How Can You Change Your Attitude?

There are times when, to overcome an obstacle of some sort, all you need to do is change your attitude. But how can this be done?

Some common emotions, like frustration or anger, don’t actually accomplish much. Typically, they don’t help you to arrive at a solution any sooner. They can even make thinking other thoughts difficult.

A change of attitude is called for. If, instead of anger, you approach a situation with curiosity, better results may occur. Or empathy, or determination, or even no thoughts at all.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But this is easier said than done. Negative emotions can be overwhelming. drowning out everything else. They can also be counterproductive, going so far as to sabotage positive, or helpful thoughts.

So what tricks or coping mechanisms have you found to help you change your approach? How can you change your attitude?

Related questions: How can we turn sadness into constructive action? Why do we hate? What is the right amount of emotion? How can we turn ideas into actions?

5 thoughts on “How Can You Change Your Attitude?”

  1. Changing my attitude is something that I should find value in even though it has, at times, proven incredibly difficult.

    Yes, there are situations and good reasons to feel angry or grouchy, sad or lonely, powerless or desperate. These evaluative feelings are natural parts of our existence which may, in some instances, prove helpful to assess particular cases. But becoming trapped in these feelings or letting them snowball into other parts of my life robs me of their beneficial evaluative purpose and allows them to become unhelpfully invasive into experiences that warrant different feelings.

    So, how do I change the invasive nature of some bad feelings, calling a halt to them, and break from the past?

    I think the answer can often come in developing positive habits once I realize an evaluative feeling has turned sour. One approach is to ask, “How has this feeling proven helpful for the future?” For example, I may want to use anger to appropriately alert someone that they offended me or many people. Sometimes calling others on their actions is necessary and helpful. Or, and this may sound trivial, I find I get grouchy if I don’t keep myself hydrated. So, “carry a filled water bottle around with you, Mr. Dahl.”

    Another way to change my attitude — and this is not something I’ve mastered — is to let the past be the past, learn from it, but then keep myself in the present moment. A bit of a divergence here, but I recently read a Buddhist concept that noted that a river is more of an idea than an actual thing. A river is constantly changing. Different water is flowing through it from moment to moment. Its makeup changes as soil or sticks flow through it. Or, a school of fish may be just making its way through a particular point. Sure, a river may be visually fixed to a specific place, but even that can change over time. So, back to an attitude: I can draw parallels between myself and a river. I am constantly changing. I should ecognize this. I should do my best to let past feelings go and figure out what attitude helps me best in the current situation. Let that attitude assist me rather than allowing the souring past attitude tie me to a particular action.

    There’s more I can do, to be sure. But I find these two potential habits liberating, so I thought I’d share.

  2. I find that changing your perspective is often enough to change your attitude.

    For example, let’s say someone is rude to you, and this makes you angry. Instead of focusing on you and how the person was rude to you, think about the person, and ask yourself why someone would be rude.

    This changing of perspective can be hard at first, especially if you are not used to imagining the world from a perspective not your own.

    1. I was pondering this some more, and there are some specific subsets of this, “change your perspective, change your attitude” that occurred to me.

      The one I use most frequently is humor. Making a joke about something can serve many purposes, but one of the most powerful is one for thinking differently about something. If you make a joke about a situation that is serious, or frightening, or madding, or frustrating, it almost forces you to change perspective — or at least, take the whole thing a little less seriously.

      Similarly, physical exertion can help to change your perspective on something you are obsessing over. A quick run, or a workout (or in my case a bike ride) can change everything.

      Along the same lines, a lot of people tend to find it helpful to do some cleaning when they are troubled by something in their life. If you feel you are in a situation that is largely out of your control, doing something like cleaning — where you have complete control, and get to see an immediate result to your actions — can help to reset your thinking.

  3. I think that’s what the common sayings are for. So they can be pulled up as needed. “Think positive.” “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” “Look on the bright side.” “While waiting for extraordinary things to happen, enjoy the small stuff.” “Don’t be selfish.” Good old Ben Franklin and others!

  4. I agree that physical activity, like going for a run, pulls me out of “hamster-wheel” thinking and compels me to focus on the present. Sometimes I use tasks I don’t like, such as deep housecleaning or scraping/painting the exterior of the house, in the same way. It takes my full concentration and then I have a nice completed project when I am done.

    Listing 5 things I’m grateful for each morning is a real mood-changer, and it can be fun to look back over several weeks or months of thankful things.

    My favorite touchstone is the serenity prayer – a quick reminder to let go of things that are not mine to carry.

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