Positive attitude is a choice, what do you choose?

Glass Half Full

Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person? During a recent week in Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountain region of Australia I reflected on this topic after a conversation with a friend. I believe every day we have a choice on how we show up. That choice is not always easy based on our neurobiology but is so worthwhile.

If you are glass half empty person you are not alone. I recently learnt about the Default Mode Network (DMN) which I found very insightful. The DMN is a set of brain structures that represent our mental state of inattention; times when we are not exercising, interacting with the external environment, or having a conversation. An example would be when we first wake up in the morning. The most common culprits of this state of mental unrest are anxiety and depression (over past, present, or future events) or obsessionality (Neuroscience of Mindfulness).

Evolution has selected to keep the DMN as it is useful for reviewing important past events and improving future behaviour, however an increased connection to the DMN is synonymous with mental illness including major depression. In relation to positivity and negativity, an overactive DMN is highly correlated with negative mood states. So can anything be done to combat this? Yes, there is good news in that structural changes have been found in the DMN of long term meditation practitioners, reducing its activation and connectivity (Kieran Fox et al, 2014).

So we are born with our DMN and amygdala response; an instinct for survival which can lead to living by fear, hindering our ability to be positive and happy. However, there are lots of people who manage to flip this and choose to be positive. Let’s hear from a couple of people in my network who radiate positivity. When I’m in their presence their attitude is contagious and I always leave interactions feeling happy with a smile on my face.

Chris Thomas (Mum of three, triathlon coach, previous professional ironman):

“For me personally, I have experienced either directly or indirectly both attitude sides and have seen the knock on effect. Positive is the only choice. That doesn’t mean that sometimes things don’t get tough but when I am faced with these moments, I understand that the only way I know the situation can improve is with a positive attitude. On a daily basis, I love the outlook a positive attitude offers and I love to help others see and experience the feelings that come with having positivity around.

We can work on flipping and maintaining the attitude. When I was growing up I stuck positive quotes to the roof of my bedroom so I could read them at night and when I woke.  My favourite quote was: “They can because they think they can”  Virgil.”

Bel Fong (Great friend of many, fitness instructor and assessor, age group triathlete with the strapline “If you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right”)

“I have always had a glass is half full kind of approach to life. I definitely think it has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. I’m a huge believer in the law of attraction – you get back what you give out to the world. If you are a happy person, you will attract happy people and it becomes contagious. If you practice positivity, you will attract positive things. A bit like karma.

Don’t get me wrong; I never claim to be happy all the time and I most certainly don’t think I have the perfect life. But I do believe that you get out what you put in. I find when I am being negative about something, a lot of the time it is beyond my control and I have a choice to take it to heart or leave it and move onto something more worthy of my time. 

At the end of the day, there are two outlooks on life; negative and positive. In my personal opinion, how you choose to react to situations can be a direct reflection of who you are and how you live your life. If you’re a jealous or insecure person who is negative about everything, that is what you attract and ultimately who you become. That’s definitely not someone I want to be and I am always making a conscious effort to be more positive.

You have two choices in life; be sad or be happy. I simply choose to be happy.” 

So what does this mean practically for you? Here are some tips to help you cultivate an attitude of positivity:
  1. Start your day with a gratitude practice. Mentally or physically list three things you are grateful for. For me this immediately reverses any negative headspace I’m in.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people. There is a thing called emotional contagion, by being around positive people you will get a ripple effect as Bel eluded to.
  3. Start or develop a mindfulness practice. Get on the road to lowering your DMN’s connectivity. A couple of apps I’d recommend to get started: Headspace and Mindfulness Daily.
  4. Be kind to yourself. We can’t give from a place of depletion. Do whatever fills your energy bucket whether it be exercise, a massage, hot bath, time alone reading. This is crucial to ensure we are the best we can be for others. I am about to embrace this with a six day health retreat.

To finish I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Viktor Frankl:

“Between the stimulus and the response lies a space. Within that space, lies our freedom.”

When you feel a surge of negative energy, stop breathe and say to yourself I have a choice how I respond in this moment. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject.


Thanks to those who have already filled in my short blog questionnaire, would love further feedback before I conduct a blog review later this month, survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/danimatthewsblog 

Image Citation: http://www.thediligentadvisor.com/the-economy/the-economy-glass-half-empty-or-half-full/

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