Home Personal development Does A Positive Attitude Really Work? (21 Easy Ways to Nurture a Positive Attitude)

Does A Positive Attitude Really Work? (21 Easy Ways to Nurture a Positive Attitude)

by Vidya Sury April 3, 2012 35 comments
Positive Attitude Vidya Sury

Let’s talk about a positive attitude, which is priceless, even if it is difficult to maintain sometimes. We cannot argue that our attitude affects our life in a big way, as well as the lives of those around us. To maintain attitude we need motivation. All good so far.

“People often say to me that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar Tweet this quote

Attitude is a powerful thing. And a positive attitude can be life-changing. To maintain a positive attitude, we need positive thinking, right? But first, a story you must have all read. If you haven’t, it’s a treat in store for you. If you have, well, it is a treat in store for you, too!

A Native American boy was talking with his grandfather. “What do you think about the world situation?” he asked. The grandfather replied, “I feel like wolves are fighting in my heart. One is full of anger and hatred; the other is full of love, forgiveness, and peace.” “Which one will win?” asked the boy. To which the grandfather replied, “The one I feed.” (Origin Unknown)

Simple story, yet it brings home a life-changing lesson. We become what we think about.  See how the power of a positive attitude can be harnessed? The equation is simple:

Think positive, get positive results. Think negative, get negative results, right?

You will reap the fruit of the thoughts you sow. Right?

Positive Attitude Vidya Sury

Not really. Not always.

I’ll tell you why. And this is largely the result of a conversation with my son. See, I am in the habit of always telling him to think positive. His reaction varies, depending on the situation. If he’s happy, he makes affirmative noises. If he’s bugged, I can see “ah, big deal” or “as if” written all over his expression. I can just see he wants to say “oh, come on, Mi”.  We got into a very lengthy discussion about how some people actually feel more irritated/annoyed and feel worse when we try to make them feel better.

In fact, I had an aunt who, I am fond of saying, has a “superiority-inferiority” complex. She would come across all holier-than-thou and project herself as unhappy – but appear to feel happy about it. In fact, it looked like she was happiest when she was unhappy.

I grew up with my mom who vehemently believed in the power of positive thought. Okay, I do agree it makes me happy. But you know what? Some people, like my aunt, who looked suspicious if we told her things would be okay, actually feel worse when you give them the “positive thinking” theory. My Mom, ever the optimist, would painstakingly explain it to her only to have all her effort would boomerang right back. Talk about wasting energy. But my mom never gave up.

So, the question is:

Can we actually ensure positive thinking works?

Let’s look at some tricky situations:

Low self-esteem

Someone with low self-esteem actually feels much worse when you encourage them to think they are absolutely fine people – simply because they don’t believe it. They think they’re not good enough – and end up feeling even worse. How can they feel better? There is a study that established that people with low self-esteem, who were asked to perform acts of kindness for a week actually moved from clinical depression to not being depressed.

And soon, they developed a sense of self-worth and were well on their way to being normal people. That makes sense to me. When they did things for others, they were appreciated. This reinforced that they were useful. It increased their self-confidence. And so, telling them they are good enough sounds logical to them.

Continuously focusing on problems

Who doesn’t have problems in life? But have you ever met people who can never seem to shift their focus from their problems? Of course, you have. Not only do they dwell on their problems; they also extrapolate, imagine and analyze dire consequences.

If there is no problem, they create one! Let me give you an example. I know someone who travels a lot. Each time he has a flight to catch, he books a taxi to take him to the airport. He starts worrying as soon as the booking is done.

  • Will the driver call?
  • Will he report on time?
  • Will he get stuck in a traffic jam and miss his flight?
  • Will he reach the airport in time?
  • Will the flight take off on time?

Okay – granted that all these are possibilities. But let’s give things a chance to work, shall we? These people cannot see the point behind positive thinking. They claim they’re being practical. Here, a trained therapist may be needed to help pinpoint and tackle all that negative thinking. They may need to learn, all over again, how to approach their problems. Stress relieving strategies may also be helpful.

Trying to please everyone

Ah, the bane of most people. Can you make everyone happy? Sometimes maybe. But should you really aim to do that? The answer is No. So, for those who depend on others for their happiness, it is easy to figure out why positive thinking may not help them the way it ought to.

