A cold is contagious. The flu is contagious. But the one thing that is more contagious than anything is negativity. Thankfully, all of us have a choice every day whether to be a carrier of the kind of attitude that spreads faster than anything else in life.
Think about what happens when you encounter someone in the hallway at work. You smile and innocently ask, “How’s your day going?”
When their response is something like, “Oh, it could be better,” or “God awful,” or “I’ll be glad when it’s over!”, our natural instinct is to sympathize and then ask, “Why, what happened?” Before we know it, suddenly our need to relate prompts us to nod our heads in agreement and subsequently grumble about things that we may have brushed off as insignificant only moments earlier. And so the cycle begins.
Now as we part ways with that person, we have sadly become a carrier of the same infectious pessimistic attitude. Even worse yet, our smile may have disappeared, our heart rate may have increased, and we may not have the same spring in our step. Luckily, all hope for staying positive, even when those around you aren’t, is not lost. By following these five simple steps, it is possible to be sympathetic to someone who is suffering while still managing to avoid catching a negative attitude:
Believe that you have control over everything, including your mindset. No one forces you to take on a negative view of anything in life. We are all on this earth to love and learn. When looking at each experience in life as a lesson, it becomes possible to transform negativity into positive energy. Silently repeat to yourself throughout every day, “I am in control.”
Find a way to gracefully move away from negativity to a place of peace. While conversing with someone who is drowning in pessimism, remember to breathe while discovering a balance between feeling empathy and not transforming into a sponge. Smile and nod, pat their hand, and show them that you care. But ending it there and not carrying the attitude with you throughout the rest of the day empowers you to stop the cycle.
Focus on the positive aspects of every day. No matter what happens, there is always good in every day. Perhaps a stranger opened the door for you or your dog greeted you at the end of a long day with a slobbery kiss. Maybe a friend called unexpectedly and invited you to dinner. When feeling yourself caught up in a negative cycle, train your mind to concentrate on the good in the world. If you are somehow not able to find the good in others, perform a random act of kindness yourself.
Practice gratitude for the simplest of gifts. Many of us take the simplest things for granted. Not everyone in the world has clean water and a warm bed. Others do not have good medical care or a house without a leaky roof. When those surrounding you attempt to pull you into their darkness, focus on what you have, not on what you do not have.
Surround yourself with friends and family who share your attitude that life will always get better. While sometimes it is not possible to avoid negative people, it is possible to create a squad of supporters who believe in you, encourage you to follow your dreams, and love you unconditionally. If you are not receiving what you need from anyone in your life, it is perfectly okay to give yourself permission to move on.
When you wake up tomorrow and begin preparing for a new day, remember this: No matter what you are wearing on the outside, it is the attitude you are wearing on the inside that people remember more. Now go tackle the world.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.