Mindset is everything. How we view situations or events determines our state of mind. Which track are you giving your attention to? Do you focus on the positive or negative in life? How accepting are you of change or of things working out differently than planned? Are you grateful? Whatever you focus on is what appears in your life. Here are three things you can do to help improve your mindset.
Look for the Positive
I know this is hard to do, especially when we are under stress. But how we perceive an event creates our mindset. Our thoughts literally shape our day. Do we see a challenge as something bad that is happening to us, or do we view it as a step to get us where we want to go? Challenges, obstacles, or delays aren’t always negative. Sometimes they are there to point us in a different or even better direction.
What we look for is what we find. It’s always a choice to look for the good, though I know that is very hard sometimes. And when we experience tragic events, the good is nowhere to be found. But in many moments in our lives, we can find something positive even in a challenging situation. It’s our perception of the situation, not the situation itself, that causes us distress. Do we see the negative or the positive?
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” He concentrated little on ideas that didn’t work. He looked for new ways that it would or moved on to something different. If he would have only focused on the negative, some of his greatest inventions, like the lightbulb, phonograph, or motion picture camera, may not have happened.
In today’s world, it’s so easy with media running 24/7 to just see the negative. Most news programs do not focus on the good things that happen because unfortunately that doesn’t grab the attention that bad news does. Have you noticed that it seems like everything is “breaking news?” And many of the top stories are just repeats of the previous day. This puts us in the flight or fight mode and makes us more stressed. And if we don’t release this stress, it gets trapped in our bodies and creates tension that can lead to illnesses.
Harvard Business Review states, “We’ve known for some time now that hearing negative news broadcasts can have an immediate effect on your stress level, but new research we just conducted in partnership with Arianna Huffington shows how significant these negative effects can be on our workdays. Just a few minutes spent consuming negative news in the morning can affect the entire emotional trajectory of your day.” The article continues, “Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to the positive condition.” So what do we do?
First, to improve your mindset, don’t start your day listening or watching negative news. And decrease the time you do. I used to be a news junkie watching it every night. I could feel the stress rising in me, so I stopped cold turkey. And what happened? I felt better and less stressed. I’m going to hear if something happened anyway. I just don’t have to watch it daily. For me, reading about something doesn’t create the tension that watching it does.
Positive psychologists Shawn Achor and his wife, Michelle Gielan, state, “It’s possible to stay informed about the news and remain positive and focused on your own work, but only if you control your news consumption instead of letting it control you.”
Second, start your day with something positive, like affirmations, reading, gratitude writing, walking, or meditating. Do something that brings you joy. Take this time to connect to you. I’ve found when I start my day focusing on the good, the rest of my day runs better. If I start off looking at the negative, my day continues to focus on that.
Third, try not to look at your phone or emails for the first 30 minutes or hour of the day if that gives you stress. And turn off any distractions, like notifications and alerts on your phone or computer. My phone is on silent so I can ease myself into the day and then concentrate on work. I don’t want to lose my focus when I’m working with the “swoosh” sound.
Finally, if you get stressed, you can help release it by shaking your body. Animals naturally do this after they have been in a stressful situation to release tension and get them back to a neutral state. We can do this too to help our bodies calm down.
Be Open to Change
When we think something should happen a certain way and it doesn’t, that sets us up for disappointment. Have you ever planned a trip, and it didn’t turn out as planned? Or you go to a restaurant to order a certain entrée and the menu has changed? In both cases, our expectations did not equal the outcome. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different. When our expectations don’t meet reality, it can make us unhappy and disappointment sets in.
A little disappointment can be a good thing when it allows us to change our direction. But when we keep ruminating over what we “think” is a negative situation, it keeps us stuck and makes it less likely that we can see the positive things in life. When we don’t concentrate on “what should have been” we may just find that the new direction or meal is better than the planned one.
When things don’t move in the direction you want them to, acknowledge it and then accept what is. This is an important step to improve your mindset because if you don’t accept it, you may not see reality. Only what you thought it should be. And you could miss the opportunity to experience something new.
Acceptance helps us to lessen our stress and creates more peace. We might not prefer the outcome, but at least we are not fighting it. And when we are in a more calm state, we can switch our attention and find a better mindset.
Not everything in life will go as we have planned. When we can go with the flow and accept it instead of resist it, we create more contentment.
Seek Gratitude to Improve Your Mindset
For me, gratitude is everything. It’s the basis of my happiness. When I can find something, anything, to be grateful for, I improve my mindset and I am more calm.
Even in times of trouble, there is always something to be grateful for, like your family, friends, health, job, food, or a place to sleep. Not everyone has these things and I am thankful that I do.
Where attention flows, energy goes. I consciously try to focus my energy on what I am grateful for. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m successful at this all the time because I’m not. But the more I can live in a state of gratitude, the more gratitude I find.
Finally, to improve your mindset, don’t compare your life to others. Comparison extinguishes gratitude. When we compare ourselves to others, we stamp out gratitude because we are focusing on what we don’t have instead of being grateful for what we do.
A great comparison example is social media posts. You see a picture of someone smiling and having fun, and you think everyone is having a better day than you. When in reality, most of their day was not great. You are not seeing the actual picture, just a glimpse of a moment or what they want you to see.
Put your attention on what you have, focus on the good in your life, not what you lack. Be open to change and accept what is instead of how you thought things should be. We spend a lot of time worrying about things we cannot change or control. You can’t change what has happened, but you can change how you view it.
In the book, The Measure, by Nikki Erlick, she says, “Sometimes we screw up, and sometimes the system screws with us, but if you live your life with enough passion and boldness, then that’s what you’ll be remembered for. Not the crap that happened along the way.” I believe this is a great metaphor for life. As time passes, we can remember the good and not focus on the crap. Everyone has difficulties, but if you are bold enough to pick yourself up and move forward, you can live a more peaceful life.
Focus your thoughts on the more beneficial track. Seek the good, be open to change, and find more gratitude. These three things definitely improve your mindset!
Harvard Business Review article – https://hbr.org/2015/09/consuming-negative-news-can-make-you-less-effective-at-work