They are so busy trying to get the approval of others or doing things for them that it drains them of their energy and they have none left for themselves. And if they perceive that the ones they’re trying to please are not satisfied, don’t ask!  Here again, a therapist may be better than exploring self-help.

“I am not good enough”

Self-explanatory. If we constantly criticize ourselves, how can we ever accept positive thoughts? If we don’t have faith in ourselves, who will? I’ve seen this in both adults and children. I remember – there was this competition in school and Vidur was participating for the first time. I got so mad when, after rigorous preparation, he coolly said he won’t win, because there was another guy who was a clincher for the prize. What crap. I mean, in his mind, he already decided he wasn’t good enough.

There are two things here. The inner critic who focuses on the self and the part that assumes lack of ability. One way to squash the inner critic is by consciously recalling all the nice things in life and remembering the people involved. This basically moves the focus from self, enabling the appreciation of other things and people. And the ability part? Take stock of past achievements and gain self-confidence. And oh, Vidur did win that competition. Goes to show, no?

Not believing in positive thinking

Some people simply feel that positive thinking is crap.  They claim that they prefer to be “realistic”. These people need proof and facts. Some people also tend to look at the “flip” side, which, translated, really means the negative side of things. While it is good to look at both sides, always focusing on just the negative side as though it is the only thing that exists is not fair. Real life examples of the benefits of positive thinking may help. Seeing is believing in this case.

So now, let’s look at at least 21 ways to nurture a positive attitude, positive thinking and get our positive energy flowing!

21 ways to nurture a positive attitude

  1. Quit worrying. It hurts your head and your mood. Use the energy to think positive. Be present.
  2. View problems are opportunities. My Mom always said that if I could identify the problem I also have the ability to identify the solution.
  3. When a negative thought pops up, tell it to shut up. Don’t allow it to build up and snowball. Don’t water your weeds.
  4. Identify thoughts and beliefs that drag you down. Make a conscious effort to get rid of them.
  5. Try and minimize “regrets”. The past is gone. The future is unknown. And there’s a solid reason why the “present” is called a gift.
  6. Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences. Don’t pass the buck. It is easy to blame others when you feel unhappy. But it is really in your hands.
  7. Define what success means to you. Set goals. Figure out how to reach them.
  8. Work on your self-confidence. Most issues in life stem from a lack of self-esteem
  9. Hang out with people who are positive – form a support group.  Open yourself to positive thoughts. And enjoy the motivation.
  10. Forget about mistakes you might have made. Instead, think about what you learned. Based on this, make better choices.
  11. Practice gratitude and appreciation. Focus on what is. Not what isn’t
  12. Nurture your relationships
  13. Think about what is important. Sometimes things just won’t go your way and that’s okay.
  14. Don’t be quick to pass judgments. This includes yourself and others.
  15. Make a “what makes me happy” list.
  16. Don’t resist when good things happen.
  17. Get over the fear of rejection. Practice saying “So what!”
  18. Do random acts of kindness – and feel the pleasure
  19. Make a list of your achievements and appreciate yourself.
  20. Live as though every day is a miracle. It is, you know.
  21. Go ahead. Shake the world.

I invite you to add to this list.

Do you believe in positive thinking?

Do you have a positive attitude?

Have you had to deal with someone who did not believe in positive thinking or a positive attitude?

How did you handle it?

I am eager to know!

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Betsy at Zen-Mama April 3, 2012 at 4:10 am

What a wonderful post Vidya! A positive attitude is my mantra! Love your inspirational posters and your ways to nurture positive thinking. I love your examples especially of your mother. I try to help people when I’m around their negative thinking. But I know they need to help themselves. I know just the person to send this to and hopefully it will help!

Vidya Sury April 3, 2012 at 4:32 am

Thank you, Betsy! 🙂 No matter what, I’d never let go of positive thinking. Worrying gives me a headache. I especially love pep-talking the kids at Vidur’s school. I always join them when they have a stage performance – I hang around helping them get their costumes on and practice their lines or whatever the event involves and send them off believing they’re going to win. I enjoy seeing the change in the way they carry themselves and the way they communicate, as I talk to them. And feel blessed to make the difference. Sure enough, at the end of the day, I get phone calls thanking me for helping them win. I truly love how receptive they are. Now, if only adults were that easy!

