“You need an attitude adjustment.” is a statement you could use (if you were brave enough) in many situations:
To your teen-aged daughter who often wakes up snarling at everyone in the house. To the cashier at CVS who is exasperated to have to put down her cell phone to help you. To your son who is sitting, bored to tears, because the internet is down. To the driver who is tailgating you despite the fact that there is nowhere for you to go to allow him to pass. To the neighbor who refuses to make eye contact and smile – ever.
Oftentimes it’s you who needs to hear these words. Maybe you’re moping. Maybe you’re grumpy. Maybe you’re feeling crushed by a loss. Maybe you’re harried. Maybe you’re jealous. Maybe you’re testy. Maybe you’ve got a lingering case of malaise.
Deciding to give yourself an attitude adjustment can require a few steps, each of which requires a certain degree of what yogis jokingly call “enlightenment.” Regular people tend to refer to it as self-awareness.
First, you have to separate from your mood enough to recognize that you’re in one. It’s also helpful at this stage to take another step back to notice the ripple effects of your mood on the poor unfortunate souls around you. This step can often be done on the fly – while you’re moving through the activities that fill your day – and is often enough to help you dial things back to a level that is less socially offensive.
For moods that linger even after you’ve realized that they are affecting the world around you, there is another step you can take. But this one requires a little more of you. You need to take a long, hard look at your frame of mind. It’s not enough to just announce to yourself that it’s stupid or ridiculous to be in such a state. You need to accept that you do feel the way you feel. In fact, you feel so much that your feelings are driving your actions. You might notice how heavy or overwhelming your mood feels. You might notice that you are not behaving like the person you want to be. You might notice that your frame of mind is coloring everything you see or do.
This step requires some real introspection which, in turn, requires your full attention. You can’t do this while working, or carpooling or attending a meeting. Your yoga mat, your meditation cushion or the kneeler at church are great places to do this work. Interestingly, you learn while you move and breathe on your mat or while you sit observing yourself on your cushion or while you’re on your knees in prayer that moods have a way of shrinking down to more proportional sizes when inspected like this.
In fact, over time, we learn that moods are as fleeting as thoughts. They drift across our minds like clouds drifting across the sky – sometimes totally blocking the sun, sometimes filtering the light, sometimes allowing for a bright, sunny day. Even in the throes of the darkest of moods, once you’ve established a practice and created the habit of self-awareness, simply stepping onto your mat or choosing to sit or to kneel can be enough to create the clarity you need to witness your mood for what it is – a mood.
Though going through these steps can be hard, it is good work for us to do. These are wonderful practices for us to establish. They are beneficial when things are going swimmingly and they will support us during trying times when we really do need an attitude adjustment.
But there is another way. It, too, is a practice. While it ought not to replace the work of developing self-awareness described above, it is a profoundly powerful tool when giving yourself an attitude adjustment. When employed, many find that the resulting attitude adjustment really “sticks.” This practice makes good times seem better. This practice makes tough times seem manageable. This practice keeps life in perspective. In fact, this practice can utterly change the way you experience your life. Even though it won’t change the events or conditions of your life, over time, this practice will leave you feeling blessed beyond reason.
What is this practice?
Yes, gratitude is a practice. It is a choice. Feeling grateful is always an option. And, when done sincerely, choosing to feel grateful is always exactly the attitude adjustment that we need.
Gratitude is a powerful practice whether formally implemented or more casually practiced. More formal practices include keeping a daily gratitude journal or sitting regularly in prayers of gratitude. More casually, a gratitude practice can be choosing to take a quick moment to refocus yourself on gratitude while navigating a challenge. However you decide to work it into your life, one thing is certain. You will absolutely be grateful that you did.
Wishing you a heart filled with gratitude as you celebrate Thanksgiving Day and beyond,