that I have one, how do I fix this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk your parents what makes them think you have a bad attitude. Listen to what they say and then work on changing any behaviors that they bring up.Thanks!
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