I believe that some adults purposely behave negatively to attract attention. And secretly think they need shock treatment 😀

Bryan Thompson April 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Hi Vidya! I love your steps for creating a positive attitude! Especially this: “Try and minimize “regrets”. The past is gone. The future is unknown. And there’s a solid reason why the “present” is called a gift.” Too often we can remain stuck in our past and not move in a new direction. Hope you’re doing well!

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 5:52 am

Bryan, thanks so much for coming by. When I read your post yesterday about turning the clock back, it seemed to synchronize nicely with what I wrote here. Regret is one of the worst things ever. It can simply shackle us and refuse to allow us to move on. I am glad you are here!

Terri Sonoda April 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Favorite line in this entire post was the advice: “Don’t water your weeds.” So absolutely true! This post resonated with me on many levels and actually started my day out on an excellent note. Food for thought, Vidya. You are so wise AND so very positive! You inspire those of us who need to remember we can make things happen if we believe we can. Thank you for that. Awesome post!

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 5:54 am

Hugs, Terri – you make me feel blessed for writing this post. Thank you! I attribute most of my positive outlook to the wonderful friends I have and the people I know. And you, Terri are one of my most favorites – your appreciation inspires me!

zephyr April 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I absolutely agree that negative thinking makes them happen. We all have moments when we feel depressed or worry that something bad will happen, but we pull ourselves out of it and go on to prove the thinking wrong, just as it happened with Vidur’s performance. But this lady I know could see the worst in the best situation and could never enjoy any achievement or happiness because of this trait. And recently when I met her, I saw that all the things she spoke of — her negative thought — have all come true and she is in a pathetic condition. She falls in several categories you have listed. Such people need therapy but in our country it is equated to insanity and secondly, it is too expensive to be affordable 😀

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 5:59 am

Zephyr, I know many people like that lady. And you’re absolutely right about seeing a therapist here – they’d be labeled “mad” and somehow, that opinion slowly filters through to the rest of the family. People will remember several past incidents that were a mystery, but now – in the light of the new discovery – crystal clear. :-D. Even when someone can afford it, the real price they will pay when “four (to the power of ‘n’) people know” will be huge.

In fact, some people like the lady make it their life’s work to convert even remotely positive into negatives. Such is life. In some situations, we have to be like that horse with the head cover – where it can see only ahead 😀

I am so thrilled you visited!

Paige | simple mindfulness April 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

We all see what we choose to see. Many years ago, before I started my personal development journey, I had no idea how positive thinking could change my life. I knew what I knew and I was happy (or not so happy) with that. I thought that’s just the way life was. Most people are in this situation.I recall a great post at Deliberate Receiving that helped to explain why we can’t drag our less-than-positive friends and family from where they are to where we are. We all want them to see the promised land but it doesn’t work that way. Like you described for the people who lose their depression by helping others, it’s an experiential process. We can talk til we’re blue in the face and it will never make a difference.This is why one of my dreams is to have a ranch where people’s lives are changed by the experiences they have there. I’ve seen it happen at ranches where I’ve worked. I want to offer that myself.Thanks for a wonderfully beautiful post Vidya!!

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:03 am

Paige, I remember Melody’s post about this, too. There’s no getting away from the fact that action is louder than words. While some people luckily respond to the words, probably because they’re receptive at the time, mostly it has to be action. I must confess some people really make me want to show some “action” in the form of a slap. Not that I’ll ever do it, but there’s one TV show – a police procedural that has a character, who’s well known for administering that timely slap when the guilty person continues to deny what he’s done. 😀 Oh, just a fantasy.

Your ranch idea sounds great – quite like the camps school children go on, and then come back wiser 🙂 Thanks so much for your wonderful input!

Kimberly April 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I really love this.
While my mind is a giant vortex of self loathing and everything looks bleak…I do try to keep positive…but it is so bloody hard. So hard. But I try.

