This one shift in your mind can lead to true happiness.
For many years, I lived by the mantra “keeping it real.” I used this as an excuse to cultivate and grow my negative attitude. Since I invested so much time into negativity, I got really good at it. As the negative attitude progressed, I saw more and more reasons for despair, became increasingly depressed, and toxic to my relationships.
I also developed a very robust victim mentality. Losing my job, not getting promoted, and blowing numerous projects were “not my fault.” How could they be my fault? After all, I cannot make someone hire me, promote me, or make a project succeed. The problems within my marriage were not my fault either. As the negativity progressed and became increasingly invasive, I became clinically depressed. At one point I was even placed into an inpatient treatment program.
Thank goodness I am a fighter—and underneath all the negativity—a healthy attitude was fighting its way to the surface. My wife, close friends, and colleagues held me accountable. Slowly, I began to transform my negative attitude into gratitude.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can have the following healing effects.
Gratitude reduces stress
I used to complain about everything! When I had money in the bank, I complained about not having enough. I have always had a great job, but I griped about having to go to work, and the people at work. When we had a financial emergency, I complained that I would never get ahead (even when I had more than enough money). During these complaint marathons, I felt like I could not think straight, which led to thoughts of being a failure. Turns out, that complaining impacts our brain functions, literally. Complaining releases the stress hormone cortisol. These hormones harm connections in our brains used for problem solving and other intellectual activities. I could not think straight because complaining was literally sapping my mental horsepower!
Learn to complain the right way
Bottling up our emotions is certainly not the answer. In fact, studies show it could shorten your life by two years and increase blood pressure. Additionally, bottling your emotions increases risk for cancer, heart disease, and kidney damage. Complaining serves a purpose, and has gotten a bad reputation because we do not use it effectively. In order to reap the benefits of complaining, we must complain to someone who can resolve the issue. Guy Winch explains that 95 percent of consumers complain to the wrong people. Repeating our story over and over again without resolution increases our frustration.
It is not easy to admit, but my negativity was out of control. Those closest to me were being bombarded with my perpetual negativity. My wife often pleaded with me to be more positive and thankful for what we did have. The turning point came when a close friend told me she could no longer handle it. Their truthfulness helped open my eyes to the toxicity that was drowning my most precious relationships. Researchers suggest that marriages result in divorce when the ratio of positive to negative encounters is 5:1 or greater.
Removes complainers from our lives
Increasing our awareness helps us become aware of other’s negative attitudes as well. Using our new awareness, we can limit our contact with these individuals. Limiting these relationships, or eliminating them, will prevent the spread of negativity into our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. If cutting them off is not an option, focus on limiting contact with the individual in question. Don’t try to convert them, and transfer responsibility by asking them how they plan to “fix the problem.”
Perpetual complaining and negativity are diseases that bombard our mind and prevent its normal operation. Cultivating a positive mindset can improve health, repair relationships, and turbo-charge your career. Sure, the world can be a very depressing place. I do not advocating burying your head in the sand and ignoring reality.
Choosing to be thankful for what’s going right is a profound change of your mindset. Profound because it focuses your attention on what’s going right. Now, you’re in a position to accept responsibility and make changes vital to your success.
Now that you know the real power of a gratitude mindset, start to look around. What are you grateful for?