“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
A simple shift in our attitude can change how we experience life. The way we decide to respond to our circumstances determines how much satisfaction it brings. But what if the reality we face is exceptionally hard and pushes us to the edge of what we think we can tolerate?
People around the world are currently experiencing this. It’s hard to maintain a stable and positive frame of mind when the dangers of getting sick and dying from Covid-19 are forefront in our minds. The death toll and infection rates continue to climb, prolonging the time we have to hunker down in our homes and wait for this pandemic to end.
As our new reality sinks in, we go through good and bad days. On one of my bad days, I found myself going down an anxiety spiral. I was worried about my loved ones and my fellow human beings. The weight of what’s happening was too heavy to bear. I called up a dear friend who offered comfort and solace. “There’s no way we can change what’s going on, Seline. But you can feel better by looking at the good that could come from this,” she suggested.
My friends’ thoughts are echoed by those of Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor who became a psychologist specializing in trauma. When she was interviewed by Oprah from her home, she said, “Any experience we have that makes you stronger—if you survive it, that means that you have the mentality of finding some good in everything. This is a wake-up call, a time out to see if we can empower each other to stretch our comfort zone and to find a way to become survivors.”
I realized that the only source of liberation for us at this point is our thoughts. I was subconsciously aware of this, but living through this ordeal has given me a deep, visceral understanding of what it means. What’s happening right now is a hard pill to swallow, but complaining and scapegoating will make it harder than it needs to be.
We have more power than ever to shape both our mental and physical realities. Your body responds to your mindset, and the more you enhance how you think about things, the higher the vitality you’ll experience in your body. Science has shown that every thought not only triggers neurochemical changes in your body but affects the whole global ecosystem. In her book, “Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World,” author Lynne McTaggart writes:
“A sizable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than thirty years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world, shows that thoughts are capable of affecting everything from the simplest machines to the most complex living beings. This evidence suggests that human thoughts and intentions are an actual physical “something” with astonishing power to change our world. Every thought we have is tangible energy with the power to transform. A thought is not only a thing; a thought is a thing that influences other things.”
At this moment, with all the limitations placed on us to keep us safe, we have the perfect opportunity to shift our attitudes to acceptance and gratitude. Practicing gratitude will create a surge of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, making us alert. We will become benefactors, capable of coming up with solutions rather than feeding hysteria.
I changed my attitude by looking at the massive shift in human consciousness, which I believe will occur as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and the fear it evokes. I think that we’ll come out on top of this with much more love in our hearts and a deeper sense of appreciation for our connection with others. We’ll value the freedom that comes from being able to travel to any place on the planet. Hugging and shaking hands with people will be seen as a privilege and not a given.
Here are some ways to shift your attitude when you can’t change anything else:
1. Quieten your mind: There’s a lot of noise around us. Smartphones, with their perpetual social media and email notifications, the constant influx of information from TV and radio, and noisy and busy streets, can all overburden and overwhelm us. Step away from the hustle and bustle by taking meditative breaks to quieten and still the mind. It’s easier to manage our attitudes when we’re operating from a calm and steady state of mind.
2. Be mindful of negative thoughts and shift them: Each of us has a stream of consciousness that plays out in the form of internal dialogue. It impacts how we think, feel, and act. You follow this voice unconsciously and tend not to question it. But it’s essential to bear in mind that you have control over that voice and are capable of making the best decisions for yourself. Relinquish control by maintaining a healthy skepticism of the negative thoughts that come to mind. Ask yourself if there is any real truth to it. Does science, logic, and experience back it up? If it’s your fears fueling your negativity, find healthy practices, and surround yourself with people who are positive influences to help you shift your focus toward one that is nourishing and balanced.
3. Reframe and look at the big picture: One of the most effective ways to change your attitude is by reframing an experience. Our beliefs are seldom based solely on facts but rather our interpretation of them. The way we frame these facts results in a particular perspective. Reframing your beliefs and experiences is not deluding yourself and ignoring reality. Instead, it allows you to see things from a new perspective that inspires and motivates you.
There are several perspectives to any situation, but one of my favorites is looking at the big picture, where you ‘zoom out’ of a current situation and see it from a broader perspective. Even though you might feel trapped by your limited access to the outside world, you can focus on the impact this will have on your perspective in the long-run. Everything in the outside world, from grabbing a coffee at a café, or meeting up with friends will feel a lot sweeter because you now know its value.
4. Let go of control and surrender: As humans, we strive for certainty and control. We find comfort in knowing that we have a grip on the situations in our life. However, controlling things is exhausting, especially when we can’t influence them in any way. Instead, we should aim for striking a balance between knowing when to make an effort and when to surrender. We do our best to direct events without resisting the direction the wind is taking us. Writer Sissy Gavrilaki said, “ Sometimes, it’s not the times you decide to fight, but the times you decide to surrender, that makes all the difference.” Surrendering isn’t an act of giving up; it’s an act to bring inner peace.
The next time you find yourself complaining about the weather, try finding the beauty and blessing in it. If it’s raining heavily, you could see it as an opportunity to sit at home, by a cozy fire while watching the rain. If it’s sunny and warm outside, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a drink of cold lemonade and ice cream. No matter what weather you’re currently experiencing in your life, you can enjoy it so much more when you’re willing to view it with optimism and faith.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What do you find most challenging when you try to shift your attitude? Do you have any ideas on how you can overcome this?
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