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:05 am

It is hard sometimes, Kim. But it definitely helps, at least 99% of the time. The 1% is where you must think of all your own good qualities and recall happy incidents. I find that it helps. In fact, I have a happiness box – with old letters and photos that is an instant mood-upper 🙂 Nostalgia does the trick every time, even though it makes me cry. Hugs. I love you!

Unknown Mami April 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Yes, I do believe in the power of positive thinking as well as in the power of negative thinking. It all tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I feel that my whole life is a lesson that I keep having to reaffirm. I know the truth, I feel the truth, the Universe is abundant, the Universe wants everything that is in line with my spirit to be mine, the only thing that keeps me from getting all that I want or need is me.

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

Unknown Mami – what a beautiful comment. Let me poster-ize it to Pinterest. This is so full of truth – and the truth is, our strength is within us, for us to use when we feel motivated to. Hugs. No wonder I am crazy about you!

umashankar April 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm

This a profound post and I am sure it will help many, even if to varying extents. That, I am a positive thinker, should be evident by the fact that after having written a 400+ words comment that vanished in God knows which blackhole (blame technology?) on your computer woes on a previous post, I am here again to write another! 😀

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:22 am

Ooops. I am so sorry about that Umashankar. You know, whenever I comment, I copy the comment before hitting the publish 😀 because I’ve had this happen to me several times. I really appreciate you coming back! 🙂 Indeed you are a positive thinker! 😀 Thanks for being here!

My Inner Chick April 4, 2012 at 2:26 am

—When a negative thought pops up, tell it to shut up–

I like that, Vidya <3

You must have taken after you mama, right? I have a feeling she was ( is ) so Beautiful…just like you.

I have a great “Positive Attitude Story.”

—At the kitchen table one morning, young boys were talking about their grandmother. They were talking about how she is the most positive, kind woman in the entire universe.
…that she would NEVER say a bad word about ANYBODY…including the devil.
So, they decided to test her.
When she came downstairs to eat breakfast, one of the boy asked, “Grandma, what do you think about Satan?”
She hesitated.
“Well,” she finally said. “He sure is consistent.”

Love to you, dearest positive Vidya. Xx

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:29 am

Oh Kim, I just loved that story. In fact, I’ve tested my Mom exactly like this – and she lived up to her reputation by never ever saying anything mean about anyone. Quite frustrating for me. But I am blessed, you know! I am glad some of her goodness rubbed off on me.

Thank you Kim, I love you too! Hugs!

Donna April 4, 2012 at 1:24 am

This is the second time this week that I’ve heard the story of the wolves. I’ll need to spend some more time thinking about it.

Tonight I was talking to my sister while she was cleaning out some files. She asked if she should throw out letters of recommendation that others have written for her. I said that she should keep them so that she can re-read them when she’s having a bad day. I am a college instructor and I keep positive student evaluations to re-read as needed. I think these letters/evaluations fit with your suggestion to make a list of achievements.

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:26 am

Hi Donna. I love that story on many levels. It is short, profound and conveys its message so beautifully. I am glad you told your sister to keep those letters. You know – that is one of my own favorite ways to transform my mood into “happy”. Reading them is very therapeutic as we relive those wonderful moments and automatically feel happy. Yes, you are absolutely right about this fitting in with the list of achievements – in fact I was thinking of my own method when I wrote that.

Thank you so much for coming by and your valuable comment!

J.D. Meier April 4, 2012 at 3:09 am

I really like the sample story you shared … and it’s true, we get what we feed.

Vidya Sury April 4, 2012 at 6:31 am

Thank you JD – it is one of my favorite stories. I just popped over to your blog and simply loved the 101 list post. Definitely one for my bookmarks! Do visit again!

Fran Sorin April 4, 2012 at 11:44 am


So much wisdom in this post. The one that grabbed me the most was:

“View problems as opportunities. My Mom always said that if I could identify the problem I also have the ability to identify the solution.”

What an empowering statement for a child/young adult to here.

Pessimism is a tough character trait to deal with. From my experience, an individual can only begin making changes when they’re ready. It’s often accompanied by a great deal of pain.

