Fact of life! The older I get the grumpier I get. Things seem to bother me more now than they used to – weather, waiting in lines, stupid drivers, and rude people just to name a few. I could go on and on about what bothers me, but that would just be negative. I don’t want to become a “grumpy old man”! I don’t want to be a sour old curmudgeon. I want to remain young at heart – even though my body is getting older. I want to look at life as the glass half-full. I want to remain positive. So, I’ve developed the following seven ways to help me not be critical and negative. I thought they were worth sharing and hope that they will be of benefit to you too.
- Learn something new each day
Keeping your mind focused on new facts and ideas helps you from focusing on the things that are negative and that bug you. So, each day try to learn something new. Here are few suggestions. Learn a new vocabulary word, a new fact about your city or state, or a new fact about a place you want to visit someday. Read things outside of what you normally read – even subjects and authors that you disagree with. Watch the discovery or history channel on TV. Learn a new skill. Go to a museum. The possibilities are really endless.
- Create a gratitude list and add to it each day
Seeing how your are blessed makes you focus on the positive side of life, not dwell on the negative. Write it down and take time reflect upon it. I have a “daily grateful list” in the “Lumen Trail” app on my iPad and attempt to write at least one thing each day that I am grateful for. It doesn’t have to be something lofty or deep. In fact, the simpler the better. After working hard in the yard one hot day, I wrote how I was grateful for eyebrows to keep the sweat out of my eyes. When you take time to count your blessings, you are less apt to count your troubles.
- Don’t listen to talk radio
With maybe the exception of sports shows, talk radio is basically designed to focus on the negative and to get us upset about it. This is true of any political slant (conservative or liberal) of the talk show host. The majority of the content is negative, negative, negative. So, I encourage you to never listen to talk radio. Instead, listen to music stations or music CDs. Listening to the type of music that we love is like therapy and creates in us positive feelings.
- Serve somewhere
God’s Word is clear in stating that we are created to serve others. Our Lord, who is our ultimate example for living, said that he came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). Serving others also has a great side-effect. It make you feel positive about yourself. When you serve someone else, it takes your focus off of what is “wrong” in your life. It helps you not to be so negative. So find a ways to serve others – through your church and in your community.
- Recognize and use relaxation sweet spots
A lot of our negativity comes as a result of stress. Stress causes our normal coping mechanisms to short-circuit and the result is angst and negativity. One way to counteract stress is to simply relax. Everyone of us have relaxation “sweet spots” – places and situations where we naturally begin to relax. These are very different for different people, so you need to find out and utilize yours. One of mine is a latte in a local coffee. For some reason drinking a hot latte just relaxes me. Go figure – coffee that relaxes! So when I am stressed, a “non-fat, no foam, latte” is the order.
- Change your conversations
If you really listen to most people’s conversations, they gravitate toward the negative – the awful weather, politics, health, economy, etc. Unfortunately, there are more “Eeyores” in the world than there are “Poohs”. It is very easy to get caught up in their negative talk. So, you often need to consciously guide conversation to the positive. Take their negative and turn it into a positive. If they are complaining about how terrible our world is today, remind them of God’s sovereignty and the words of Robert Browning – “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world” (Pippa’s Song).
- Spread kindness and a smile everywhere
As we encounter people in our society we see a lot of angst and negativity. Spreading kindness with your words and actions is one antidote for counteracting the negativity. Whether it is in the checkout line, with a wait person, or a stranger on the street make an effort to share a smile and kind word. Showing a sincere interest in them and asking about their day turns the focus from you (and your negativity) to them as a person of dignity and worth. Your words and actions might be the only kind thing they encounter all day.
If you are not intentional in your actions, it is easy to get caught up in the negativity around you. You can find yourself thinking, speaking, and acting in negative ways without hardly knowing it. You become like the proverbial frog in the slowly heated pot and get cooked with negativity before realizing it. You become a Negative Ned or Nelly – that person that you thought you would never become. So, my challenge to you is to be proactive. Use these seven ways, and others you can develop, to counteract a negative attitude.
If you have other ways to counteract a negative attitude, please post a rely. I would love to hear your thoughts.