Just when we think we can emerge from our wintery cocoons to replenish our depleted levels of Vitamin D, winter drags on some more to bring another round of snow and subfreezing temperatures. While many of us recognize that spring will come at some point, and we can go back to planting gardens, riding bikes, and waiting in line at Dairy Queen without freezing, this extended feeling of winter may have had a negative effect on our attitudes.
The average person has about 60,000 thoughts a day. About 95% of these are the same from day to day (brush your teeth, eat breakfast, drive to work…), so we often don’t think about how our attitudes affect our thoughts. Consider how you reacted to the latest snowstorms. Maybe you made comments like, “When is this snow ever going to end?” or “I don’t want to go to work because I hate shoveling.” I know I did.
The truth is that our attitude affects everyone we meet, and it is the first impression that we put out for people to judge. According to author John Maxwell, there are five truths about attitude:
- Attitudes have the power to lift people up or tear them down
- An attitude compounds when exposed to others
- Bad attitudes compound faster than good ones
- Attitudes are subjective
- Rotten attitudes, if left alone, will ruin everything
We can blame our attitudes on the weather, lack of Vitamin D, our introversion, or being sleepy, but the truth is we have the ability to control our attitude. In fact, there are people (me included) who believe we choose our attitude, because we choose how we react to people.
How can we fight off this feeling of negativity before we begin to alienate our coworkers and partners, or curl up and attempt to hibernate for the remainder of this never-ending winter? The first thing that we have to do is assess our attitude. If we have a bad attitude that is negatively affecting the people around us, there is a strong likelihood that we don’t even recognize our attitude. So take a look inside either by journaling, meditating, or asking that best friend who is not afraid to tell you that you’re being a jerk.
The second step is to assess where this attitude is coming from. We have to develop a level of self-awareness that will help us to know what is affecting us, so we can address the situation before it gets out of hand. This might mean that we have to start focusing on the present rather than living in a past that elicits anger and grudges, or keep from looking too far into the future, which can bring about fear and anxiety.
An important aspect of developing self-awareness is recognizing the need to take care of self. Self-care is key to improving our attitude. Consider the last time you lost your cool or lashed out at someone. I am guessing that one of the reasons you had for that behavior was because you were tired, stressed, or both. If we don’t take time to stop and recharge our batteries, those negative emotions and attitudes begin to work their way into our psyche. So when you feel run down, stressed, and overwhelmed, it is time to stop.
Once you start to analyze and assess where your attitude is and how it is influencing the people around you, there are a few things that you can do to become more positive. Find those things that you are grateful for, whether it is work- or family-related or something personal. There is something we can be grateful for every day.
Next, celebrate successes. No matter how big or small, a success is a win and should be celebrated. Maybe the vending machine started carrying your favorite candy bar or you landed that big account.
Finally and probably, the simplest – smile. A smile can have a profound impact on your mental well-being, as well as that of the people around you. I am a firm believer that a smile is the most infectious thing and is great to spread around the office. Take a moment to smile at that person in the hallway, and if they don’t smile back, don’t take it personal. Just make a point to smile at them again and again until they reciprocate.
So many of our emotions are influenced by outside sources, but it is important to remember that it is only an influence. We control how we respond. So if we want to be positive and survive the last cold wintery days, we have to find techniques to battle back the negativity, whether it is dancing down the hall after a big win, or getting a return smile from that frowning coworker.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and is working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.