I just got off the phone with a family member who spoke with me about an incident that he caused yesterday…and yet saw himself the victim of. Pessimistic? yes. Fearful underneath the forceful voice? yes. It took all of my self control not to interject a way of viewing the situation differently. I chose not to…kept my mouth shut and listened.

This article is one that I’ll return to again…Fran

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:45 am

Dearest Fran, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I know exactly what you mean about that family member. My aunt did that all the time (bless her soul). It would be as though she saved up all the miserable stories for us when she visited or phoned. And always she was the one who was wronged 😀 And we found that no matter how hard we tried, there was no way we could ever open her eyes to the “other side”.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Fran! Love to you!

Galen Pearl April 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I love that feed the wolf story and I’ve written about it several times. This is a great post because it’s all about me–ha! Oh my, your friend who frets about flights must be my long lost twin. I was the queen of “what if” dire scenarios. Now I am a firm believer in what a friend used to say. “Don’t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.”

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:43 am

Galen 🙂 I love your comment. I had an aunt who would pack her stuff the day before she traveled – and repack at least 30 times to check if everything was there because she was convinced she missed something. 😀 We’d tease her about the fruits she repacked – telling her they would be overripe by the time she was done with them!

You’re absolutely right about not troubling trouble – we believe that Fate is just waiting around the corner to show us what is what. 😀 That said – it is good to go about life without worrying too much.

Hugs to you!

Bill Dorman April 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm

That’s a pretty extensive list. All I know is by thinking positive I am in a much better mood than when I don’t. Am I always cheerful, certainly not but I would be described as having a cheerful disposition most of the time. Some people even call me Mr Happy……..

I just don’t want to be Debbie Downer; I won’t overwhelm you with syrupy fake cheer, but I won’t be a wet blanket either.

I expect good things to happen; why not, huh? I also expect to win; have I told you I have won 3 flat screen TV’s. Hopefully I’ll get to place where I can win exotic sports cars too………:)

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it……

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:41 am

Bill – i visualize you exactly the way you describe yourself. You come across as amazingly genuine. Mr.Happy sounds good on you 😀

3 flat screen TVs eh? While wishing you win that exotic sports car too – I have to confess I only won a make up hamper (I don’t use makeup) once, and another time, a carton of juice tetrapaks in a sweepstake – which was nice. Oh, I also won movie tickets once 😀

Like you, I also prefer to anticipate good stuff. My favorite phrase is “Look at the good side”.

I love it when you visit!

fazal mayar April 5, 2012 at 1:13 am

you are right, i had negative attitude in the past and it killed my life.

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:37 am

Hi Fazal! 🙂 Thank you for commenting!

Pamela Hutchins April 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I love this! I believe! I believe!! And I will share: My husband is a glass-half-full positive-kind-of-guy…except when he isn’t. And when he starts to spiral down, the glass is not only half empty, it is cracked, old, dirty, ugly, and coated in a poisonous residue. The more he looks at his negative thoughts, the further he spirals downward. What you look for, you shall find? And it takes an enormous amount of effort for him to break the cycle, and to LOOK for the positive again. Once he starts to look, even if only to appease me, he starts to, yes, SEE. See the good, see that IT IS ALL SMALL STUFF. I know this happens with me as well. I loved your post. I love your attitude. I wish you lived around the corner in Houston so we could have coffee together and talk!

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:37 am

Oh, Pamela – a fervent YES to that coffee and talk! I wish teleportation was a form of travel :-).

In some sense, having people who find it difficult to be positive reinforces my own determination to see things in an optimistic light – because I find it much easier. I am surrounded by the glass half empty/full mix of people too – and somehow enjoy the variety. 😀 Of course, an overdose of “realism” can freak me out. And yes, pulling them out of it takes lots of effort.

Sandra /Always Well Within April 6, 2012 at 4:17 am

I love the Native American story! I also love the analogy with bathing. Positive thinking is a life long journey, but what a glorious one. Thank you for the richness of this post!

Vidya Sury April 6, 2012 at 4:26 am

Welcome, Sandra, I am thrilled to have you here. That motivation/bathing quote is one of my most favorites. I think my son is exasperated by the number of times he has heard me say it to him. I love your writing and am so glad we’re connected!

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