Our attitude to things can make all the difference to our experiences in life. A statement of the obvious I know, but how many times have you started the day in a bad mood and then throughout the whole day things seem to get worse? On other occasions you may have woken up feeling happy and able to shrug off things that are not going well and still have a good day.
Allan Handysides in his book “Living Praise” links attitude with similar words: altitude, latitude and longitude. By linking these three words with attitude Handysides suggests that it “is the position from which we relate to the world - a mind set point. As individuals our attitude determines life’s balance”. We see the world revolving, often more around our mind-set. Attitude is the point of view from which we integrate all of our relationships. Attitude is the tone that colours our life- and is often the lives of our friends”. Attitude, Handysides goes on to say “governs the scope of our influence, the radius of our reach”. Our ability to carry life’s burdens depends upon our lives being in balance. To continue with the nautical theme our attitude is both the “steering wheel” which determines our direction and the “sextant” the mechanism which we use to measure the position between to points, namely ourselves, others and our circumstances.
In Living Praise Handysides identifies 4 spotlights which illuminate our attitude:
1) Thought patterns
3) Valuation of others
4) Belief in a Higher Power
Our way of thinking has a huge bearing upon our outlook: what we think and forms the components of our thoughts. It can be argued that thoughts are taught through the process of socialisation, first at home through parents, siblings, and other family members and then within the educational setting of school from our teachers and peers. A faith environment, such as a church is also a place where we develop ideas on life and relationships. Handysides maintains that thought patterns reflect the nurturing we receive or lack of it. Through these influencers we learn to be cynical or loving. Extreme positions in our thought processes are unhealthy. In order to seek balance in our thinking, it is important to regularly analyse our thought patterns.
Self evaluation is learned and concerns how we value ourselves. If we have little value for ourselves, it is likely that we will have a tendency for self-neglect and this negligence can extend to all our relationships. Balance is important when we evaluate ourselves. Too much focus on ourselves can lead to self absorption, arrogance and pride whilst a feeling of worthlessness can prevent us from receiving acceptance or love from others: constructing instead a “shell of protection and so are perceived as prickly and hard to work with.” Handysides states that realistic self worth is learned and self absorption is often a distortion of reality. The attitudes of those at either end of the spectrum are likely to be unrealistic. Forming trusting, warm, affirming relationships can help us to model and reciprocate care and affection. Self-evaluation can enable us to identify the good and bad aspects of our personality and our inherent value.
Valuation of Others
Attitude also affects our perception or value of others, or lack of it. We may not be aware of our behaviour and the way others perceive us. Our truest selves are seen in our most relaxed states at home with those closest to us. At home faced with a daily dose of “warts and all” we can develop our ability to express unconditional love. It is important to examine our feelings about others, especially those we have regular contact with. Feelings can sometimes leak out and if they are negative, they will invariably manifest in our body language: what we say, what we do and how we treat others. Handysides suggests that we need to regularly reflect upon how we demonstrate our value of others with what we say and do. Getting feedback from others - although difficult, will also help give us insight into ourselves assisting us in making positive changes that will improve relationships.
Belief in a Higher Power
Our attitude will affect what we think about God. A belief in a higher power helps to give us purpose and meaning in life and puts our existence into perspective. Handysides argues that if we have no purpose or meaning in our life, it is unlikely that we understand what it truly valuable. Without value, purpose or meaning, how do we determine what is important, successful, and worthwhile? According to Handysides “Without an all-powerful God, relativism becomes meaningless - and therefore, so are relationships. Somewhere a standard must exist upon which we can calibrate life’s value.” Acceptance of God requires faith, and this will give us access to his unconditional love which when imparted to us, can empower us to love: valuing value him as well as loving and valuing others.
Below are some ways of Improving Health and Wellbeing:
1) Count your blessings. Reflect on your life: think about your value though: achievements, relationships and things that are special to you. For example: close family and friends; marriage; children; achieving a qualification; supporting a friend through difficulties.
2) Make two lists one with things that are positive in your life and another with the things that you would like to change.
3) Share your list with your spouse, your partner or a trusted friend and discuss how you can realistically increase the positive things on your list.
4) Commit to make the changes with timescales for addressing them. Ask the person that you have shared with to hold you to account.
5) Identify words or phrases or bible promises that you can use as “power thoughts” to regularly remind you of who you are and what you want to achieve. For example: “I am loved, I am special, and I am whole”; “God sees me as the apple of His eye and wants to bless me”.
6) When feeling discouraged, remind yourself of your blessings and think about adding to them.
Celebrate your achievements and share your experiences with others