Every child is born with four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. These hardwired emotions are neither positive nor negative, they just are. It is the utility of these emotions that make them positive or negative.
For instance, fear that stops you from risking your life, or motivates you to purchase insurance in case of an accident, is positive. Fear that stops you from socializing, traveling, or intimacy is negative. Anger that motivates you to join a movement to protect the environment is positive. But, anger that causes bullying behaviors is negative.
When raised in a positive environment, we learn additional emotions such as comfort, sympathy, patience, forgiveness, humility, optimism, cooperation, and gratitude. People influenced by a pessimistic environment develop emotions which include disgust, contempt, loneliness, jealously, distrust, guilt, and shame.
These negative or positive emotions will influence your belief system. Your belief system develops from significant experiences or conditioning received in your formative years. How people respond, negative or positive, is learned behaviour and determines your attitude.
There are two basic processes by which this learning takes place. One is “Classical Conditioning.” For instance, negative emotions can happen if every time a child encounters a dog, they are barked at or bitten. They will come to associate all dogs negatively and fear them.
The other is called “Operant Conditioning.” This happens when one event or stimulus is consistently associated with either a reward or punishment. For instance, if by crying a child receives attention (positively or negatively) they will learn that is how to get noticed.
Even though the main reason for a negative attitude is a distorted belief about life, there is good news. As adults we can choose to express our emotions more positively. We are not doomed to live the conditioning of our past.
By simply feeding ourselves more constructive messages, we can experience a more rewarding, successful life. Here are just a few suggestions to use for keeping a positive mental attitude:
- Truly believe that maintaining a positive outlook is a choice you can make.
- Within 20 minutes after waking up identify three things you are grateful for. Many religions practice this with a formal gratitude prayer.
- When you first wake up, do not read, watch, or listen to the news, it is mostly negative. Our emotional brain is more susceptible to outside influence in the first hour after waking up than at any other time of the day.
- Make your bed – completing that one task will improve your attitude and set the tone for your day. Even if you have a bad day, you will appreciate it when you get home.
- Assume positive intent. If someone cuts you off on the road, consider that they may have a good reason, such as a family emergency.
- If someone reacts negatively to something you said or did, consider their reaction had nothing to do with you. It may be based on an earlier event or bad news they received.
- Hang out with positive people. There is research that shows just being around negative people will cause the neurons in your brain to fire in regions that emotionally bring you down. The studies show that you do not even have to engage in the negative conversation.
- Get your required amount of sleep. People who are sleep deprived tend to react to outside stimuli in a more negative way.
My question for managers this week: “What are you doing to propagate a positive mental attitude in your workplace”?